Location: Marrakech, Morocco
An adventure searching for the perfect derelict Riad, through the constuction itself, to the end result (insha'Allah!)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Street Singers

MARRAKECH has its troubadours and traveling musicians, analogous to the minstrels, bards, and other street performers who entertained courts and commoners alike in the Europe of times past.  Solo or ensemble, on a cafe terrace or before the international crowd at Place Jemma El Fna, they sing their repertoire of popular songs, offering up a full range of Moroccan folklore.

Their interpretations of great classics from the Arab songbook transport enchanted audiences back with beautiful, age-old epics.  Who said, "Everything ends in song?" It is true that, in harmony with the universe, humans have always expressed the joys and pains of living through song.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Baggage Porters

Only necessity compels people to take up this small trade.  Such hard labour! Whether carrying tourists' suitcases at airports and train stations, or toting farmers heavy crates, sometimes dragging these cumbersome loads on handcarts, porters submit their bodies to what almost amounts to forced labour, all for a meagre sum. They are not Hercules, but their backs are strong and their arms are muscular.

The most fortunate have a donkey or a horse, which makes the job less tiresome.  But the porter must then look after the animal, a beast quickly exhausted by the considerable burdens.  But modernisation is on the march! Motorised tricycles currently cruise the streets of Marrakech, delivering suitcases to the grand hotels, but in Africa we will continue to see, for a long time, men proud of their strength, carrying heavy loads on their backs.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Tooth Pullers...

In addition to legitimate dentists, Marrakech is home to a most peculiar profession: the tooth yanker.

These men practice their trade in the souk or on the Place Jemaa El Fna totally free of legal restrictions and heedless of any hygienic precautions.  Under the gaze of passersby - and on ground covered in spit - the unlucky fellow unable to afford 'indoor' dental care has his teeth pulled without any anaesthetic and only a drop of two of disinfectant.

Astonished tourists will sometimes photograph the spectacle, "No, thanks!" they say with a smirk, put off by the idea of receiving dental care from a man who knows nothing of medicine and works in such unsanitary conditions.

Nevertheless, it would be like taking the bread out of his mouth to say that he is "lying through his teeth"!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Load of Cobblers...

Out in the middle of the little alleys of Marrakech, you come across cobblers' workshops, really just simple iron crates on wheels, shaded all year round by umbrellas.

A pile of mismatched footwear at his side, the shoe artisan taps, nails and glues with finesse.  Boots, espadrilles, moccasins - no matter the brand, the quality, the state of the shoes or the time it takes - the cobbler repairs each item to the fullest satisfaction of the customer.  Late into the night, the noise of little hammers echo throughout the neighbourhood.

These hard working cobblers are never entrusted with tourist's shoes.  And yet, what skill!  With a little thread, some nails and a dab of glue, plain shoes are totally revamped; its the miracle of the red city cobblers.  They'll never start you off on the wrong foot!