Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What is that shiny red bus doing in the old medina?

It is a spring morning in Marrakech and I am sitting having my breakfast and reading my mails, while outside the usual maelstrom of traffic goes by in one continuous madness of honks and neighs and motorbike roars and bicycles and donkeys and taxis and old ALSA beige-coloured buses.

Yes, beige-coloured, in keeping with the taxis of Marrakech - if you go to the blue-and-white town of Essaouira, the taxis are blue and white, if you go to white imperial Rabat, the taxis are white - and so on and so on, one gets the picture and all is colour-coded and matching and soothing and as it should be.

The bus, with beige taxi reflected in its windows
But this morning for some reason I look up and there through the door to that crazy outside world I see a very new and very modern and very shiny RED bus. It does not look right at all.

It makes me a little sad about my beloved Marrakech. 'They' have already wrecked the old Mellah area, turning it into a vast open square with a very modern traffic system and neat, sanitised shops running around the edges. There are other developments afoot all over the medina. What will it become?

I step outside into the street to take in the enormity of this new monstrosity. It is a 'bendy' bus, with a rubberised concertina-like arrangement in the middle to help its extra length to bend around roundabouts and difficult turns. They tried these out in London and they didn't work amidst all that traffic. I am not sure how it will bend here around horses and caleches, and donkeys and carts and thousands upon thousands of motorbikes with families on top. They will all be stopped, I think sadly.

But as I watch I see that the normal world of Marrakech begin to pass by regardless ... and all the elements of this world are just the same and they take absolutely no notice at all of the shiny monster. It is just as if it isn't there. First comes a man rushing by with two large wheat sacks on his shoulders. Then some ponies tugging on a caleche. Then motorbikes scream by. And the red bus just sits there. Maybe it is more frightened of the rest of the traffic than the rest of the traffic is of it!

For it seems that the old Marrakech always re-asserts itself - after all, it has been assaulted by tourism since the Fifties ... and still so much is just the same. Enter the souks and you enter a world you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world (especially now that the souks of Syria have been destroyed). Oh there is Fez of course - but Fez is ALL souks. Fez has nothing of the mad mixture of Marrakech ... and that madness is what makes Marrakech and, it seems, it will always do so. Incha'allah.