Spotted Out in Marrakesh

 

I spotted it between a bunch of many bracelets, most of them I had seen before, nearly on every jewellery selling stall in Marrakesh; cuffs with their open ends filed in different shapes and larger in the middle as if creating a mountain peak.

The highest peak in Morocco is Toubkal of the Atlas mountain range that rises at 4,167 metres.

I used to think that the largest warm desert in the world would just be sand dunes till I realized that the highest Sahara peak reaches 3,445 meter in Chad.

I started going through the bracelets, cheap imitations of the traditional Tuareg bracelets made with fine layers of silver and ebony wood. These ones had black lines painted on them instead.

I looked out at the scenery. We were stranded in a bar while trying to cross the Atlas mountains as the heavy snow got to us first. ”It’s not that heavy said a guy from Sweden”.

Looking at those mountains covered in snow I felt I could trace the origin of the inspiration of these bracelets as the snow set on the layered rock formations of the mountains creating a zebra like surrounding.

Ancient rocks, proudly confronting winds, snow, heat and passer bys for centuries.

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It is Mine

 

I picked up the one I had liked right from the start.  It was shinning as if worn not long ago. One round circle decorated with 4 spring like tubes and bulky silver dots creating 4 crosses and tiny in size.

My hands are small and ”if it fits” I think to myself ”it was waiting for me and it’s mine”. I squeezed it through my hand and as it slid on my wrist I felt that familiar ”I muuuust have it” feeling.

The guy in the shop came up:

– silver, he says

– it’s not silver

– Berber silver, he replies without insisting. It’s antique he continues and that I believe.

Berber silver is a base metal, silver in colour but made mostly of zinc mined in the north part of the country.

– How much?

he types 280 on a calculator without speaking

– are you crazy?!

he points at the figure again without speaking

-100 Dirham I say

he points at the figure again without speaking

– common! it’s not even silver! 120…

he points at the figure again without speaking

I take the bracelet off, let it down and move toward the open door to look at the snow fall.

I sigh… the rule here is that you loose I admit to myself. They win

But I still want that damn bracelet! I go back in. 120 I tell him. he types 250. well that’s a start I suppose but he’s obviously tough since he knows I can’t go anywhere in the snow and that I’m craving for it. A guy walks in with a dark brown djellaba (the colour symbolising that he is a single man) rasta hair and sunglasses moving lightly t for his size and you can smell his mischief under his funky appearance . He looks like the big  boss of everything there so I turn to him instead and shout ”150 Dirham”. He waves ok with his hand, I give the money I take it and wear it I m happy. A little victory I feel.

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Into the Merzouga Desert

 

I join the others from the group. They seem angry with the driver and the guide who has suddenly decided to reply only by saying: ”I don’t understand English”.

No one is suggesting a way out of here, it’s been 6 hours now, we have had sweet mint tea, cakes and soup, we have bought stuff we have listened to the drums and played on them and now we need a way out.

When some voices are risen they give us a solution that feels it could have happened 6 hours ago: we either pay more to take a long11 hour drive round via Agadir in order to reach the Todga Gorges or we go back to Marrakesh, miss the whole 3 day trip and with no guarantee of getting back the money.

We all agree on the first choice, they win…

I wore my bracelet all the way into the Merzouga Desert while seeing a burning red sunset.

I wore it and all the way up to Fez through a beautiful snowed vast scenery that felt like being on the moon… but meeting monkeys along the way instead of aliens.

In our room in Fez I see a poster of a girl covered in bracelets just like my one and it makes me instantly forget the labyrinths of this amazing city and the dizziness it took to find the hidden gem of our Riad.

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Bracelets for self protection

 

The next day Abdul approaches and self employs himself as our guide through the leather dying factories. The worst job you get to do there is wash the skins in a stinking watery mix of pigeon dunk. You stand in the pool with the water up to your knees. A working day is worth 10 euros, it starts at 5am and finishes at 5 pm between the  horrifying odour of dead animals, dyes, pigeon poo and vinegar.

Abdul notices my bracelet. ”My mother has many of these bracelets, women used to wear them for self protection. That’s why the have bulky decorations on them so it hurts if they cross your face”. He adds that his mother smokes more hash than him.

I can’t help but imagine the woman who wore this piece,  small in size like me. Full of these self defence ornaments, it makes me feel strong.

In Chefchaouen the beautiful blue gem of the North I meet Mohamed, a young boy with eyes the colour of fresh wild honey. He cultivates hash, breeds white travelling pigeons and speaks in a mix of Spanish Arabic and English. He explains to me that the bulky beads on my bracelet are seven to symbolize the seven days of the week and the springs are four to symbolize the seasons. I just nod, hypnotized by his eyes and I let myself fall in love for as long as this conversation may last.

In my last day in Marrakesh before flying back to Europe I see a shop seller who suggests I sell him my bracelet. how much did you buy it for. 150 Dirham I say. I ll buy it off  you for 200 he says. Not a chance! This bracelet has been my guide to explore this culture. It reminds me of what travelling really means: of finding new things, inspiration and knowledge of loosing your patience and money, of wasting time and chances,. It reminds me of this beautiful loop around mainland Morocco, round, rough and shiny like my Berber bracelet.

A TRAVEL STORY BY LILLY OUSANTZOPOULOU

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