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Sahara

Day 5: Chefchaouen to Fez

Chefchaouen, Morocco 
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Hands up those who've had enough. My masseur and I get to grips at the hammam at Chefchaouen.
Michael Palin - SaharaThen it's my turn on the human rack. As I slither into his clutches it occurs to me that this could be dangerous. My Arabic is of no help. 'Good morning', 'Thank you' and 'Tea, please' are the only three phrases I can remember, and none of these is going to help me here. Anything useful, like 'pulled hamstring', 'food poisoning' or 'I confess!', will require a dictionary, which I don't have. He indicates to me to lie flat and works thoroughly but compassionately, body on body, stretching, bending and using a lot of what the late great Charles Atlas used to call 'dynamic tension'. His manipulations remain this side of agonising but our intricate couplings leave me feeling pleasantly loose-limbed.

After the massage, Ali dumps several buckets of warm water over me. He aims each one at the crown of my head and the force of the water leaves me gasping. But as I sit and recover in a marble-tiled alcove in one of the cooler outer chambers, head back, staring up at the peeling plaster, it occurs to me that not only have I survived what could have been a dreadful embarrassment, but also my stomach feels much better. I mean, much better.

Our drivers go back to being drivers, but there's a sort of camaraderie amongst us that didn't exist before the hammam. I'm quite blasé, especially about the massage. It was nothing. Just a scratch. They grin knowingly, and it's only when we're on the road again that I hear they had specially asked the masseur to go easy on me. Roger, very amused, tells me the exact words they used translate roughly as 'treat him like a virgin'.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 5
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Chefchaouen
  • Book page no: 30

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