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I’ll Give You Four Thousand Camels in the Sahara, Three Jaguars, One Tomato, and One Big Heart

When Ovi Dading weaves words, she transports me into her world. I could smell the saffron and taste the tangerine in this story of hers – a story of an afternoon in Marrakech’s Medina Quarter. Thank you for guest-blogging, Ovi! – Gypsytoes

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We jolted in joy amidst the grey Edinburgh sky when we impulsively tickets to Marrakech. Finally, the sun! However, since January came too long, we just talked about our plan with friends, family, and anyone who asked. They then blessed us with wonderful time in Morocco. But also, shocking reaction that three girls would go as a group without a guy. They would then tell stories about how cheeky the men are. However, since we grew up with ojek and becak driver whistles in Jakarta, that did not back us down. Then, I remembered how ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers try to guess your names and shout it out when you pass by. Examples: Annisa! Dewi! Ananda! (Continue with popular Indonesian girl names). I have to admit, it was pretty funny.

On the day, right after we sprang out of Marrakech Menara airport, we were swooned by the sunshine and resurrected our shades that had been buried under Edinburgh weather. After we put our backpacks in our Riad, we directly walked to Medina quarter. We just kept our accommodation’s attendant’s wise words, “If you get lost, just keep on walking, you would find other streets open up for you.” Also, we depended on our broken, almost non-existent French, and thankfully, to our wonderful friend (Rini’s) fruitful CCF education.

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Any Marrakech first timer would not miss this main square in the quarter. We flocked in to the juice cart of mandarin, blood orange, and tangerine. Contrast to syrupy juice in cartons, this one was sans sugar, fresh with plump pulps. In between orange carts, we saw bigger-than-usual nuts, cacti fruits, sizable banana, and pineapple. We indulged the fruit juices; kiwi, milk and almond, mango, pomegranate, panache (mix juice), basically everything. If any of you found bad facts about these fruit juices, please don’t spill it.

We also found the juice cart attendants as feast for the eyes. This included our favorite cart number eight, morning shift! Nearing the evening, the square that was now full with non-permanence stalls with benches. They displayed lots of meat, seafood, and sausages. Tomatoes, orange tangerines, peach shrimps. Your smell would be pleased with saffron and cumin in the air. Snake charmer flutes ran through your ear and gleaming lights from carved candle boxes sprinkled in your sight.

Cross-dresser belly dancers with covered tummy teased your hips to dance and to meet their glance behind the colorful burqas. After all of these explosion in your senses, mint tea drenched your mouth to clear the snail after taste. It was one of the most romantic feelings that I could recall, standing in the middle of chaotic square, immersed in people-watching as the day passed, sun set, and the moon rose.

We rested for dessert in a noisy small patisserie in the souqs, Al-Jawda. They only had ten chairs. Two local girl friends chatted over a tall glass of yoghurt and caramelized fruits. One family got one slice of cake for each of them. But, the highlight would be bunch of Moroccan men going home from work shouted and hassled to get fresh-from-the-oven bread to go. From the volume and tone. I thought they were going to fight. But no, they were just implying their order of patisserie selections. Couples of them sat alone and carefully treated themselves some dessert. Their neatly shaved beard stubs then accidentally smeared with chocolate topping or sugar powder as they ate the sweet. I found men eating dessert adorable. In this age of rugged meat eating or clean eating, juice blending guys, dessert is the reminder of guys’ dependence to sweet and lovely, ephemeral comfort.

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And then it came, “For you, I’ll give four thousand camels in the sahara, one jaguar, three houses, one tomato, and a big heart!” said a man. My friend, who had Minang matrilineal background, then said, “I’d like it all, please. put ear to ear smile here By the way, in my culture, it is the girl who should give dowry to the guys. Your price would rise depends on your education.” The young guy, with pseudonym of Chicago (because he liked Chicago), then smiled and seemed intrigued with that kinship system. He held back a bit but then he laughed and tried to offer us more camels. My friend, Astrid, asked “What is the price for one camel?” He replied, “around 1200 Euros.” Hmm, then that was a fair proposition!

Nevertheless, we left the tent and walked further into the haphazard souqs. It led you to leather products, argan oil, and colors of tiles, tea sets, tagine clay pots, carpets, olives, candle holders. Pastel was Moroccan main palette, that’s how my eyes saw it. Medersa Ben Youssef interior summed this up. Coral was the main hue, added with blue, aqua, cyan, pink, lime green, and yellow. All filled in the juxtaposing patterns, tasty blend of chaos and order. The end of day one was a beautiful prelude in this Maghribi county before we met the imazighen in the desert.

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Story and photos by Ovi Dading, a fellow Jakartan and traveler whose permanent home is Once in a while, we invite our friends who love writing as much as they love traveling to share their travel stories in The Dusty Sneakers. The repository of their travel tales is hosted in the Guest Writer category.

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