Marrakesh: a tale of Cafe Clock and The Last Storytellers

I grew up with a father who loved libraries.  We used to spend our Sunday afternoons in one nearby no matter where we lived.  I liked those libraries best which paid special attention to the children, with chairs, tables and shelves just the right size.  And, of course, I loved the books with their glossy plastic coated covers.  I took pleasure walking down the aisles, my hand brushing one spine after another, as if they were piano keys. But as much as I enjoyed reading the books myself, infinitely more thrilling was being read to.   My heart tipped open to those kind volunteers who would hold the books aloft and really tell us the stories -- their voices taking on dastardly characters with ease or haughty British accents when required.   I would sit in a chair just my size and be swept away.

When did that all stop?  Why?

I remember when I first went to the famed Jemma El Fnaa Square in Marrakesh.  It was there that I spied a huddle of Moroccans, hushed, just listening.  I peeked through their shoulders and saw an older man speaking in Arabic, his hands gesticulating, his eyes vivid.  What’s he saying? I whisper asked to a man next to me.  Is he selling something? I queried.  No, my neighbor responded.  He’s telling a story. 

Sadly, those Moroccan story tellers seem to be fewer and fewer -- dying one by one, and trumped by the internet, video games and texting. 

Café Clock opened today in Marrakesh, a sister to the well known Café Clock in Fez. There’s food of the simple and very good variety.  But more than that, there are master Moroccan storytellers.  And along with the storytellers are their newly trained young apprentices, some of them women, who will tell these Moroccan stories to you, yes, in English.  Every Thursday from 5-7 in the evening.

Moroccan StoryTeller Maryam Montague-001

Honestly, it’s all too wonderful. 


Cafe Clock

224 Derb Chtouka

Kasbah, Marrakesh

+212 (0)6 55210172

PS If you can’t make it to Marrakesh {and even if you can}, purchase The Last Storytellers, by BBC journalist Richard Hamilton.  Richard is a passionate collector of the storytellers' stories.  Read his book to yourself.  And then read it aloud to someone you love.