Monday, January 20, 2014

82. The Chaos that is the Medina

The city of Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts -The Medina ( the historical city ) and the new European modern district called Gueliz ( with its glitzy designer-label shops, up-market hotels and spas and expensive restaurants ) - and in this blog I am taking you into the Medina ...

The ancient city is enclosed totally by the wall I featured in my last post ... so to get into the Medina we enter through one of the many gates ( babs ) along the way ...







Once in through the gate you enter a different wild world ... one of chaos and over-crowded space - not for the faint-hearted. The walled city is full of intertwining narrow streets and laneways - some are residential - while the main thoroughfares are crowded with shops selling everything from sheep's intestines to silken rugs - and walking along these narrow streets you have to compete with an endless stream of motor bikes, taxis, donkey carts and of course, people ...  



 


The Eastern side of the city is primarily for the locals who live and work there - not a tourist to be seen ... so the shops cater for the everyday needs of the Moroccans - fruit vendors, butchers, fish carts, bicycle repairs, mobile phones ( everyone has one of those !!! ), plumbers, carpenters etc ...





Once past this part of the city you enter the “tourist” area with its endless labyrinths of souks ( bazaars ) and alley ways that seem to go on in all directions for ever. Very easy to get lost in here and you can’t ask the locals for directions because they will just direct you to their family business … I worked out early in the piece that if I walked in with the sun in my face – the obvious way out was with the sun on my back !!! … has worked for me so far … 








In the centre of the Medina is a large open square ( the Place Jemaa-el-Fna ) and here it becomes 'tourist heaven' - or hell, depending on your mood ... there are musicians, snake charmers, monkey handlers, acrobats, dozens of food stalls, orange juice vendors, pottery sellers etc etc ... the list is endless ... and all of them focussed of fleecing the tourists. And around the sides of the square are the cafes and restaurants - also fleecing the tourists !!!















The unfortunate aspect of the souks is - apart from the fact that they are merchandising endless amounts of useless stuff that you really don't want to buy - but the aim of the shop keepers and their touts is to bulldoze you into buying this stuff. The minute you stop to look at something that has caught your eye, they pounce - desperately trying to get a sale out of you ... so the only way to vaguely enjoy yourself in the souks is to keep walking and don't dare stop !!!

I am told that the square cames alive at night with lots of music and a myriad of stalls selling exotic dishes for hungry folk ... but not for me -  no after dark escapades in the Medina for this tourist ...


So that's the Medina - there were lots of wonderful photograhy opportunities to be had - but photographing the locals is not really the polite way to go ... and anyway if you did photograph anyone they usually asked for money - as I found out when the snake-charmer came after me !!!! - but I out-ran him ...

Also inside the Medina are many wonderful museums and palaces to explore, and we'll start doing just that with the next blog ...