Saturday, 17 October 2015

Morocco: Chapter 4 - A Marrakesh Marathon

Friday 9th October - Marrakesh 
Just one of the many market streets
I am writing this with the soothing background music of my boiler being replaced which while is rather noisy hopefully I will have both heating and hot water by the end of the day. This will be great as I can stop having to shower at other peoples houses or at work and Chloe (the cat) will be happier as she doesn't like the cold snap we are having. Chloe has hidden but unfortunately her bolthole is in the kitchen where the boiler is... I will have to be extra nice to her this evening because she will blame me for the scary noises.

So Marrakesh! We literally did so much this day that each time I tell people what I did, I forget to mention a couple of things because it seems impossible that we did this much but we really did! Another local guide picked us up at 9 in a different bus (I missed our bus driver already) and off we went into the city. First we arrived at some Royal tombs. The actual tombs are rather plain following tradition however the rooms themselves were decorated beautifully with carvings and intricate tiling. It was very peaceful and cool in the morning air as not many places were up yet. It seems strange that a hot country culture only start their day when it's already hot but I guess they start late because they use the cool of the evening to get things done instead. Anyway the stillness and quiet of the place despite the fact we were still very much in the midst of the city made the tombs feel very peaceful but mildly eerie in that way that cemeteries only can.

An archway in the Palace
Next we went to another palace. I think this is the bit that I usually forget about because we had seen so many by this point. I'm sure to the trained eye they are all significantly different but unfortunately my eyes were bored by this point and although very pretty I was getting bored of pretty fountains in white tiled courtyards surrounded by rooms with elaborately decorated high ceilings. Also by this point a lot of the other tourist tours had arrived and it felt very much like shuffling through on a conveyor belt which detracted slightly.

Apparently one of the tallest Mosque towers in Africa!
Next was probably one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. We were taken on foot through many different winding side streets with wall to wall stalls and shops that were just sleepily opening despite the fact that we had already seen two places already that morning! But we arrived at an apothecary!  We were taken upstairs and all the different products were explained and we were allowed to test them. All of this was explained by a man who had an uncanny resemblance to Omid Djalili (Although he's Iranian isn't he? Maybe not then) and was just as loud and charismatic. He explained the ways they use argon oil and the difference between the raw oil used in beauty products and the eating oil used for cooking and dipping. He also came round with a small bag of black seeds in a muslin and invited us to inhale deeply from it. He came to me first and I was a little apprehensive so I only sniffed the tiniest bit -  too much! Instantly my eyes watered and my head swam as what felt like a menthol brick hit my brain! Sort of like how I would imagine a pan galactic gargle blaster does, only with menthol not lemon. Menthol isn't the right smell here but I don't have a description for what it actually was. The rest of the group saw this reaction and all laughed however each and every one of them did the same thing when they had a smell! Goodness knows what they are! Ah according to google they're cumin seeds! Well now you know. He also had many creams and oils and herbs and teas, all for sale and with the tagline "You buy two and one is gift" and all able to test apart from the hemorrhoid cream "we don't make demonstration". 

Me with a lot of carpets!
After our little shopping spree we went for lunch and I had tagine and frites in a weird Moroccan type of Nandos! Afterwards I went with another lady and the guide to a carpet shop. It took us a little while to walk there but I didn't mind as I could have walked through the little streets for hours without getting bored at all! There were so many interesting things on offer and so many.... interesting (lol) looking salesmen. Come to think of it I actually saw very few women in the whole trip! There must be some because there were lots of children but I don't know where they were all hidden. That's a shame. The carpet shop was epic. In every definition of the word. The owner wasn't in when we arrived so we were invited to explore and there were so many carpets rolled folded and stacked floor to ceiling in the side rooms and then the central room was 3 stories high with carpets hung out of the balconies covering the entirety of the walls in a crazy sort of patchwork blanket. There was one so large I'm sure it could cover my whole apartment and then some! The owner arrived and was suitably gracious with excellent English and a small army of men to send off for carpets and unfurl them onto the floor for viewing. I thought it was great fun! After a little time working what I wanted I decided on a Berber design carpet (as apposed to the Arabic ones - I am now surprisingly well versed in Moroccan carpet designs.) and it is being shipped to me as we speak. I was hoping it would arrive this week as I have been at home however it looks like I will be receiving a  "We missed you" card and will have to pick it up when I bribe someone to drive me to a depot. 

The lily pond in the garden
A quick fresh squeezed orange juice later (4 dirham which is about 27p or you can splash out on a grapefruit and pay 67p) the two of us decided to get in a taxi and go to the Jardin Mejorelle which is the #1 on TripAdvisor I'm told. So not to argue with the great wisdom of TripAdvisor (which by the way is not coming up as an incorrect word and just shows how universal it is if it's accepted by spellcheck!) we walked to the taxi rank. One driver came up to us and said he would take us for 100 driham which was a joke as we expected to pay about 30. Our conversation went - 100, 30, 70, 30, 60, 30, 50, 30 (clearly negotiation was not his skill) and then a different driver came and said he would take us for 30 straight off the bat and poached us. We were dropped off at the side of a very busy road with a vague hand wave that the garden was in that direction which didn't fill me with confidence but then I saw a sign that confirmed that so we paid the man and set off. Conveniently we bumped into a few others from our group just getting out of a horse and carriage (fancy) so we all stood in the queue (yes queue for a garden?!). Inside it was lovely, apparently Yves Saint Laurent had part owned the garden so it was suitable stylish and had a little exhibit of his posters. It also had a Berber culture museum although having spoken to those who paid the extra to see it; we knew it all already thanks to our excellent guide! 

We went back to the hotel and I intended to have a swim. Having got up to my knees and realised it was even colder than the first one, I decided against it and went back to my room to have a bath. Having read about 50 work emails (I'm going to guess that took at least half an hour) my bath was only 5 inches deep and that's with me in it. So I had failed again. I gave up and had a shower instead! We went to dinner somewhere fancy! There was booze and everything! I had a great steak, a half bottle of wine, and a yummy chocolate thing. Om nom nom. We managed to thoroughly embarrass our guide when we said thank you - I didn't know the Moroccan complexion could blush so much!

Back to the hotel for bed and an early start as the transport to the airport was booked for 7.40.

Saturday 10th October - Marrakesh to Casablanca to UK
Some of Yves Saint Laurent's original posters
I'll keep this one short because it's entirely anticlimactic after Friday. We were picked up in a taxi and the girl who has only just been on time for every pick up, was only just one time as per the norm. However I got thinking about this and realised I used to be the girl that was only just on time for everything and therefore the fact that someone else was meant that I must not be any more! When did I become punctual and vaguely organised?! I might have done some growing up and that scares me a little to be honest! 

Some of the brightly coloured pots in the garden
One delayed flight and queuing for check in, security, passport control, the gate, and the bus, (Heathrow all is forgiven) we had no time to do anything other than board which was irritating given that we arrived 2 hours early and our flight was delayed by 30 mins! We said goodbye to a girl on her way to Canada and picked up 3 more at Casablanca who had got an earlier flight there. Another relatively short flight with slightly better food but pervier male flight attendants later we were back in England's green and pleasant land and a mere 12 hours after I started traveling I was back with my parents at their place for the night. Sausage casserole and wine later (yay not tagine or cous cous) I was asleep.

All in all an excellent whirlwind tour of Morocco! Having crammed cities, country, mountains and desert into just 6 days is remarkable. While not exactly relaxing it has been great to see another country and get to know the culture as much as possible.

I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings on my ramblings :) I wonder where I'll end up next?!

My trip (the * is the finish)