Sunday, July 27, 2003

Random thoughts on Marseilles

Coming into Marseilles from the rest of Provence is coming to another planet, or at least another continent. Parts of it are very French, but in a slightly grimier way than Paris (at least the 15 arrondisements of Paris - you can find as grimy as you like in the Parisian suburbs). Other parts are what might be describe as global beach culture. For some reason cafes and shops next to beaches have the exact look inside wherever you are in the world. There are the same shops next door selling sunscreen and boogie boards, and the people inside these shops have a particular manner about them that people in such locations do. Interestingly enough, a fair portion of this style of beach culture is actually Australian in origin, and a number of the principal companies selling into this market are Australian companies (Billabong International is a big one).

And some sections of Marseilles make you wonder precisely who moved Algiers to the other side of the Mediterranean. There is a particular way in which the contents of shops are arranged in the Islamic world, and the Arab quarters or Marselles are like this. I walked into a couple of bazaars which reminded me of Istanbul, almost. (I have never been to North Africa, but I suspect they would remind me even more of Tunis or Algiers). I looked in the door of one building that looked like a disused warehouse, and there were several hundred (or more) men in there praying in the direction of Mecca. (Presumably the building is being used as a mosque). Marvellously, there was a very French Arche de Triomphe at the end of the street containing all this.

I also went to the terminal from which ferries go to Algiers and Tunis, and there is another post in that. But, no time now. I have to go to the island where the Count of Monte Christo wasn't imprisoned.

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