Chapter 4

As soon as I thought of food, my stomach rumbled uneasily, I rolled my eyes and headed off to the food sector of the market. It was early evening, but the stalls would be empty if I didn’t hurry. As I stepped out of the souks into the main market square I had to shield my eyes against the brightness. The only glimpse of sunlight I saw during the day was the occasional sunbeam shining boldly through the wooden slated covers over the souks. I must be earlier than I thought, checking the position of the sun against the Koutoubia Minaret. Of course, I had no sense of structured time, no Tissot watch to guide me through the hours, nothing but the daily path of the sun across the sky, and by my reckoning, I was early. Sure enough, the market was bustling with life but not yet heaving with tourists. The steam rising from each stall was only just beginning to create that luring mist that hung in the air like a Las Vegas sign shouting “food” to the town. I knew if I ventured further into the developed part of Marrakech that I would find the fast food businesses thriving under those “golden arches” but I stood out like a sore thumb in my ragged attire, and [unless I was begging] food was much harder to come by. So I stuck to my patch, my turf where I knew I could score a meal easily. I knew I was too early to steal a meal yet; the sun had not yet descended behind the roof of the hotels across the square, so I resigned myself to play the waiting game. Merging back into the shadows of the souks, I sprung lightly onto a barrel, from there onto the top of the wall and higher to the roof of the nearest building and settled myself down to pass the time away. This was a favourite spot of mine; I could see the entire Djemaa el Fna square with its clusters of hooded market stalls as well as a large sector of the Medina, the old city. But although the view was “spectacular, unique, idealistic” [to quote a holiday guide I had once attained from a tourist along with her bag, watch and purse] I preferred to watch the people. At a first glance the seething mass seemed like a huge living organism, rippling with power; it was impossible to make out particular trades but after a few minutes I began to identify the locals and the usual tourist attracters: the acrobats, story-tellers, snake charmers, dancers, and musicians. By day they were my allies, a tourist absorbed in watching a fire eater will rarely notice their purse being lifted. But come sunset they were of less interest, my attention turned from money to the basic needs: food and shelter.

The End

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