Thursday, October 13, 2005
Hassan, our guide, weaves in and out of the labyrinthine corridors of the souqs of Meknès, and we hurry to keep up without losing sight of him, until eventually he just passes, reconsiders, and then returns to suddenly stop in front of a, to us random, door flush with the white old city walls. The door happens to be ajar, and from where we stand we can see the marble floors and elaborate tilework of the walls inside: it is a typical medina house, it seems.
"See here this floor," he says, "it is Italian marble, imported from Carrara. We import marble from Carrara since we don't have it here."
"What does Morocco export to Italy in trade for this marble?" I ask, already marvelling at the sure cost of these particular floors.
"Sugar," is the reply.
But then he adds after a short pause, as if in afterthought, in what we've come to perceive as a characteristically Moroccan pride and sense of humor: "We export sugar to the Italians, and we get this beautiful Carrara marble in exchange. But you see, Italians eat the sugar, and once it's eaten...poof! it is gone, but we...." (and here he gestures back at the white marbled floors) "we keep the marble."