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Morocco Part Three


Dried fruits in the souk

Morocco Tuesday

Breakfast was very crowded this morning with plates and cups in short supply. I used a cereal bowl for my egg and rolls and finally got a coffee cup—although I was desperate enough to just stand under the urn and slurp it from the spout.

Our morning was spent at the tannery. The work there is very interesting, so many different steps to tanning leather depending upon the type of animal and I suppose the condition of the animal. Most of it is back-breaking work—leaning over to fish the skins out of the vats, scraping the fat, pulling off the wool, drying, brushing, and finally making it into a product such as a belt or sandals—which look amazingly like Aladdin’s slippers, or handbags. They also make ‘poufs’ which are cushions. Hanging on the walls, they look like huge leather baskets—and I was offered one at half the price that the others bought—-but  I have no room in my luggage for anything much larger than perhaps a scarf.

Lunch was a traditional 7 vegetable couscous followed by a lovely fruit salad of banana, apple, and orange with a sprig of mint and then the glass of hot very sweet mint tea—which the shop-owner called American whiskey. Most of us walked back to the hotel and I was content to simply sit and watch people walk by. Such an amazing collection of colors and color combinations, I would never think to try. I wonder if they are intentional or the result of limited clothing—but when I walked through the market, I believe it is by choice. Then there are the groups of women that walk by—again such incredible color choices—but then would I pick my friends by how their clothing complemented mine?

We rode to supper in horse drawn carriages even though it was getting dusk. The square was full of people and we could smell popcorn along the way. Shops were doing a brisk business although chickens and lamb or perhaps goat still hung from the meat markets. One meat market had an adjacent shop filled with live chickens all busily pecking away at grain in long troughs. Bicycles, motor-cars, taxies, motorcycles and scooters, mule drawn wagons, people on foot all mingled on the narrow streets but no-one seemed to get upset and there weren’t any accidents.

We were let out at the end of an alley—deserted and rather dark. After a few turns we entered a richly tiled and beautifully decorated restaurant with a veranda open to the night sky. Supper was served at a very long table with beautiful cobalt blue china—and many courses of wonderful vegetables—all cold but pickled or preserved. The main course was lamb with quince and the dessert was fresh orange slices with cinnamon flanked by wonderfully huge sweet strawberries.  I abstained from the wine, thinking I was passing yet another kidney stone.

Henna flowers now decorate my right hand. The hotel owner’s daughter got married today and as part of the ceremony was painted with henna on her hands and feet. The photographers in our group documented the ceremony although the final formal ceremony isn’t until July with a huge feast and many changes of dress. The henna lady offered to stay and apply henna for the rest of us—three of us took her up on the offer.

The henna is compounded in a large urn wrapped with tin foil and is applied with a syringe and short needle. The end result feels rather like having played in mud or working with clay to form pots and not quite getting all of it off. We were instructed to leave it on as long as possible and then use a hand cream to let the stain soak in. One of the other ladies wanted to get it on the palm of her hand especially for Easter and her very staid vicar.

**late note: Unfortunately I did not take a photo of my lovely tattoo and it is now quite gone. It was a series of stylized flowers reaching from my index finger to my wrist—very pretty.

Tomorrow we go into the country—maybe I’ll be brave enough to get out my paints.

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