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so nice to have you in extra-EU roving reporter mode again too.
the gulf is huge, between us born to the first world and the other 4/5ths of humanity. i had no idea really of how huge, until at 18, i stepped off a steamer at Casablanca, after 4 days journey from southampton or portsmouth, i canna remember any more.
my first peek outside the euro-bubble, and though it sounds trite, i felt my worldview do summersaults within the first 5 minutes, as though familiar with the sounds, sights and smells of Naples, it had not prepared me for the maelstrom of sensuous assault that greeted me setting foot on land.
what grabbed me at first was the old men, they had such dignity, then the packs of children, bright eyed and agile, swarming like bees around the influx of walking wallets.
it had been a very pleasant trip, mostly spent jamming with a fellow passenger on acoustic guitars, with a gorgeous side stopover at Lisbon, after a majestically slow trip on the Targus river, slow enough to observe the country folk as they toiled in fields beside the riverbanks... so i was quite relaxed, already light years from the stressful hubbub of London.
hard to describe the feelings, sweltering in shock at the raw vitality of the Moroccans, their wise eyes and proud bearing, the strangeness of their attire, the strong, foxy smells from funky sewerage, the music pounding strange scales and rhythms from teahouses, where old sages from central casting dipped chunks of sugar in their mint tea and slipped sipsi kif pipes from their socks, took a few draws from their magic mix stored on a sheep's bladder, and then tucked them back away discreetly.
men sleeping on the sidewalk/pavement in full 100F sun, dressed head to toe in quarter inch thick wool, caped and falling to ankle length.
it was like coming home...it felt challenging and soothing at the same time, so many answers to questions yet unfully formulated, there in plain sight, and much more hiding and peeking from around dusty corners.
6 months, hitching, walking, sharing bread and tajin with lorry drivers, cruising the souks, marvelling at the artisanry, big 55 gallon drums on street corners with hot chickpea soup for sale, and all seemed harmonious, locals proudly told me how even the poorest never went to bed hungry.
what remained mysterious was the world of women, hidden and veiled, they existed in a parallel world of their own. i was still too immature to reflect very deeply on this, but my girlfriend travelling with me, 21, was half scottish, half guadeloupienne, raised in Paris, and it was through her i became aware of how judgemental it felt for her living along such an overtly patriarchal society. she looked marakshi to the locals, and in her jeans and unscarved head, she attracted not a few hisses of negative judgment from passers by.
we clambered smartish onto a bus to marrakesh, shared with goats, poultry, and mostly local folks. tourism wasn't very thick on the ground, back in 69, and we felt very visible, but not too vulnerable, as our hosts were usually extremely kind and hospitable. one wild party thrown by the decadent scion of the Krupp family was especially memorable, but apart from that insight into how the rich and famous could live in the perfumed gardens behind the high walls, we were in the cheapest dives, the kind where the nightwatchman would lie and sleep on the floor by the main entrance.
walking the streets and peeking in on the rare occasions a gate would open was always a revelation, cool courtyards redolent with orange blossoms and fountains awaiting hidden from the street.
the last 3 months we spent working kitchen duties in a Tangier beach bar, going to the market in the morning, buying bread, fig-size black olives and other tasty delights, sleeping in a little stucco cabin yards from the water, with a stained glass window. we could see the camel trains silhouetted on the dawn skyline of berber people bringing the produce in from the countryside...
we had tea with brian gysin, a fascinating fellow, hiked along essaouira beaches talking to the boatbuilders, admiring the blue and white tones of the town.
so many amazing memories, thanks for stirring the soup Nomad. perhaps this comment will help explain why i am such a fan of your writing, so right on the cultural interface, and right with reflections on riddles impenetrable.
my only (hopefully constructive) criticism, your diaries are always too short, they feel like a tease-trailer to some great movie!
we are really lucky here at ET...
'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
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