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Marrakech

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Marrakech has left me feeling two entirely different emotions; great sadness and immense joy. I have thought long and hard about whether I should share the experience that brought me to tears and finally decided that if this blog is to be a true reflection of my journey and the effect it is having on me, then I have to include it.

In the center of Marrakech is a huge square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Along one side of the square is the Souk, while the remainder is surrounded by hotels and cafe’s which primarily overlook the square. Dozens of horses and carriages are lined up on the outskirts of the square and venture onto it to entice tourists.

One of the very many carriages on offer.

During the day the square is used by the locals to display their wares, along with snake charmers, henna tattooist’s, water carriers in costume and all manner of people trying to part you from your dirhams. At night it fills up with dozens of food stalls, story-tellers, and musicians.

On the first night in Marrakech I ventured onto the square, but thankfully I was not alone (more of that later). Had I been so I would have quickly departed, as large (tightly packed) crowds make me feel very uneasy and with mopeds speeding along playing dodgems with tourists, it is not for me. However I have to say with company it was not so bad, except of course for the chicken tajine from one of the food stalls!

Every 10 yards a vendor will tell you their food is the best!

Next day I decided to return to the square, camera in tow. My interest was in the various animals being used as props while tourists took photos. First up I came across a very sad looking bird attached to a blue box. On trying to get a photograph I was asked for money and then (un)politely asked to leave. As I passed the bird at various times during the day, it was still on the floor.

I never saw this bird leave the ground all day.

So onto the snake charmers, of which there were many. Again I struggled to get pictures as every time you point your camera, a ‘helper’ accosts you for money. It was also pretty obvious (because I did not want to be in any photos) that I wasn’t your usual tourist and once again shooed away. The snakes were out in the sun all day and when they did not ‘stand up’ were poked into action.

Snakes like shade. These poor creatures had none.

OK so maybe the monkey vendors would be more accommodating? Err no… not only was I asked to leave, two ‘helpers’ threatened to break my camera and my arms!

Oops, spotted! and along came the bouncers…

I was however undeterred by what I was witnessing and switched to ‘stealth mode’. So apologies for the lack of sharpness in some of these photos, but I was taking a huge risk.

The monkeys are kept in a mobile cage on wheels (pictured below) and taken out on a seemingly random rotational basis. I could have maybe confused the odd monkey and counted it twice, but even so I counted 10 (yes ten) separate monkeys from this one cage and I’m pretty sure there were more.

The monkeys are dragged in and out by their chains (which is why they hold them).

I chose to follow one particular monkey in the following photos, as this would then correctly document it’s treatment. For some reason it had been made to wear a small child’s skirt, which quite frankly looked ridiculous. You can’t see it from the pictures very well, but she was covered in sores and bald patches. Let’s call her Lucy.

Dragged from her cage, Lucy is pulled across the square all the while hanging onto her chain.

Lucy is made to stand up by her handler hauling on the chain.

It wasn’t until I zoomed in (when previewing) I saw the look in Lucy’s eyes.

At this point I was openly weeping and getting strange looks from onlookers, so had to take a break from photographing. I watched as Lucy was made to stand tall, clutching at the chain being lifted higher and then made to dance like a performing bear. I left.

When I returned some time later, there was no sign of Lucy. However now it was the turn of the smaller monkeys (with nappies fastened on them) who were screaming at being lifted around by the chains around their necks.

One screams at being hoisted while the other falls from the box.

Then they are ‘presented’ to potential customers and made to perform for the photos. I’m not going to comment on the next series of pictures, they tell the story better than I could.

No caption needed.

I’ll never forget the look of sheer hopelessness in this monkeys eyes.

I make no apologies if this post has upset you, because what I witnessed has affected me deeply.

In my next post I’ll tell you all about what was good about Marrakech, so stay tuned.

3 Comments
Sam
Monday, January 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

:(( and :)) indeed are unexpectedly close here in Marrakech!!!

Sophie.W-G
Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

Hi Derek
About your comments when asked to pay for making photos in Marrakech and “not being your ordinary tourist” – I think it’s fairly obvious that any local with a monkey, snake, story or anything that’s not a good for sales on Jeema El Fnaa is there to make money from people with cameras, whether or not the tourist features on the picture itself. So wanting to take the pic and not being willing to give back for what could be a commercial photograph you will derive profit from is not fair, and those people are very aware of it. Now about them being not nice to people who don’t wish to pay is another story. Are they right to ask for money? Are tourists right for not wanting to pay for what gives them pleasure? I let the debate roll.
Best regards, safe journey in MR (please apply basic safety and do not reveal your speed, departure time, expected route or anything to ANYONE). Hope you enjoy the best of this wonderful country.

    Derek
    Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Sophie, thanks for your comment and I welcome your input. Regarding the photographs it’s not that I’m not willing to pay (I have done so to many of my subjects) but on this occasion the pictures were being taken to document the appalling treatment of the animals and certainly not for commercial reasons. Should I pay to do that? well on this occasion I think not, but I see the point you are making.

    What I was attempting to get across in my blog is that the animals welfare comes well below the need to make money from them, something which I personally find hard to accept. Everybody has the right to make a living in whichever way they see fit (providing it is within the law) but I think it is sad when it becomes so important as to ignore the welfare of the animals you are using.

    I love Morocco and will post my feelings and thoughts when I leave, in a review of my experiences here. Kind regards,

    Derek

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