28 July, 2006

Dentistry at Djemaa el Fna

Part 2 Colors of Morocco

After spending a bit of time in Morocco observing and mingling with the locals, my attention was caught by one trait they consistently possessed, from Casablanca to Fes to Marrakesh: bad teeth. As in grossly misshapen, decaying teeth that would leave me staring in mid-conversation and wondering about the state of dental care (or lack of) in the country. How did this happen? Was it from all those sugar cubes in the mint tea, perhaps? (Speaking as one known to drop in three of those for some very sweet tea).

I finally gathered enough courage to ask Hakima, our guide for the day in Fes, about the situation. According to her, most of the population were unable to afford proper dental care and had to resort to illegal or badly trained "dentists" whenever their toothaches were too much to bear. Well, if you happen to experience such pain, do not have possess dental insurance, and are travelling in Marrakesh - you're in luck. Just wander over to the central square Djemaa el Fna - a madhouse of snake charmers, fortune tellers, story tellers, acrobats and food stall vendors - and make your way to the tooth puller's stand (near the locals walking around placing snakes on unwitting tourists' shoulders, causing some very unpleasant surprises). Marvel at the row of neatly piled molars and rows of false teeth. He will wipe his pair of pliers clean, give you a maniacal grin, and ease your suffering for a few dirhams.

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