Saturday, 28 April 2012

morocco: a lesson in nakedness

At the end of February i went to Marrakech in Morocco with Alex and Elissa. We saw snakes dancing, got wonderfully lost in the souks hunting for spices and carpets, traipsed over the atlas mountains, went to Moroccan baths (hammams) and basically lived out my Aladdin fantasies. 
(side note: turns out Aladdin is not set there. Crushing discovery. Crushing)

It was beautiful and fun and new and exciting and i loved it all (except the part that saw me get violently ill on the way home and throw up on the train... but let's never speak about that again.)

Things I learnt about appropriate dressing:
1. Nothing, absolutely nothing, i own is covered up enough for walking the streets
2. My tshirts are all tragically see through
3. Things are easier when you're near men- to the point that we sort of siddled up to a Moroccan carpet selling teenager who escorted us through the souks. When he was around, people seemingly wanted to throw stuff at us less.

Things I didn't expect about Morocco.
1. We got naked. a lot. Those hammams are a crazy new world. Our first foray into Moroccan bath houses was at the fancy pants 'Les Bains Marrakesh', recommended in Vogue and by Liss' favourite London Liberty Girl. It was ah-mazing. We arrived and were taken to a steamy room with dim, flattering lighting, stripped naked, covered in oil by a Moroccan lady and then told to lie down. Slight issue was that there were only two benches, made of slippery plastic stuff... Which meant that Alex and Liss had to share a bench, naked, covered in oil. It really bonded us all. Woah. 
After a day of luxury where we were scrubbed down, covered in mud, massaged and drank tea (all of it naked... Weird) we thought it might be fun to be 'more traditional', so found a hammam for locals... This may have been a bit too adventurous: we arrived, paid our 25c entry and were given a bucket each and ushered towards a plastic sheet curtain.... We sort of wandered around lost and confused for a while (at least by this point we were used to being naked around each other- but frankly the lighting in this hammam was less forgiving than the one for fancy ladies... Oh.)
Then began the weirdest 30mins of my life as we stumbled into a steam room full of about 50 Moroccan ladies of all shapes, sizes and ages who did not seem to appreciate our presence. There was a definite heirarchy of tap use/bucket sharing/who stands where... and we broke every rule. I splashed someone, was bullied out of the line for the tap and we weren't allowed to stand near the wall. oh.

These ladies knew the rules: they all had little mats or stools to sit on and scrub themselves down. We did not, so sort of hovered awkwardly like the odd ones out we were. It seems Le Bains had not taught us the skills to survive in the real world. But we persevered, turned over one of our buckets and took turns sitting down and washing our hair. Then, it became apparent that people were shaving themselves...and it was sort of just floating past... Yep. Shit got real.
Again, we persevered a little longer and then made a dignified* exit, only to discover a flaw in our plan: we hadn't brought towels. So we put out clothes on, wet through and sort of ran back to our riad. Bad news. I don't think we'll be asked back.

But... We went again (to a different one, but another one nonetheless) the next day. We were hooked. 
I sort of wish London had hammams.

*this is a lie.

2. Over the atlas mountains, is a gigantic movie studio town, full of palm trees, giant sandstone studios and the promise of 'Hollywood in the desert' awesome. This is also where the three of us fought over whose dad likes 'Lawrence of Arabia' more (yea, we really covered the big issues). We settled the feud by texting all our dads. Elissa won. Turns out my dad's favourite movie is actually Jesus of Montreal. Alex's dad favours Casablanca... Shattered dreams in the desert. Well played Elissa's dad.

3. There are actually more camels in Australia than in Morocco. To be fair, Alex told me this... so am not 100% sure it's factually accurate, but i was interested nonetheless.

Top insults we attracted
1. A nice man on the road told me to "why don't you go kill yourself" after we'd walked past which was prob a bit unnecessary.
2. Liss was bullied by a street vendor for wearing glasses and called Harry Potter (the scar we'd drawn on her head while she was asleep didn't help matters...)
3. Alex was being followed by a nice man who told her how pretty she was, then when she resisted marriage he yelled "You're Ugly". definite low point.
4. A man in a street restaurant asked me how many camels i wanted for marriage. Liss suggested 30. He counter offered 5 chickens. oh.

All in all, an epic trip and a place i HIGHLY recommend you all go. asap

I'll see you soon marrakech xoxo

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