Marrakesh as Metaphor: Book Market.

The Metaphor of Marrakesh: Scribes and the Marketplace.

Aerial Fna images

Have you ever been to Marrakesh? If you have you will remember the Djemma el Fna. If not I will give you as much as I can of its unadorned…? Beauty? No. Its inescapability, its centrality, its help to orientation, but mainly its knotting of all the alleyways, the radiating and narrow derbs that empty into it. Somehow this spreading, dusty— not-even-square —with mini siroccos licking at sandaled feet, and snakes curled in baskets until the evening makes dancing profitable, seems the canvas on which to paint my theme.

I have surveyed the marketplace for books, and where my stall might be pitched. I have watched the comings and goings and the light that settles at different points of the day. I am still deliberating. I see no place vacant.

Bear with me. You must meander a moment to take my point.

In the early part of the day Djemma is a dusty concourse of occasional crossings, hopeful orange juice sellers with fruit in pyramids, and their modicum of shade under a roof. In the evening it is a blaze of lights, and the chilli and turmeric aromas of a hundred food specialists and slipping between them the cut-purses, smooth talking conmen, and simple opportunists. It is the only place to really eat, well, affordably, convivially, commonly, transparently. But no wine. That is important; regrettably, no wine.

This is the metaphor for the book market.textiles Marrakech images

Up the darker alley of the souks are the producers, the small merchants in leather (tooled) metal (perforated) spices ( ground and piled) silk (sumptuous) dyes (reeking) home remedies (debateable) and every stall contains a story, and every dark eyed child an appeal. Here there is shadow, couriers, mint tea, donkey carts and time to work, and to talk.

Here it is that goods are fashioned, by trades that have their roots in families, areas and locations elsewhere and clustered together like the spice merchants in the Rahba Kedina. Here people know their onions and the onions of their neighbours, and whether they are up to standard or greedily over-priced. Continue reading “Marrakesh as Metaphor: Book Market.”

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