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The adventures of the Mel

Amazing Marrakesh

MOROCCO | Tuesday, 8 July 2008 | Views [832] | Comments [1]

The different culture here just smacks you in the face, not for a moment can you fool yourself into thinking that you might be at home; even our rooms have a Moroccan feel to them. However, there are a surprising number of Australian tourists here – we’ve bumped into four groups already, outnumbered only perhaps by British and French tourists. Rightly so, as I’d imagine flights are cheap from London/Europe and it would be a perfect cheap holiday. You do have to be prepared for the heat, though thankfully in Marrakesh it’s a very dry heat.

From what I can gather, most towns in Morocco have a Medina area; full of narrow winding streets cluttered with vendors and market places where it is easy to get lost within minutes; and then a ‘newer’ area with more roads and a marginal western influence.

Our second day in Casablanca focused almost entirely on the Hassan II mosque, which was just stunning. I know I took too many photos of it, but I just couldn’t get enough. The walls were all a pale creamy fawny-beige colour adorned with jade mosaic tiling, the floor consisted of beautiful stone tiles, the arches were carved with intricate designs indicative of the Muslim faith, the roofing was green and it had a tall tower which felt like it was going to fall on you as you looked up at the rushing clouds – and this was all just outside. We didn’t go inside – the guided tour cost an arm and a leg, and we didn’t really feel like becoming disabled.

There were people everywhere, though the mosque was so big that it was nowhere near crowded. It was a beautiful mix of awed tourists, pious locals and many happy kids, running around the courtyard and in between the arches surrounding the mosque. We wandered around for quite some time, though to the slight chagrin of Andrew who was done well before I. I could have stayed there for longer – it was a beautiful building that seemed to emanate awe and comfort at the same time.

The remainder of the day we wandered around in the heat, languishing in the humidity and relishing every spot of shade buildings or the ubiquitous palms offered us.

Yesterday we jumped onto a hot sticky train for three hours (though it thankfully cooled down after about an hour) to Marrakesh. We have only really wandered around for a few hours but what a place!

After sweating our guts out and eventually finding the place we were to stay, we ventured out last night for a bit of a wander. Fewer signs here have French, which is surprising because Marrakesh is one of the main tourist areas in Morocco. So….we got a little lost at one stage (well, mostly when trying to find our hotel, which isn’t pleasant when you’re carrying well over 20kg of crap), but it was lovely. Again we are staying in the medina walls, though here they enclose a much larger area. We wandered to the main square, Djemaa el-Fna, which was reasonably empty at this stage, but full of things you don’t really expect. Aside from the plethora of juice stalls, there were women painting hessian tattoos (generally up one’s wrist), men walking around with monkeys on chains that you can have sit on you for a price, and…………snake charmers. Yep, they are just like they are on the docos. The music, the cobras swaying gently entranced by the music – yet when they stop, they can move damn fast!! I couldn’t believe it. As much as I love snakes, I can’t say that I was entirely eager to stand too close the cobras, and felt quite uncomfortable when I was ushered into the circle for a photo. Sure, I don’t look that close to them, but you try sitting where I was with a deadly snake about a metre away  and you’ll think differently. Unfortunately we got ripped off for the photos – they ended up getting five euros for the pleasure (mind you, they were asking for 20!). Bastards.

Anyway, we wandered around in the winding alleyways of the medina, looking at all the things you could buy…including chameleons! How is that legal!?!

One definite downer to the country is the widespread lack of the concept of decent animal welfare. The aforementioned monkeys and snakes kept in shitehouse conditions, poor horses and donkeys made to stand in the sun until somebody wants to hire a cart, when they are then whipped (some of them are reasonably malnourished too), small animals like chameleons and tortoises, and particularly chickens kept in horribly small cages; it just all makes me so sad.

Eating has been great, but unfortunately it is very hard to find healthy food. Most restaurants will do a salad amongst its plethora of meat dishes, but a salad is rarely enough to fill you up, and they seem to insist on including chips with every meal. Don’t eat them, I hear you say. Well, it’s kinda hard when they’re there and you know you’re not going to eat again for 4 – 6 hours. Yep. Me. Eating only 3 meals a day. Cuh-razy I know. Much of what we have been eating has been food that you can find/cook in Australia, but with a Moroccan spice twist. A popular ‘meal’ is a charwama, which is essentially a Moroccan souvlaki. We had tajines for lunch, which is basically a hot pot of meat and vegies, with Moroccan spices. One very different thing is that they rarely give you serviettes – instead on your table you have a cup filled with squares of paper that you wipe your hands on, which isn’t the most effective way to rid your hands of grease, but it’s better than nothing!

We briefly went out at dusk to see the plaza come absolutely alive – it was like there was a rock concert on with the number of people gathered in the square. We were too damn tired to navigate it last night, but hopefully tonight or tomorrow we will plunge in and wander around.

We’ve been for a brief walk today, going to places that turned out to be shut, finding many storks perched on the walls of the medina along the way. We did have a look at the beautiful Koutoubia Mosque, though it had nothing on Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque. For the first time last night we weren’t woken up by the prayer calls – essentially a recording of somebody chanting or singing in Arabic to which I assume people respond in some fashion, usually going off 5 times a day (starting at 5:20 in the bloody morning!), though it was so damn hot I didn’t sleep that well. Our room does have an air conditioner, but it doesn’t seem to work. Well, to add to that – it was advertised that our room came with a ‘hitter’. I felt like Austin Powers presented with a sexual innuendo;

-         Is it left or right handed?

-         Sorry, I’ve already been in an abusive relationship

-         Will it beat Andrew for me?

-         I already have a boyfriend, thanks though.

We’ll hopefully go for a walk as soon as I can pull Andrew up from his nana-nap. I tried to tell him that I don’t think they siesta here, but he’s a big sooky wa-wa.

***the next day***

I got him up (after 2 and half hours napping, mind you)! We went for a wander into the chaos that is the plaza at dusk – there were people everywhere and you could only dawdle through at the crowd’s pace. It was amazingly noisy – the motorbikes zipping by, the people chatting, the drummers banging on their makeshift drums and the snake charmers…..charming. Many people yelling out to sell their wares or get a tip from the naïve tourists (NOT us. I’ve tipped all I’m going to here). There were also quite a few men dressed up in rainbow, big hats, trinkets hanging from their dress and ringing a bell to advertise these said cups. They’d be comical if they weren’t so serious.

We wound through the markets again, being harassed by vendors, particularly those running a food stall – remember my number, they would call. Some of them looked quite good, but Andrew had his heart set on having a beautifully big (and our most expensive meal yet) buffet on the top of a terrace overlooking the clamour of the plaza. The sun went down, the lights went on and it carried on. We went for another brief walk amongst the lights before retiring for the night.

Today we have just gone for a walk around to see two of the palaces in the area; Palais el-Badi and Palais de la Bahia. El-Badi is in complete ruins, all that remains are the dilapidated walls atop with dozens of storks clicking away at their huge nests. It apparently used to be one of the most beautiful palaces in the world and was called ‘The Incomparable’. La Bahia is in complete contrast – in close to liveable conditions. Everything is remarkably ornate, from the carved wooden doors and windows, the carved stone archways to the mosaic tiling from top to bottom and the amazingly decorative rooves (inside at least). La Bahia ‘The Brilliant’ was much prettier and certainly a lot cooler than el-Badi.

Hope you’re all suffering in the cold, because it’s too damn hot here and I think we’d both be happy if we swapped for a day.

Marrakech Photos




Freakin awesome photos for Marrakesh Smelly. I am grumpy and going home. Love you longtime :)

  Chelsea Jul 9, 2008 4:39 PM

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