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Animal cruelty in Jamaa el Fna, Marrakech

Monday, 26 November 2012
 
When I came back from Marrakech, I read a blog post on Four Jandals about the snake charmers in the main square and hub of the city, Jamaa el Fna. In it, Cole Burmester wrote (very nicely) about why he won't be going back there.

In short, he picked up a rather nasty bug while he was there. Now, you can pick bad bugs up anywhere around the world. That's not reason enough to never return, surely?

Well, find out how he got that bug and you'll change your mind.

In the main square, there are plenty of snake charmers. Everything you read about Jamaa el Fna mentions them. I was dreading it.

Not a lot of people know this, but snakes are so intrinsically evil, that they can kill you just by looking at you. They all have these magnetic waves of terror and despair that shoot out of them, invisibly, that leave you powerless, vomiting, and very much DEAD.

I don't like snakes.

But back to Cole. When he was in the square, he made the mistake of catching the eye  of one of these snake charmers (rookie error - I purposely ran past them all with my eyes closed to avoid such an incident)

"Now I don’t like snakes in the slightest and he could tell I was not keen to get involved so we continued on our way and he knew he had lost a chance to make some quick cash so offered me his hand and I gladly shook it to carry on. Unfortunately, as quick as a flash he had a snake around my neck and strolled away. I was trying to be all calm, cool and collected but I had a freaking snake around my neck! To cut a long story short we haggled over how much I owed him for “taking his snake for photos” and I left him with a few dirham in his back pocket. Of course he made me kiss it for luck before he unwrapped it…"
I feel like Cole is maybe playing it a bit too cool here. So allow me to translate.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THE MAN PUT A MOTHER-EFFING SNAKE ON HIM, IT WAS ON HIM!

I'm having a panic attack at the thought of it.

And then he had to give the man MONEY? Excuse all the capital letters, but it's all I can do not to end each sentence with multiple variations of ??!!!??

Anyway. It turns out that a lot of snakes carry a form of salmonella (as well as the death rays) which left Cole very, very sick. And no, it wasn't food poisoning or anything else. It was the snake.

Shudder.

As much as I detest the little slithering bastards, I must speak a little bit in their defence. Begrudgingly.

I hate them all with the burning passion of a thousand suns (but don't tell them that - they might get mad and come to find me)

But however much I hate them, I felt sorry for them. They have a horrendous life. Pulled out to be gawped at every day, in a very busy square, where the footfall alone must make them want to run (slide?) for the hills. Then they're thrown around the necks of tourists each day. And probably drugged up to the hilt, to stop them from just freaking the hell out and biting everyone.

It's not just the snakes. There are gorgeous little monkeys dragged around with chains around their necks. I saw a man throw his to the ground and kick it. Little chicks are dyed pastel colours and squashed into boxes for sale. And that's not even counting the camel cruelty in the mountains.

If you do go to Marrakech, the best thing I can advise is to ignore them all. It's not worth starting an argument (and I say this as a girl who was punched, twice, in this same square, for doing nothing) and the worst thing you could do is coo over them. Do not take any photographs. It will only encourage this kind of behaviour.

And, for the love of all that is good, don't look a snake charmer in the eye. It will all end in tears.

2 comments

  1. Thanks Nicola ;) I really need to re-write that article considering it was one of the first I ever wrote over 18 months ago! I think my writing has improved a LOT since then.

    A horrible experience though and thanks for highlighting the problems of animal cruelty in Marrakech.

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  2. No worries! It's a great story. Terrifying, don't get me wrong, but great! I'm glad I didn't read it before I went. I would have been on edge the entire time!

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