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The Troubadour

Moroccan troubadour and guembri

Marrakech, not far from the Jewish Quarter: We'd been admiring the architecture and the gorgeous Islamic tilework of Marrakech's better palaces and were pausing for lunch at the rooftop garden restaurant on the top of one of them.

Climbing the slow, arching stairways of the old palace, we spiralled past the kitchen on the 3rd floor before reaching the restaurant serving Marrakechi specialties. The welcoming smells of steaming couscous, sweet prunes, and grilling meats fully filled the upper half of the old building. We chose a table in the shade of a potted orange tree and tucked into dishes of steaming tajines, and ordered a glass of fresh fruit juice each.

That's when the troubadour appeared.

There were few other occupied tables so he gravitated naturally to us and uniquely, his smile and quiet demeanor overcame my natural reaction to shoo him off. So he played for us. He started with the stringed instrument, a traditional Moroccan guembri, whose strings he plucked and strummed with practiced fingers. The rhythm section entered: castanets and noise makers he worked by shaking his legs. That was already a feat in agility, but once his song took flight he added the final touch I captured in this photo: nodding his head, he coaxed the tassle on his traditional hat into the air, and kept it spinning there in time with his song.

I was impressed. I won't forget the troubadour, and consequently, I won't forget the lunch. This is at least one of the reasons we travel.


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