Thursday, 31 May 2007

A squirrel in the closet and a possum in the shower

I took a stroll in Digital Alley this morning on a DVD safari hunt. Digital Alley is one of the winding smaller streets in the medina. There are tables shoulder to shoulder along the walls, some only a table; some with a back shelf for displaying the DVDs. It is lined end to end with DVDs. Some of them have a backstop with shelves equally filled. Every so often for a reason beyond my knowledge there is a Police Raid and you see the owners of the tables storing the DVDs away and out of sight. Now you know the Moroccan police know that theses chaps (all over the city) are hawking DVDs for such a low price as you would not believe so why the pretend raid? A Moroccan version of hide n’ seek perhaps? Q and I were caught up in one of the raids some time back. Watching the owners grab-pack the merchandise and scamper away to the four corners of the medina was a lesson in Moroccan internal politics. An hour later, they were all back and in business.

About a third of the way in the little shops begin, really just big enough to turn around twice. Some are filled with DVD players, some with computers (but never more than one of each) and the third one down on the left has a bit of anything – earphones, televisions, adaptors, wires, cables, and a can opener. As I walk along I am continually hit with the smell of fresh mint. The ladies are walking about with handfuls of fresh mint to take home for tea and it is perfuming the air. Continuing down the street and curving to the left the shops become larger as do the television and computer screens interspersed with furniture shops. As you pass the large furniture store on the right look left, there is a cavernous opening that leads to a Singapore like shopping maze within. It is dark and cool, crowed with shops and people, very few if any tourists here. Stacks of DVDs next to clothing piles circa 1970, then a jewelry shop that has not one but two Paget Philllipe watches. Now we believe they are real eh? All the way from Darvos, retail price of 240, 000 usd. It’s not like they were asking me to believe it was an Excalibur EX 08 from Roger Dubis at 500, 000 usd is it? On the opposite side, as you go further in, the shops become more squished up against each other, is a shop with every sort of Moroccan trinket and in true juxtaposition of medina shopping - hanging next to the chandelier is a mother board. We continued down the cave like hallway to find an opening into a furniture shop time warp. It was for all the world a cheaply furnished 1950 den; although I can’t say it would have been considered in bad taste then. My difficulty is that I need the DVDs in English where most of them are in French or Arabic, albeit more than a few are in German or Russian or Spanish. I have learned from my friend Hussein who has a single table he sets up in the middle of the main medina street at different locals every day, that you can tell the English speaking ones by the tracks on the DVD. We left the shopping maze with six DVDs for less than eight dollars usd.

We bought a microwave as Q wanted it for leftovers and I shall need it when she is gone for any cooking (oh stop laughing) I might do. They sell them at Marjane but Q has a big resistance to buying anything there that we can find in the little shops. “ I don’t want to give money to the big French conglomerate when I could be giving it to the little shop keepers.” And thus we were looking for a microwave in the medina. We found a small one suited to our needs for 350 dirhams. I got my “guarantee” that if it doesn’t work or blows up I can return it. He plugged it in to demonstrate to us the workings and carried it to the roadside so we could get a taxi. We arrived home anxious to give it a go. “Alright then, I’ll just plug it in,” say I. “Uh hummm uh, well bloody hell!”

“What’s the matter Mom?”

“The bloody plug doesn’t fit! It has a European plug.” I scrounged through my two bags of adaptors gathered from years of travel but could find nothing to fit as a converter to Moroccan plugs. Nothing for it but to head out for a hardware shop. After a series of stops at which the very nice men took me out to the sidewalk and directed me to yet another shop I found an adapter, but the wrong one. There was a man standing at the counter talking with the owner. “Come with me.”
“Yes, yes, go with him,” with the shoo shoo motion of the hands.

The nice man walked me down an additional two blocks to another hardware store. I love the smells of a hardware store, wood, oil, and usefulness. The young man was not only lovely but had a bit of English – very helpful that. The plug is the right one, the fly in the ointment is that it only fits one of the plugs in the kitchen – and of course it is not the one we had destined for the microwave. But it does work and that’s fine for now. Inshallah.

Q’s attended a conference on democracy in Morocco where several resolutions were passed; it was broadcast on the BBC.


taamarbuuta said...

Just a heads up - Marjane is Moroccan, indeed. But, you're right to go to the small shops - 70% of the company is owned by one of the King's holdings.

taamarbuuta said...

I meant to add - yay microwave! I don't have one, but every time my coffee gets cold (like right now), I dream...

lady macleod said...


ah, good to know, thank you. Yes I am very glad to finally have ours.
thank you for coming by.

scarlettscion said...

I thought Auchan was French and that the company was jointly French-Moroccan owned? Huh. I vaguely remember reading something about a buyout...

Omega Mum said...

So does it work? And have you had to rearrange the kitchen? Is it all the French chains that own the big shops (sorry - I know I'm tragically ill-informed). What happens to the native entrepreneurs - is it impossible for them to get the funding/political backing to become a retail giant? Do not feel you have to answer these questions. (Except the first)

lady macleod said...

omega mom

Yes, it works quite well I am pleased to say.

I think, anyone else jump in if you have better information, that most of the high end businesses are owned from out of the country or by the government. There are some ex-pat French here who do quite well.

That said, our friend Mohammad and his brother own their shop in the Fez Medina and do well.

Our friend Suzanne will know, she is one of those business people who knows EVERYTHING about business. I will ask her.

debio said...

The hypermarkets here are also French - Carrefour and Geant. Word on the street is that they have done a deal with Tesco not to compete with one another, hence Tesco has just pulled out of somewhere in the Far East - China, I think.
I hate these shops - full of stuff I don't want and second rate fresh fruit and veg.
There is simply delicious produce grown all over the UAE; strawberries, potatoes, mint, coriander etc as well as local crops and meat which we should all be buying as the quality is fabulous even if the presentation is not quite M&S.

sally in norfolk said...

I had a microwave for years and hardly ever used it BUT now when cooking just for me its fab easy and quick especially for fish and we all know how much i love my fish :-)

lady macleod said...


It is the same here with the quality of fruit. We are fortunate that there is a small market in the medina and a fabulous fruit and vegtable shop as well.
Thank you for coming by.


I love the microwave! yes it is especially good for fish I agree. It works well on broccoli as well.

Winchester whisperer said...

What about the squirrel?

Omega Mum said...

I feel a recipe slot coming on!

Melody said...

Every time I reheat my cup of tea, I'll think of your microwave story.

My favorite part was the touch you added of the aroma of mint as women walked home with mint leaves in hand. I could smell them.

Mutfakta Zen said...

I'm glad for the blogger awards so that I could find your site. Thanks for sharing the life in Morocco. I've been wanting to visit the country and strangely, I was reading a book on one woman's search for the world bread and I read the Moroccon section last night. Life is strange.

Brillig said...

What I want to know is, are the squirrel and possum okay? Did you call an exterminator? ;-)

Congrats of the microwave! After all that, I'm SURE it was still worth the trouble!

And in Argentina we had Carrefour and Walmart as our major stores, so it sounds like the same kind of thing. The big chains were owned by big foreign money. I guess it's the same story all over the world.

lady macleod said...

winchester whisperer

still in the closet. he's shy.
thank you for coming by.

omega mum

Sooooooooooo not going to happen on this blog!
Thank you for coming by.


Oh good so I will remind you of me when things are hot and steaming. All righty then. The mint is wonderful and all so fresh.
Thank you for coming by.

mutfakta zen

I am pleased to have you. Which blog awards and how did you find me? I'm asking so if it is something I can do again, I will. Do come to visit, Morocco is splendid and with some of the best bread around.
Thank you for visiting.

cathouse teri said...

My goodness. What a story.
I drank it all in. And now my tummy is full.

lady macleod said...

cathouse teri

I am pleased to have assisted you with your cullinary task.
Thank you for coming by.

Kaycie said...

Your descriptions of the little tables and shops is so evocative. I can almost imagine myself there with you even though I've never been to Morocco. I so love to visit places the locals frequent when I travel. Much more interesting, don't you think?

lady macleod said...


Yes I do agree. You must come to Morocco yourself then.
thank you for visiting.

Shauna said...

You've got the best stories! Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca said...

so - do you love it there?? Are you learning arabic? French? Do you like the sound of the Call to prayer? I lived in Indonesia for two and a half years and I found the Call to Prayer quite spooky at first but grew to love it.

your blog has only made my recent longing to travel worse...

lady macleod said...


thank you, you're welcome and thanks for coming by.


Yes, I do love it here. I have picked up some Darjia since our arrival and I start French classes this month. And yes I do love the call to prayer. We live close enough to the mosque to hear the singing at four am if we are awake, or sleeping lightly.
thank you for visiting.

Mutfakta Zen said...

Hi again,
(My name is Tijen and Mutfakta Zen is the name of my blog, also one of my books. If you wish you can visit my English blog at
I'm talking about best blogging awards that you're nominated too. And about Morocco, yes I'll definitely come one day. Hope to meet you then.

jmb said...

Well this year must be a very interesting experience for you but I'm sure lots of times you are glad that it will only be a year.
Still all's well that ends well and you did get the MW working finally.