Marrakech the Red City

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The bus trip from Beni Mellal to Marrakech crossed some pretty barren looking land, although it was obvious that a lot of it was cultivated, these farms were separated by vast fields of sand and rock. Still greenery seemed to pop up more and more frequently, then all of a sudden entire residential complexes that look like they had just been constructed but yet to receive any occupants. Actually all over Morocco I've seen plenty of housing projects, but when they are finished they just seem to stay empty. Seems like the "build it and they will come" philosophy didn't really work here, either that or they cost way too much.

Like whenever I come to a new town I get completely lost, even with a map in hand, this time I only spent an hour of endless wondering and asking people for directions. It seems that no one has thought to put up road signs here. Still at last I got into the center of the old medina and found the famous square called Dejemaa el-Fna. Well it's only famous cos it's the biggest and busiest in all Africa. And I have to admit it's quite cool, always something going down whether it's story tellers, magicians, peddlers of traditional potions or dancing boys (Girls aren't allowed to dance). The only problem is that most acts are all in Arab so I really have no idea what they are going on about, but then the audience all finds it very funny so it must be good.

Walking direction hotel, when the obligatory hawker comes and tries to get me to go to a certain place where they'll get a commission. This guy tried to sell me a mattress on a terrace for 8 euro the night, but after plenty of pretending to leave, I got it for 4 euros. I reckon I'm getting pretty good at this bargaining thing. The general rule of thumb is that tourists pay double what Moroccans pay. But 8 euros a night is 4 times what a Moroccan pays so I ended up at around about the right price for a tourist. If later I end up getting Moroccan prices then I'll be doing exceptionally well.

The reason I prefer sleeping out on a terrace is that when Moroccans travel they can't normally afford a hotel room so always opt for the terrace, as a result I get to meet them. Not as a potential buyer of something but as someone you're likely to share a pot of tea with. So I'm beginning to have a reasonable understanding about how Moroccans feel about things.
Still here I was going to be sharing the terrace with a Moroccan lady and her daughter on one side and a Moroccan guy called Marcathe from Casablanca on the other. Later John the Irishman turned up; he was always walking around in a puff of smoke and had such a thick accent that the pour Marcathe couldn't understand a word he said.

Later Marcathe quickly went out and brought all the ingredients for mint tea and we sat back to learned that he was from Casablanca and was in Marrakesh because he was meeting a girl from Canada who was flying in to Marrakesh to marry him. They had met on the Internet and although she was a bit older with a child they had been chatting for two years or so. If they get married this would allow him to immigrate over to Canada. John and I were both very impressed. While I've been hanging out in the cybercafÚs here, I have noticed that a lot of the younger guys all spend a lot of time chatting to people in chat groups. Still I hope it all turns out well for the guy, he does seem very intelligent and means well, he just has a very peculiar stare which can be quite unnerving.

Decided I'd better check out the Museum of Marrakech which was previously a palace, and although I took photos of the exhibitions, the actual palace was a lot more interesting and I took a lot more photos of walls and courtyards. Seemed that before the state of Israel was created there was about 250,000 Jews living here, and they all took off and left for Israel. Kinda gets you wondering if they weren't pushed a bit.

The only other thing I did in Marrakech apart from wondering the medina is to check out the Palace of Bahia which again has some nice architecture and relaxing gardens but lacked furniture and information so although I took photos, none will probably see the light of day.

I had a good relaxing time in Marrakesh and would recommend it to anyone. There were quite a few tourists but the city seemed to absorb them extremely well. By far the best activity to do here is just wondering around the old medina talking to people. After three days here I was ready to move on and was told that as I was so close to the High Atlas Mountains that I must go check them out. Having heard so much about them I figured I'd better, so I decided to climb up the highest mountain in northern Africa, the Jabel Toubkal.
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