Thursday, November 15, 2018

Marrakech, Maroc, November 15, 2018

My first stop today was at Starbucks to pick up some good ground coffee.  I'm not too crazy about the stuff I bought in Portugal so thought I'd stock up for a while.  I took the bus which was very fast and convenient.  Modern Marrakech is more beautiful than Saskatoon.  Buildings are very new and there is no litter on the streets.  It still amazes me that in 15 minutes, I can be shopping in the messy medina or in a modern shopping mall just like we have at home-

Nearby the mall and Starbucks is the Jardin Majorelle so I thought I'd pop in there before I was to meet Michelle for lunch.  Well, the line up was about half a block long so knew I'd never make my lunch date.  I walked back through the medina - I am sick of medinas and luckily was only accosted a few times.  A nice older man asked if I'd seen the spice market yet so away we went.  He asked how my visit was going and I told him fine except for all the hassle.  He said "they" were trying to clean that up and I thought, ya sure, you'll expect a tip at the end of our visit.  He said he makes good money as a teacher and was going to the spice shop anyway and only wanted to show me so I enjoyed that, especially smelling a 35 spice concoction!  I continued on amongst the cars, bikes, motorcycles, pedestrians and-

What a city of contrasts!
I met Michelle and Brian for lunch and had a kefta meatball tagine complete with a fried egg on top.  It was delicious-

After, Brian and I walked to see the Koutoubia Mosque which has one of only three in the world Almohad minarets which is also 70 meters tall-

They're also making an environmental impact using solar panels-

As non Muslims, we could not enter the mosque.  Of course outside there are numerous shops, including this fellow selling miniature prayer mats-

Walking around in the square, we spied Nicola and Grant up on a rooftop terrace so joined them for spectacular views-

There were a couple of snake charmers nearby.  The man in the striped coat is playing the music while the snake dances and the man in the blue tries to coerce people to let him put the snake around their neck, then pay big money-

Just in front of the mat on the left are 2 snakes that have to be drugged.  They just lay there.  Even when the snake man puts the snake around someone's neck, they just lay there limp.  I didn't want to get very close-

As the afternoon wore on, more and more booths were put up.  They will all be gone in the morning, only to set up again for tomorrow evening-

The far west end of the Djemaa Él Fna Square-

I stopped at a hole in the wall near my hotel for supper and this is the view from my table-

Shops! Shops! Shops!

I had a good day and tomorrow hope to get to the gardens before the crowds although it's supposed to rain.  Maybe I'll spend the day in my room reading!


Look's like Andi is thinking "WTF" is this white stuff?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Aït BenHaddou to Marrakech, Morocco, November 14, 2018

We were on the road by 9 but it was slow going through the twisting and turning mountain roads.  French lessons started shortly after departure and today I had 8 students! 

The scenery along the way was beautiful: rocks and oasis-

We saw this snow covered mountain ahead of us and a few hours later, it was behind us-

A shepherd is with his sheep, searching for grass.  There are no fences and not much grass-

Even though the irrigated soil is rocky, they still plant, once again without machines-

It would be amazing to watch the rain pour down these crevices but not so much fun when you have to sleep in a tent!

We stopped at a restaurant at about 2260 meters, which I think was probably the highest point of our day, where there were also shops selling the same stuff as every other shop in this country, including aragonite-

And pyrite-

We continued on and soon the giant snow covered mountains were behind-

There's a lot of road construction, all by the Chinese, and many switchbacks.  It appears they're trying to make the drive through this area even faster or else they're trying to avoid washouts.  We did see a few of those too-

Finally we drove out of the mountains-

and the land returned to flat, irrigated desert-

Once in Marrakech, I headed for my hotel which was supposed to be in the main square - Djemaa de Fna but it wasn't.  It's a block back from the square but hopefully that means it will be quiet.  Dejmaa de Fna is open 24/7.  I don't have a view but at least I have a comfortable bed.  My goal in booking a hotel was to repeat my visit from 31 years ago.  Dave McDonald, a Kiwi and I were going to be working in Westendorf, Austria for the ski season, from December to March. I arrived in Munich the beginning of October so once I was settled, we had 6 weeks before work started.  We  hopped in Dave's orange and white Volkswagen van and drove through Spain, parts of Portugal and ended up in a campground, probably in La Linea or Algeciras, Spain, where we met Richard and Allison from Australia.  We jumped into the back of their Citroen 2CV and headed to Maroc for 2 weeks.  While here in Marrakech,  we were in our hotel room and could hear a lot of strange sounds.  We opened the room's shutters and wow- there was the square:  smoke wafting from cooking fires, single lightbulbs hanging above snake charmers and water men.  All kinds of meat roasting on coals.  I remember being completely in awe: it was so exotic! That is what I wanted to repeat but 31 years has changed the square.  It now has a nicely tiled floor, electricity everywhere, some neon lights and modern everything.  I am disappointed but Morocco deserves progress too. 

This afternoon I walked through the souks which are blocks and blocks of twisting streets overflowing with everything imaginable from grass baskets-

Colorful pottery dishes-


and turtles of all things!

Once I left the narrow streets and darkness, I was in one of the many squares where they sell more of the same.  The main part of the buying process is bartering.  It's essential, otherwise you will pay twice as much as required.  It's something I get tired of but it's just part of the game-

A small restaurant in the middle of the square sold escargot-

There are dried herbs available-

and many aromatherapy shops where they sell bars of Amber which, when rubbed on the body smells really nice.  I should maybe pick up a bar or two for those long periods of bushcamping without showers :) -

There are light shops-

and wooden kitchen utensil shops-

The Berbers have a dying area where they use indigo dye for blue-

and poppy petals for red-

Yards and yards of freshly dyed fabric hang to dry.  Everyone claims to have a 'terrace' with a view and I guess they do, it's just not the view I'm always searching for-

There are lots of workshops where men are making whatever it is they're selling whether it be from wood or from metal-

Henna shops are numerous-

More pottery and silver dishes-

and people everywhere- 

Formal dresses for weddings sell for anywhere from $70 to $350-

There are hundreds of date, fig, dried apricot and nut stands-

Of course there are a few mosques thrown into the melée-

I had supper on a terrace so I could watch Djemaa El Fna Square as the sun set-

After a chicken tangine, I wandered.  In the square there are light stands-

story tellers, musicians, drummers, snake charmers and many food stalls including this one selling cooked lamb heads-

Glad I had already eaten!

At the one end of the square are numerous herb stalls, selling beautiful bunches of mint for tea-

It's hard to describe the attack on the senses - the sounds, smells, sightsand tastes are often overwhelming and after awhile, a person just wants to get out of there.  The idea of commercialism has certainly taken over Marrakech!  I'm spending another 2 days here and hope to meet up with Michelle, the other Canadian on the trip, tomorrow afternoon.  

Marrakech, Maroc, November 15, 2018

My first stop today was at Starbucks to pick up some good ground coffee.  I'm not too crazy about the stuff I bought in Portugal so thou...