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-


Spices-


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.  

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