Cirque Des Fées Episode 6: Weeeeelcome to Morocco… I do your Laundry? Veeeeeeery good, nix problem!

I remember when I was five or six my mum explained to me that Egyptians were no longer building pyramids, wearing snakes or worshipping the goddess of cats. Afterwards I had secretly cried in my room all day. I really, really wanted to see those things and it seemed rather unfair to be born too late. Twenty years further on I arrived in the UK, with similar wide-eyed naivety. One of my crazy Kiwi plans had been to camp out alone in Sherwood Forest for a few months. I could keep chickens, grow my own vegetables and no one would be able to find me except on horseback. How disappointed I was – you can now walk from one side of Sherwood Forest to the other in 45minutes! Right outside the main entrance (!) are a collection of B&B’s, the YMCA Youth Hostel and pubs with logos like ‘Tuck-in at Friar’s’. Pants!
Morocco, on the other hand, is not a place that will disappoint or make small children cry. It really is full of ancient stone Kasbahs, wild snowy mountain ranges, scorpions, monkeys, camels – and of course – in the South the vast Sahara Desert. But the wonder that fascinates me the most here is not the dancing cobras or shops full of jaw bones and cow skins dyed to look like tigers. The most intriguing thing here is the Moroccans people themselves – they are all absolutely, gorgeously, wonderfully – mad as hats!

This lovely boy’s name was Cappuchino!

My first example is our friend Marjshi who we met upon arriving at a broken-down campsite at Larache. In the morning he was outside in torrential rain sweeping a shingle driveway and ranting delightedly. “Welcome, weeelcome to Morocco. Everthing here nix problem, nix problem. Where are you from? Where are you from?” and continuing without giving us time to reply. He seemed lovely (though hard to comprehend) and two days later he roped himself into the problem of our ever-piling laundry. After a week of constant downpour we had bags of the stuff and not a clean sock to be found. Marjshi loaded all of this ceiling high in his tiny 30 year old Renault and, through a cloud of cannabis smoke, explained he was driving us to a Laundrette. “Nix problem”.
Traffic in Morocco has no law, even unto itself. Donkey carts, trucks, and women in wheelchairs cram the roads with the odd goat standing in the way to watch. I was concerned all of these crazy drivers got their licences from cereal packets until I learnt you had to purchase one. No test or instruction but by paying you were officially registered. Oh. Well that’s OK then! ???

The Poor thing. Donkey Carts are everywhere in Morocco. They have no lights in the dark so you have to be carefull!

Marjshi drove with exquisite Moroccan style. Using both hands to roll another joint on the steering wheel he chatted animatedly to Oli next to him, swivelling about to include me in the back and occasionally glancing at the road. No, really. I exaggerate not! Obstacles were greeted with a burst of extra speed and horn honking. Oli looked a little terrified but I was having a fabulous time. It was awesome to be amongst this vivid clutter of people and chicken feathers without a worry about our dinging up our van for once! At a road block created by a pile of vegetable crates I thought we could go no further – but flooring the little car Marjshi managed to manoeuvre over a stack of rubble and though a muddy stream to skid to a halt outside not a Laundrette but a Dry Cleaners. Damn! Marjshi haggled the bloke down to £35 for the lot, but not wanting to spend more than half our weekly budget, even for clean socks, we contented ourselves with a visit to a café instead – possibly responsible for my later food poisoning.

Laundry Day!

My second example of gorgeous Moroccan Madness takes place at the campsite just outside Marrakech, where finally it had stopped raining. After sharing a tiny bit of Christmas cake with the blokes in a Landrover next door, Oli & I spent Christmas and Boxing Day cranking our hand-turned washing machine. The workers at the site, used to posh types in campers with three rooms and satellite dishes, thought this was hysterical. In between siliconing the leaky roof (again!) and poking out rust around the windscreen with a screwdriver we were invited to down Moroccan Whiskey with a lovely man named Abdul. Moroccan Whiskey, it turns out, is what they call a seriously strong cup of tea. It’s brewed in a tiny metal kettle and served with about four sugars in a shot glass. Sitting on the crumbling boards of an oil-stained caravan glass in hand, in mime and broken English Abdul told us many tales. His brother had a tragic love story with an Italian; his own marriage broke up after 3 months when he discovered his wife was a cocaine dealer; but his best story was a simple one about German tourists and… laundry.

At the campsite there was the occasionally arrival of these wheeled monsters calling ‘Rolling Hotels’. Oli was lucky enough to be shown around one – the jumbo jet of tour bus towing behind it an equally huge trailer including 3 stories of pigeonholed bedrooms and a canteen. I couldn’t imagine anything more cramped and miserable but according to Abdul the Germans love them. I think we had got onto the subject by me asking Abdul what work he did around the site. He was saying the ‘Rotel’ buses were great because they paid well – especially for laundry. He explained how seating 42 people, the ‘Rotels’ always unloaded huge sacks of dirty clothes for the site to sort out. “Good money, easy, easy money”, he said. “Socks, jackets, trouser, your under-pants, we look for stain, we wash off”, then he mimed a bit of dabbing. Dabbing! Thinking of those unsuspecting Germans wearing their newly sponged ‘clean’ underwear I burst out laughing. Abdul really couldn’t understand why. I think he really had no idea! Just the cultural gap I guess – best to do your own washing here. Weeeelcome to Morocco!

Tune in to our next Episode when you may hear a crunch! Merde!

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