It’s cooler in the bazaar.
Over the years and even centuries, layers of desert sand have been shaped by hand to make the domed roofs and the thick walls, so that generations of sellers and buyers could trade in the cave coolness of the market labyrinth.
Matilda savours the sound of the call to prayer coming amplified from high on an unseen minaret. It’s Friday. The beautiful mosques will soon be crowded.
She has arrived, at last, and she is not going to leave in a hurry.
Ah, Le Maroc. Matilda has been religiously saving her unemployment payments for months for this once-in-a-life-time trip. And now she is here, actually walking in the scenes of The Sheltering Sky that she has watched countless times in her little attic in Munich.
Already she feels out of place. With her Munich shades on, her curly red hair flying in the brilliant sun and her tight-fitting light trousers, she is standing out like a tourist just coming off a cruise ship that she can never afford to be on.
She already feels the caressing stares of the men in the cafes on her bottom that the tight pants are designed to show off and do very well. It’s almost like dozen dusty hands are fondling her at once all over, and she is not complaining.
But this is not the place to show off your bum or your boobs, Matilda realises.
Noises and spice aroma envelop her. Matilda blends into the shades of the bazaar away from the sun and the choking dust. Then she sees what she is looking for: a little dark store selling burka, the tent dress that Muslim women wear to hide their bodies from their men.
The old woman seller is puzzled when Matilda points to a pure black burka made from a lighter fabric that should be cooler. She is astonished when her customer wants to try it on right there.
When Matilda insists, the seller leads her to a cramped room at the back full of other cloth and a dusty full-length mirror.
Shedding quickly her sweaty travel gear, Matilda presents a white-flesh naked body glory that glows in the gloom of the mirror. Bith the copper curls on her head and fine blond curls at the top of her thighs sparkle.
The young woman savours her beloved delectable freckled body that she is now giving to the desert.
The burka slips over her body like night falling after day. The cool fabric tingles her skin and she feels oddly free. With the black embroidered hood slipped on, leaving only a narrow slit for her eyes, Matilda feels hidden and native.
Her practiced hand rubs between her legs. She wonders whether Muslim women are naked under their burka and might they do what she is doing with no one knowing.
A reflection of two men, one older and bald the other younger, appears in the mirror, framed in a nearby window at the back. How long have they been there?
With her clothes and pack hidden in a new local woven bag, Matilda blends in with other shoppers. Stopping to drink coffee and mint tea off a dusty lane later, not actually knowing whether Muslim women also do this, Matilda again spots the two men she saw in the mirror standing off on the other side of the lane.
“Scheisse.” Are they following me?
Matilda finishes her drinks and moves fast to turn into another narrow lane, hopefully in the direction of the little cheap hotel that she had found. But she realises that she is lost.
She doesn’t see the men again until the older bald one walks straight towards her in another narrow lane. Turning, she sees that the younger man is also coming up behind her.
Hitting her panic button, Matilda is confronted by the bald man, with sideburns and grey hair at the temples, standing right in her way. What to do next?
He smiles gently.
“Hello, I’m Ahmed,” he speaks with a very soft voice. “I saw you earlier. Are you lost?”
“ ... No, no ... I am going to my hotel. It’s OK,” Matilda says.
“There is no hotel around here,” he says.
Matilda feels the younger man standing right behind her now.
“Oh, that is my relation Noor, behind you.”
“If you are new to Marrakesh, can we offer you some more mint tea, or lunch? Our house is just in the lane to the left. We would love to practice our English with you,” says Ahmed.
Matilda wants to get away from them but the genuine tone of the invitation stops her. “OK, danke,” she ends up saying.
Ahmed’s wife and his elderly mother are sitting on a beautiful rug in the cool adobe living room just off the lane. Everyone then sits down to drink sweet mint tea followed by delicious warm flat bread rolls with grilled meat inside.
“In the afternoon, we snooze,” says Ahmed. “So there is a room and a mat upstairs for you if you wish to doze.”
Matilda likes the sound of that invitation too, feeling tired herself.
After Ahmed had gone, she closes the door and lays down on the mat in the hot room. As it’s sweaty she pulls the front of her burka up until she is bare from the shoulder downwards. She spreads her legs free, her pale body against the black burka, and is soon asleep.