We meet the storytellers in the Jemaa, only a few hours later than we'd scheduled. Over mint tea (of course) they talk about having lost a way of life, and a way of living with the decline of story-telling. Lahcen notices a huge bird in the sky. It feels like an omen of some sort. For these story-tellers they form a halqa for three reasons - to make an audience laugh, to take care of them and to take some money. Last night we had a long conversation about why we tell stories - for an audience, for ourselves - it was wide-ranging and philosophical. We put the question to one of the storytellers. His answer is simple 'I tell stories to eat'. One of the storytellers has been telling stories since 1955, you can see it in his expressively wrinkled face, and according to him the 'people who have the words to do the halqa are dying'. He stops mid thought and runs across the square to retrieve a balloon for a boy who has lost it. Returning he talks about forming the halqa 'when you have the circle then the story comes' and the art of story-telling - 'You must tell a story until you own it, until it's your property, until you become the king of that story'. And then he tells us a short story about a dying man with three sons - I won't retell it here because it's going into the show and I don't want to spoil it, but like all the Moroccan stories that I've read so far there is a very clear moral. And as he says the storyteller has to give a message with his story.
We return to our hotel excited - we are definitely onto something. Then in the evening we watch a brilliant documentary called 'Al Halqa, In The Storyteller's Circle' by German film-maker Thomas Ladenburger. It follows a storyteller called Abderahim attempting to pass on his stories to his son Zoheir. It's a beautiful film, touching and funny, and an insight into these elusive creatures - the last story-tellers. I think Abderahim might also have been one of the story-tellers who contributed to Richard Hamilton's book 'The Last Storytellers' which we read before we flew out. It's a small world.