It’s the second day in which I am stationary in a small city in the north of the Moroccan coast. Larache or El Araich is a not exactly what you would call a tourist destination. I have had the chance of wondering about town yesterday in the intervals between the rain showers and I have not seen anybody that vaguely fitted the description of a tourist.
There are various reasons why there are no pictures to go with this post. The most important one is that what you get from going around El Araich is not possible to capture with a camera. What you get from walking in the streets it’s more than what can be described by an image.
What you get is a whole sensation that is made up of both sight smell and noise, of a bustling place where nothing seems to fit and yet everything seems to work. I was totally unprepared to this, and it’s probably a result of only seeing places like this on TV. What you can capture with a camera, being it still or motion, is nothing compared to the real thing.
I wondered around the the Moorish medina yesterday. Every nook and cranny was home to some sort of business, most of them selling the most random stuff. I walked through the market where meat fish and vegetables were sold in the open air. It is hard to convey the closeness to nature with which most of these activities are performed.
The old ladies selling carrots and parsley in the market were perched on the discarded merchandise of the day before. Cats where roaming the place fighting over some scrap getting tossed out of the butcher stall. The butcher himself was intent in rearranging the severed heads of two goats on his display case. Not really sure how they serve goat’s head, but it was there for sale so, surely, someone was going to cook it.
The fresh fish looked really fresh and it would have been tempting was it not sold on the floor of the central hall, a young merchant was intent in sprinkling his catch with water to make it look even fresher. And all around there was garbage, but nobody seemed to mind.
Another thing that I really found difficult to get to grip with is how these people manage to survive. Most people do not appear to do very much, they sit in tea places or just at the border of the streets. The ones that work seem faced with impossible competitive conditions. How can you feed a family if your business is selling a cart of oranges, there are ten other sellers with a cart of oranges in a 100 yard radius, and the price of oranges is nothing.
For sure they do not spend a huge amount of time thinking about what they wear. Traditions are on life support with berber gowns worn over premiership strips and all finished with Chinese flip flops.
In the evening I also ventured out and discovered that people in the streets had doubled. The stalls and shops were still open into the late evening, but they were also joined by street food venders that, in the main seemed to deal in snails broth. I was not tempted and indeed I did not try it, I went instead for another avocado juice which I am quickly becoming a big fan of.
Another reason why I am not taking pictures is that I am a bit scared. I am not sure what the etiquette is in terms of taking pictures in the streets and I also do not want to stick out as an obvious target for business or criminal initiatives. I am quite sure that all these fears are just a product of my ignorance for the place and I will get over them as soon as I have spend a meaningful amount of time on the country.
The Morocco I have seen so far is the Morocco tourist don’t tend to see and I can assure you it is not pretty. It is what it is though, and while I am not here to judge, I have to admit I find the culture shock quite overwhelming. I wonder how much of it is down to me and where I am in my mind at the moment.
Tomorrow I’ll be on the road again, hopefully this exceptionally wet stint of weather will be finished and, as I get closer to the desert, I will start enjoying more of the lifestyle I set out to pursue. One of the reason that, from the very beginning, pushed me to do what I’m doing was the desire to get away. Mostly away from people, to get, in a way, into the wild. I am sure I might find it in the desert, and to some extent in the jungle, for sure I will not find it in northern Morocco.