Day 79: Morocco, Asillah

Saturday is market day and, hooray, the sun is shining. We need a few things to top up our fridge so prepare ourselves for a bit of retail therapy, Moroccan-style.

Backpack on, money in low denominations in several different pockets, smartphone for any photo ops secure, big-girl bartering pants on (and that includes the gorgeous Mr T!) and off we go. Our first stop our tea room where, by now, we’re greeted as friends. To mix it up a little we’ve decided against mint tea (just for this time!) and go for a nous-nous – a glass of half coffee-half milk. Fresh milk is not common here so it’s made with full cream, hot and semi-frothed UHT long-life milk. Not something you’d be drinking too many times a day but a real treat.

Suitably fortified, we cross the street to the market where all manner of food is available. Fresh fish to the side, butchers, bakers, green grocers, dry goods, freshly roasted peanuts in their shells (yum, yum!) and herbs and spices all piled high – a riot of colours and smells that, once embedded in your brain, will stay with you forever!

There was no need for us to do any bartering in our opinion. Prices were either on boards behind the stalls and, when we asked, the cost of fruits and vegetable reasonable. Where do you barter to if you can get a half kilo of carrots for MAD3.5 (€0.35)? A loaf of khobz for MAD1.5 (€0.15)? Or nearly a 1/2 kilo of fresh Barnsley Lamb chops for MAD30? Again we’re pretty philosophical about this. Everyone needs to be making a living and in comparison, we are way ahead on pay scale to the average Morrocans, so we pay up. The major supermarkets (Carrefour & Marjane) are charging more, so we figure we’re not being ripped off…not by too much anyway. We’ll leave our bartering for when we need it, when prices are blatantly too high or we’re making a big purchase.

So with purchases duly stashed, and being too early for lunch, we head off back to Kaya to unload and pack our groceries away. Feet up, lounging in the sunshine for the next 1.5 hours waiting for lunch time to arrive.

At 1pm we set off for town again looking for a suitable place for a chawarma for lunch. This time we made it to Ali Baba Restaurant for our daily feast.

And just across the road to end off our lunch, a street seller selling fresh juices. Orange jus for the gorgeous Mr T and a sugar cane, ginger and lime for me. Just sublime!!!! And all for MAD11. I always end up with food envy when we’re choosing something (we always chose something different so we can share and taste) but this time, I hit the nail on the head!

We needed to walk off our lunch and the latest sugar hit from the fresh juices so we made our way back to the medina in the sunshine to take a second bite at the cherry and get some photos in the sunshine. We are still mesmerised by the abundance of colour and art that we come across around every corner.

We had experienced virtually no hassling to buy until just before we were exitting the medina when a local artist caught up with us. The gorgeous Mr T made the fateful mistake of stopping briefly but it was enough for the sales patter to pick up speed and intensity as he tried to convince us that art on recycled cement bags was the next greatest thing we had *ever* come across and we should immediately stop and invest as much money as we could in this new and innovative creation. Needless to say, we didn’t! But the patter continued as we walked away, with a firm “no thanks” and when that didn’t work, a very firm “La” from me, to be met with “no need to be rude”!!! WTAF!!! Hahahahaha

We continued on down to the corniche again, watching in amazement as a tour bus disgorged a load of happy snapping Asians who proceeded to jump onto the tatty pink “Princess coaches” pulled by thin, none too groomed horses, seemingly oblivious to the plight of the animals and trot off on a MAD800 tour of Asillah (yup you heard it here, €80!!! none of which goes to the horses!).

It makes you want to weep. But this is something that we’ve have to develop a thick skin for, along with the constant ever-present rubbish everywhere. Horses, donkeys and domestic pets have a role to play and it’s certainly not to be pampered but to fulfil a need. As visitors, we will not change the world in 1 visit … or even 10. As much as it goes against the grain, we have to accept it as the norm, do our bit where we can and chalk it up to cultural differences.  Viva la diffference?

And once again on our way back to Kaya, we cut back 1 road to get to our tea room (a different road this time) and we came across some extraordinary sights: the local public swimming pool in the middle of courtyard completely surrounded and hidden by apartment blocks,

and just around the corner, a whole row of street art.

Finally we sat down at our “local” with a “Salaam alikum” and “The same?”, called out to us, to take in just 1 last glass of mint tea.

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