While in Marrakesh perusing a souk for trinkets and souvenirs, I was accosted by an inconveniently racist stereotype. A Moroccan gent, wearing the attire one would expect of a North African Muslim – pillbox hat and full-length tunic – rushed up to me, arm outstretched, crooked fingers groping, language spilling from between his brown teeth, glaring at me menacingly with one eye as the other swam in a swirling lactose mist of indifference. Oh, and he had a monkey on a chain, which I assume was the reason he was approaching me.He was the monkey’s agent, trying to cut a deal for a photo.
I was able to pigeonhole both the man and his monkey quickly due to my childhood love of Indiana Jones films. The monkey in particular I knew was not to be trusted, as in part one of the trilogy a primate identical to the one now clawing at my ankles poisoned Indy, having pretended to be his friend for most of the first act.
Also, North African gents with crooked teeth and milky eyes seldom emerge from Hollywood movies with much credit. I seem to recall reading in a Joseph Campbell-style book of myth analysis that characters who limp are untrustworthy, as they literally cannot walk a straight path. And though I don’t remember any specific comments on milky eyes, I think they’d be viewed as myopic and possibly demonic.
“Hello,” I thought, “unless Hollywood films are lying to me, this pair could get me into all sorts of scrapes – not to mention completely derail my mission to recover the Ark of the Covenant.”
Later, when I contemplated the unforgiving manner in which I’d Littlejohned the unsuspecting duo, I felt rather guilty, and sought consolation in the further assumption that the man had probably used a similar mechanic in his judgement of me – “Why, look at that moneyed tourist. He’ll be worth a few quid . . . and what terrific hair.” (Most likely he didn’t bother to include a critique of my barnet, but that’s no fault of mine.)
Later in the trip I visited the north Atlas Mountains as the guest of a Berber farmer who took me to his home. As it was accessible only by mule, I teetered up the mountain path atop my jaded steed. Once there, I toured his mud home, meeting his wife and children, and lunched on too much couscous and drank tea that disappointingly involved getting a tea bag out of a silver-foil vacuum pack. I didn’t say anything but my disillusionment was tangible. (Was the couscous Uncle Ben’s?) Did the people of the village feel alienated from the rest of Morocco, I asked Mr Brahim. Did they vote? He mistook my questions for a request for more tea, which may I say was bitter – as bitter as the disappointment that it was essentially laboriously concocted Typhoo.
As we wandered back down the mountain, no mule this time, we passed the women of the village doing laundry in a stream. They giggled as we passed. I like to think it was the nervous giggle of sexual intrigue, but it’s quite likely that they were amused by my inappropriate attire – cowboy boots, skintight jeans, eyeliner – what any narcissist would don for a stroll up the Atlas. Amid these maidens may’ve dwelt the angel allocated for my salvation, but I’ll never know. No words exchanged, I glanced back to further ascertain whether the chuckling had been derisory or flirtatious,
but Mr Brahim was an unwilling wingman and shepherded me back to the luxury penitentiary where I belonged. How many loves and friendships are forgone for lack of inquiry? Perhaps the milky-eyed souk man could’ve been a soulmate, I’ll never know. I wouldn’t trust his monkey though; he was a right little bastard.
Russell Brand's autobiography, "My Booky Wook", is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£18.99)
Julian Clary is away