I visited Marrakesh for the first time back in July 2010. With hindsight it was probably a mistake that four very pale-skinned women hit Morocco in the summer season, but it was a lovely long weekend filled with souk shopping, Polaroid-snapping and a very rigorous hammam.
Knowing Marrakesh was the ultimate bohemian shopping destination, I had a vintage wedding blanket at the top of my wish list. And perhaps other more canny shoppers would have researched the best places to procur such an item, but i went with a see-what-happens plan of action. And as it turned out, I found my blanket on the very first day.
We found ourselves in a small square just off the rabbit warren of the souks, and ambled over to the rug stall to check out the blankets. The (tall, young, easy-on-the-eye) rug seller spoke pretty good English so we all chatted as he brought out the vintage blankets from the back of the shop and lay them out on the floor for me. I chose the one i liked, did a bit of good-natured haggling and won my prize for a fair price. And because my SX-70 was burning a hole in my bag, I asked if I could take Abdul’s portrait for my book.
Back then I was madly shooting Polaroids for both books wherever I went, not knowing which book they’d end up in but wanting to catch every evocative moment I could. We were planning to have an extensive portrait section in Instant Love, and I knew a portrait of our genial rug seller would — if you’ll pardon the cliche — rock the casbah. So I took a couple of shots before letting his friend take a Polaroid of all of us. I let Abdul keep that one.
Fast forward to last week. Jen, Amanda and I were enjoying an hour to ourselves while our Polaroid ladies explored the souks on their own. We found ourselves back in the little square, and after buying honey soap in the spices shop I remembered from last time (and chatting to some tourists about our cameras — of course) we turned around and there was Abdul.
I guess it was easy to spot me with my magic camera in my hands but I was still surprised that he remembered me. After a few minutes of me exclaiming ‘ohmygod, you’re in the book! we made it happen!’ and introducing him to my fellow authors he invited us to tea in his shop — feeling a wee bit flustered I graciously turned him down as we were already headed to le Cafe des Epices. Twenty minutes later Abdul appeared at the cafe and sheepishly asked if I’d be back tomorrow. I explained we were off to Essaouira the next day, and then teaching after that but I said I’d try to return on Saturday with the book.
As it turned out there wasn’t time to go back to the medina, but luckily Briana was staying on for a few days and very kindly offered to take my copy of the book to Abdul. She even snapped a photo for us:
Doesn’t he look happy? Totally made my year.
And that, my friends, is the story of the rug seller’s portrait. I’d tell you which page his portrait is on but my only copy now lives in Marrakesh, so I can’t look it up. ;)