The Souk and The World Cup

morocco wining against Spain in the World cup

Discovering the Souk and the Medina

We slept well in our little Riad in the old town and the alarm went off to ensure we were up in time for breakfast; we were meeting our guru guide in Jemma Al Fna for a walking tour which promised to reveal the history, sights and sounds of old Marrakesh behind the Medina walls, and to touch on the edge of the souks.

I’d informed our Riad in advance about being Celiac and they had made me gluten and dairy free pancakes, and provided hot soya milk for my coffee. Fabulous! We tucked in to pancakes, honey and jams and cheese and better too for Gerry. Once we’d eaten our fill we set off to find the café l’adresse at Jemaa el-Fna to meet the guide.

Ishmael was our guide and he taught about the history of the city, about the Berbers and the Medina, which when founded in 1070 was the only Marrakesh. There are over 18 kilometres of walls around the Medina, they were completed around 1120. Until 1912 this was Marrakesh but with the arrival of the French the new city was built, outside the Medina walls. The city was founded in 1042 and was a hugely important trading centre and meeting point for traders crossing the Saraha in camel caravans. It was ideal in it’s position close to the Atlas Mountains but also because there was water. Indeed Marrakesh prospered and became a melting point of cultures and trades and crafts.

Blacksmiths and Leather Crafts

Ishmael led our little group around the narrow streets, explaining the different areas and pointing out historical landmarks. He guided us around-the souk, where we watched artisans at work on the leather goods and blacksmiths creating all manor of goods and lots of coppersmiths beautifully engraving their work. Indeed this quarter was a hive of activity and an area where few tourists found nor ventured.

We had read in advance that we should be very wary of the Souk and the Medina. That petty theft was rife and that shop keepers could become aggressive with their selling. We’d also read that it was dirty and we shouldn’t eat the food. Well! all I can say is that this is not the Medina we visited! The shopkeepers did call and welcome but never aggressively and always with a smile, we never felt in any danger or really at risk of pick pockets (although it’s wise to take precautions). And we certainly never saw dirty streets, the opposite was true with road sweepers keeping everything clean and shop keepers washing the pavements in front of their shops. The Souk and the Medina are two seperate things, and we loved both! We can’t wait to return and explore some more, we might even try a little haggling to buy some souvenirs.

Our guide had taken us to areas that we would not have found ourselves and it was great to learn so much from a Moroccan who was born and raises with the Medina walls. Again we thoroughly recommend Guru Guide! We walked for over 2.5 hours but the time passed quickly and it gave us the perfect introduction to the city, certainly whetting our appetite to explore more.

Lunch with New Friends

We left and went in search of the street Ishmael had recommend for lunch, totally aimed at locals and very busy too! We entered at the same time as an Israeli couple we’d met on the tour so we shared a table, and an hour or more talking about our lives and travel and families. I love that over a few short hours you can become so well acquainted with strangers and part as friends.

We meandered back to the main square, purposefully avoiding the snake charmers and the Henna hand painters, both are pretty pushy for trade and we wanted neither so we walked on. Gerry tells me to not make eye contact, but somehow I always seem to fail!

We decided to take a coffee at the Cafe de France, and as we walked up to the roof terrace our new friends greeted us like old friends and we drank coffee and mint tea and snacked on little Moroccan cakes and talked more. We agreed to meet again, we don’t know when but we swapped contact details and talked about maybe home swapping too so watch this space.

We ordered more tea as we had agreed to meet another stranger who was to became a firm friend within a few hours. A few years ago I met a fabulous, globe-trotting lady from Singapore. She had hoped to be here today but her plans changed, but her brother was in town. We made plans to meet at the Cafe and then we were heading off to watch the world Cup match of Spain vs Morocco. A huge screen had been erected in the main square and after our tea we headed down. Morocco were the underdogs for this match but the Atlas Mountain Lions proved to be formidable opponents.

Morocco vs Spain in the World Cup

I will struggle to put into words the atmosphere in the square. Tens of thousands of Morocco fans gathered and sang and danced and waved flags. As the match started hopes were high and the atmosphere almost crackled with excitement and tension. No score at half time followed by a bigger crowd and more singing and dancing and flag waving and more excitement and tension. The people around us, who at first just smiled politely and avoided eye contact moved closer as the crowds grew. In the closeness we shared lots of ooohs and aaahhs and near misses and shouts of offside and cheers as favourite players found the ball. The evening grew louder and more tense as the final whistle blew and we faced extra time. The crowd grew, we all moved closer, most people seemed a bit surprised that their team was holding back the Spanish giants. The final whistle blew and it felt like 50 thousand Moroccans collectively held their breath. Gerry talked football with the guy he was rubbing shoulders with; neither understood each other but they both understood football.

Morocco took the first penalty. They scored. The crowed went nuts. Then quiet as Spain took a shot. They missed. The crowd went nuts. I couldn’t look. Again Morocco scored. More madness. Again Spain missed. More madness. The Morocco player missed and it felt like a collective intake of breath and silenced fell. Spain missed again and the crowd erupted. It was Morocco’s turn again. You could cut the tension. It took forever. I hid my face in my scarf, and I think a lot of folks did the same. Then a cheer. It was all over. Gerry and his new friend were hugging and dancing and shouting. Flares were lit in the square, fireworks went off, all around there were screams, cheers, songs, car horns and chaos. I have never been at any sporting event quite like this and it seemed to go on all night!

They Won!

We went to eat. Moving along in a crowd of jubilation. We finished eating, bade a fond farewell to our new friend and walked home again carried along in a sea of cheers, and cars, and singing, and bikes tooting and even horses galloping through the streets. It was a night we’ll never forget. And we have to go through it all again in a few days when Morocco face Portugal. Portugal are Favourites but who knows what will happen!

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