Saturday, August 18, 2007

Peace and (relative) quiet


A picture of a little peacock who lives at our house for Maryam


Marrakech is wonderful, but it is also slightly awful sometimes. On the one hand, it is beautiful, exotic and exciting, the air is heavy with rich smells of spices, leather and fruit and the streets are full of handsome bearded young men in skull caps and flowing white robes, beautiful girls with dark skin and glowing eyes, their heads closely wrapped with brightly coloured scarves, the electric atmosphere of the Djemma el Fna and the call to prayer which dominates all. And *ahem* the kittens.

But on the other hand, it’s noisy, dirty, smelly and invasive. Every time I go out alone, I get comments and cat-calls and even if I’m with my husband I get twelve-year-olds darting out to smirk at me under my hat (scaring the living daylights out of me sometimes as my huge black hat from Monsoon is very effective at keeping the sun off, which is why I wear it, but also functions much like blinkers on a horse do, and prevents eye contact with practically anyone unless I tilt my head back, so it is very alarming when a face suddenly appears right in front of my own, laughing). The gulf between men and women is so wide that the existence of children here at all is a bit of a mystery to me, although middle-aged and older couples are openly affectionate with each other in a way that is rare in the West.

All these contrasts make it difficult for me to remember whether I like Marrakech or not whenever I am away from it, and I was very worried this time, coming back here from America. A few weeks ago we had decided that if it didn’t suit us by Christmas, we would move to Paris until I hand in my PhD in April and we can leave for South America, but at the same time, I didn’t really want to feel as though North Africa had defeated me (this is also my first time away from my home city of Dublin, Ireland, for more than two months), so I was apprehensive and unsure of my own feelings.

But oh! I am very happy to be back here. Certainly it is weird and awful, but it is also thrilling and bizarre in the best possible ways. Our huge, calm house is the perfect respite from the hubbub outside and we seem to live our life at two extremes – the orange madness of outside and the white serenity of inside. Right now, we have just finished our lunch (hummus with a brie, grape and endive salad with Casablanca beer and its marvellously retro label) and all is silent except for the peeping of the falcons who live in the trees that overlook our terrace. As I type this, I realise I can also just about hear the bees in our bougainvillea. The rest of the day will be spent reading and perhaps writing a little. Maybe this evening we’ll go for a walk before sunset. How could I ever have doubted my desire to live here?

8 comments:

Anna said...

Sarah: I'm realy enjoying your blog. As a fellow PhD-er (I'm in the UK and the diss. is long overdue - aagh), I read your posts and really envy you as I'd love a change of scenery - to write up in the sun as opposed to the bloody rain (all day today) and general greyness. What is your topic?

houda n said...

Yes, what is your topic?

houda n said...

You'll soon be competing with 'My Marrakesh'

Sarah said...

Anna - I'm so glad you like my blog!

I've come across quite a few of us postgrads in the world of blogs - perhaps we have convinced ourselves that any word count at all for the day counts as work, whether it is on the dreaded chapter three or on a blog/comment? Probably true for myself, anyway. My topic is Paul Bowles, broadly speaking. My postdoc will be *worlds* away though - can't wait to hand it in and abandon modernity forever. What about you?

Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Hmmmm, never heard of a broad dissertation subject ....

houda n said...

Indeed - that is srange: just 'Paul Bowles'?

Anna said...

Sarah - yes, can't wait to hand it in, full stop. How are you supporting yourselves financially while there? (Ideas growing in my head...) I wonder how I could do same? Working partner would have to agree the commute from North UK to Morocco. I'll get to work on him, ha!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Thank you so much for my little peacock! Look forward to seeing you on Thursday!