Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mixed feelings... resolved

Morocco is very strange. Unlike any other country I have visited (and I am reasonably well travelled, with a colourfully stamped and visa-ed passport) it can inspire tension and hate on one day and langour and love the next. I suppose it depends on how tired one feels.

I was in Dublin for a couple of days, and although it was lovely to see my darling parents and tease my mother and bully my father about doing a PhD, I was exhausted by my day in the city in a way that I have never been exhausted by Marrakech, for all my complaints. John thinks that noise is the culprit - that no city we have ever visited suffers as badly from the noise pollution caused by the concentration of buses and other traffic in one tiny city centre. For those of you who do not know Dublin, although it is a European capital city with all the resources one would expect, when it was laid out (oh that Wide Streets Commission) nobody expected quite so many people to live there, with the effect that a 1.5 million person city actually has a main street - O'Connell Street - through which almost all traffic must pass to cross the city. There are but two shopping districts (although many would call them one) - the Henry Street area and the Grafton Street area - and these two streets and their precincts are filled to capacity every hour and every day of the week. It is hellish. Other cities simply are not like that, even London (for the most part). When I go to Manhattan I am always surprised by the emptiness (physically, at least - as for spiritual emptiness, well, that's a whole different post!). People in London and New York complain about crowds and jostling and pushing - well, they should try Dublin on a Tuesday afternoon.

As for Marrakech, no matter how annoying the hustlers, stall and shop-keepers and vulgar youths are, it is quiet. All you can hear is a gentle hubbub of voices, the warning cries of delivery men with their donkeys and small carts (still the primary method of moving goods around the city centre) and the occasional deathwish moped, all this punctuated at regular but inscrutable intervals by the call to prayer. I think John is right - it is Dublin Bus that makes Dublin so exhausting and any Dubliner who has ever felt a moment of weariness or has lain awake at night for no apparent reason should not look within, for physical or emotional complaints, however valid these may be, but they should consider leaving the city for a couple of months and seeing how they feel when removed from the vicinity of Dorset, O'Connell and Grafton Street before giving themselves up for lost.

On the other hand, Marrakech can be a little emotionally wearing. Even though I know not to worry about the odd teenager who feels the need to proclaim his heterosexuality like an insecure tomcat and the shopkeeper who *still* doesn't grasp that I have passed him up to four times a day for two months, suggesting that perhaps I am a permanent fixture and thus unlikely to be seduced by his bizarre paintings of disembodied turbaned heads floating over a desert landscape (I must take a picture some day to show you), and thus persists in calling to me every day with "Bonjour, hello, just to look, just to look, one moment please", although I am now used to all that, it still grates a little, to the extent that I am far more comforable when John is with me, and although I am more than happy to spend every minute of every day in my husband's company, it makes me feel a little edgy to *require* it in order to step out the door. Well, require is a strong word - of course I can safely move about the city unchaperoned, but I am far more relaxed when I am escorted, and that limitation, however slight, annoys me sometimes.

Of course though, as the two pictures at the top of this post might suggest, life here is still pretty wonderful. We have a beautiful house and in two days will be moving into our equally lovely (although quite different) more permanent home next door. The view from the two terraces is one of the most serene in the Medina and we have no fewer than four pairs of doves, a family of falcons, a blackbird and innumerable other smaller birds singing and chirping all day long (it is less serene when they start up at 6am though). The heat is quite breathtaking at the moment, but that is just for a little while - usually it is blissfully hot during the day and blissfully cool in the evening, perfect for lounging around with a jug of Pimm's... so really, life here is rather heavenly.

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