Sometimes, I am such a bloody slacker. This blog has needed / demanded / screamed to be updated – so appologies to anyone who has returned, only to read about MTs funeral shenanigans again.
Shenanigans, now there’s a good word that can be used to describe, for example, mischief, funereal eulogies – and many fun things in between. But I digress. The main reason I haven’t updated my blog is because I took off for Morocco last week.
Most of you reading this will probably have been to Marrakesh; until last week I was just about the only person I knew who hadn’t been to Marakesh – and was feeling a bit left out. But four hours on a narrow Easy Jet seat put that to rights. I spent three days in Marrakesh (staying at the fabulous, friendly and good value hotelsherazade.com)and, just in case you haven’t been, the city looks like a film set, with gorgeous orange adobe buildings, emerald foliage and a vast brilliant sky. But I was there alone. And that felt significant because, after three days of being leered at, whistled at, stopped in the street/ square/ doorway of wherever I was by Moroccan men, I was feeling quite nippy. I had forgotten how eroding harassment is.
No doubt many of these letches think that what they’re doing is a bit of fun, shenanigans if you like. Or maybe they don’t care what I, or any other woman, thinks. Or maybe they fear, or dislike, women. But it got me thinking; I left London the day three young women escaped from a house in Cleveland, Ohio in the US after a decade of imprisonment by three local brothers, whilst in the UK we’ve been drenched in lurid stories of raddled old celebrities abusing young women, girls, and boys, because they could, because some people either turned a blind eye, or else saw it as a bit of almost-harmless fun, or shenanigans. There is literally a world of difference between my ewperiences in Marrakesh and the imprisoned women in Cleveland; but abuse of any sort begin with the perpetrators sense of entitlement.
One evening in the brightly-lit Marrakesh souk, I turned to the young Moroccan who had taken hold of my arm in his zeal to persuade me to go drink tea with him: Halas I said to him in Arabic, that’s enough. My Arabic is Palestinian, not from the Maghreb. But he got it. Halas, he repeated the word back to me, and let go of my arm, took a step backwards and let me pass by. I spoke his language and it was Game Over.
After the intensity and trials of Marrakesh, I took a bus to Skoura, an oasis town four hours south east from the city, passing villages of skour, mud hewnhouses and Kasbah citadels rising out of sheer rock. It was a fab journey through and sometimes literally right over the mountains. When I clambered down from the bus in Skoura, it was one widestreet of rough and ready cafes, framed by the nearby palm grove that stretches for more then 35 kilometres across the valley. I had a reservation to stay at a local Kasbah; it was the cheapest one in the guide book so I wasnt expecting chocolates on my pillow, just an interesting bed for a couple of nights.
I had somewhat enigmatically been told to follow the red arrows from the main street to the kasbah, but before I even had time to look, a grizzled middle age man approached. Are you Madam Louisa he asked.
Yes, I said.
I am Abdul Hakim, and I have come to take you to the kasbah. It is six kilometeres from here, dans la palmerie.
He indicated his frail looking moped, and on I hopped.
The Skoura palmerie is a wonder of some 300,000 date palms and olive trees, where small settlements of farming families live in houses of dried mud lined with palms. Abdul Hakims moped didnt break down until the depths of the palmerie; he then pushedhis moped and I hoisted on my backpack and we strolled up the rutted track until we reached a small store where he bought a plastic bottle of liquid fuel and then I got back on the loped. When we finally pulled off the track, through a regal mud hewn gateway, my dry mouth dropped wide open;
Kasbah Ait Abou is in the very heart of the palmerie….. a huge citadel built in 1837 and still inhabited by the same family…… with a twenty five meter tower reaching into the sky. The patron, Mohammed, is a quiet man who now lives here alone (but thats another story) and a total gent. We climbed the tower together and I gasped at the emerald forest below. Mohamed smiled and told me he has been here all his life and could never live anywhere else.
I had dinner in the Berber tent just outside the kasbah, then wandered nearby olive and palm groves until dusk and I started yawning. I was the only guest at the kasbah; sod having a room of ones own. I had a kasbah to myself!
That night the stars bejewelled the sky and I climbed back up the tower and could almost brush them with my fingertips. I felt safe happy and tired. This is why I love traveling.