May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Morocco Marrakesh

After a night in Madrid in a perfect little bunkroom to ourselves for 13 E each, we got on the plane and saw the Strait of Gibraltar on the way to Morocco.  I was a little nervous because of the stories of petty crime, rip-offs and the role of women so I was “set for bear.”  I tried to get money from several ATMs, but they refused me.  Immediately out of the airport, I thought I had read that a taxi ride to the new city was about 7, so I was shocked when it said 100.  Then they wanted 100 a person!  We got out of the taxi with our stuff and got out the map to show them it’s just as close to the new city, so finally we went for 85—Les found in the book that it should be around 90D.
Since then I’ve relaxed quite a bit. 
hotel lobby
Our hotel was a little fancier than we expected, but we looked around and it seemed fair, AND it had air conditioning at the press of a button!  (Also we’ve been wasting our time in the evenings with movies on the TV.)
Looks like Brother Jim!
The man behind the desk looks a lot like my brother Jim.  He gets paid 150,000 D a month and we just paid 300 for a hammam bath and massage; about 1/5 of his salary. 1 D=7-8 USD.  He works 10 hours a day, 7 days a week.  He’s not yet married and is a nice, gentle man.  I called my bank, and they said that their debit card doesn’t work in Morocco.  There MUST be a lot of crime here.  We went to the modern grocery store and I was amazed at the spice section; it was colorful, plentiful with piles of each spice in a circular bin.  The French influence is strong here with foods and also everyone speaks French along with Arabic.

After a day we were roaming the streets.  The scavenger hunt for a bank that could cash a traveler’s check was a failure, and the next day they wouldn’t accept my $100 bill because it was dirty and had a tear in it.  Finally we were advised to visit a machine that gave me change.  I tried a ripe olive from a tree in the street and it was very bitter.  It must need the soaking in vinegar to process it.   
Olive from this tree
the Royal Theater
On the way we went in the national theater lobby.  It was quiet and pretty.  This was also the place where folks line up to get football tickets.  Morocco against Tansania!
Fabric Dyes: Cobalt, Indigo, Saffron, etc.

The medina (old center of town: now a tourist area but used to be the place where the natives lived while the French built new towns with roads and electricity and running water for their people when they took over) was complex, beautiful and chaotic.  It wasn’t as overwhelming as India was for me—or maybe I have a new scale inside me.   

Dying Wool and Cactus Silk
We took the walking tour that the Lonely Planet book advised and saw lots of people working their art in wood, tile, and wool and silk—no, not worm silk, but cactus silk! A man that was showing us the dyes took Les and made him a little turban from a twilight blue scarf, and showed me a stylish knot to use when I wear a scarf. Les found a nice tailor to hem his pants for 12 D.   

We have enjoyed one huge meal a day: 

couscous with a mountain of vegetables and meats, and tajine that is like a dry-ish stew of vegetables and meat and olives.  The food is really good.  We are becoming “regulars” at a coffee place across the street.  My favorite is listening to the prayers over the loud speaker; and if I’m close enough to a mosque, I can hear the singing live.  
 One waiter was very, very, enthusiastic about Islam and was telling us about how everyone is Allah, and so many names have Al- and how the word for Allah looks like a human, and that we are all one in peace.  It was quite beautiful.  All this while on the TV (every restaurant seems to have a TV) was the live scene at Mecca.

 I had been looking forward to the hammam experience.  It began as a bath house for those who lived in the medina (center of the city) who had no running water.  They use a soap that in the solid form looks like liquid resin and feels a little like slippery honey.  They refer to it as black soap.
After our Hammam
They gave me a little black thong like thing to wear, and some plastic slippers.  After sitting and having buckets of water splashed on me, I lathered myself up and sat in a steam room shaped like ½ an egg with beautiful streams of sunlight coming in through small holes for about 15 minutes. 
Al Fatima: my masseuse
I then lay on a table while Al-Fatima scrubbed all my skin with a rough mitt.  Lots of skin rolled up on me and this was bucketed off before I lay on a plastic covered massage table for a nice overall massage.  I asked her for some depth because of issues with my hands falling asleep when I use my arms.  She was great!   
Then I lay on a plastic sheet and she applied mud and seaweed before she wrapped me up, mummy style.  I dozed in a nice white-tiled moist aired environment before I got up to shower off the mud.  Al-Fatima came to wash my hair and body and gave me a big white fluffy robe and a towel.  Yes, I got the full treatment, and I’m sure the locals don’t go through all this.  My skin did feel amazing as I joined Les in the tea room and sipped from glasses stuffed with mint, some mint and honey tea.  We slept well.

I am very much a minority in the streets—being female.  I don’t see any women sitting with newspapers sipping coffee in the terrace chairs on the street.  Women look busy shopping, or selling or begging.  Some stand and socialize, but they don’t normally sit and relax in public places.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Sue and Les!
    Did you get the tour guides name I sent on your email for Morocco? Barb