Non, je m´excuse, votre prix est incroyable
Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
63Trip End Aug 05, 2007
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With about 1h15 minutes to go, one lone airport official showed up and she was not wearing a Royal Air Maroc uniform - not a good sign. Well, as luck would have it, the flight there (the expensive portion of our trip) had been cancelled. After much yelling and screaming by fellow passengers, we were finally reassured that we would be on a flight the following day. We would be put up in hotels and would receive food. Well, we had to wait another 1h30 before a bus showed up to take us to the hotel in the middle of nowhere.
I like to say we were in the Almonte of Barcelona. Far, far away from the city. We got to our hotel at 1h15 in the mornning and were told that, in fact, we would not be receiving dinner at all as the kitchen was closed. Of course, we were in the middle of nowhere and nothing was open. The pizza delivery place was even closed. With empty tummies we decided we had no choice but to hit the sack (after making a couple of free phone calls to Canada...). The next day we chilled out and bided our time at the hotel, which, to be honest was quite nice. At 6pm we thought we were going to the airport to catch our promised flight - but surprise, in fact, we were informed that we were just heading to another hotel. The flight had been cancelled again!
Well, at this point we were livid. Let me also say that there were no officials on hand to speak to us ever so we never actually got any kind of explanation or apology. After being shuffled off to another hotel and offered a disgusting buffet dinner, we killed time and finally got a flight the next morning to Marrakech. There was chaos again at the airport as the flight check-in did not open until the plane was actually boarding so there was a mad stampede to get to the check-in desk (at the opposite end of the airport from what was indicated on the departures screen) and then subsequently another mad stampede to the plane, which, amazingly, took off only 1.5 hours after the scheduled departure. Not a great experience - Royal Air Maroc - two thumbs down. Air Asia needs to come over here and show these airlines how it´s done!
Well after two hours we arrived in Marrakech - Al hum du'Allah (thank god in Arabic). But it seemed our adventures in getting to Morocco were not to end here as we got off the plane to see a room full of about 700 people (4 plane loads) waiting to go through 4 security lines. No joke. It looked like the Barcelona train station only worse. Luckily for us we had befriended a Moroccan woman who in turn was friends with an immigration officer who was milling around in the security mayhem. Before we knew it we had been relieved of our passports and no more than 30 seconds later they were returned to us stamped and ready to go. We didn´t even have to baksheesh (tip) him. Counting our lucky stars for not having wasted even more time trying to get into Morocco we were on our way to our lovely riad - aka Moroccan guest house.
Nathan here: Quick story to share before talking about Marrakech. Yes, it´s official, we have declared a winner for "Stupid Parent/Tourist - Month of July." This month´s winner was travelling with her two young children, one approximately 4 years old, the other... maybe 2. The incident took place at the airport. We had checked in, gone through security and the gate. We had boarded a bus to take us to the plane when the stupid parent in question left the bus (we found out afterwards that she went back to security to get a watch that she forgot?!?!). Ok, no problem. Thing is, she left her kids on the bus - without any supervision. The other passengers on the bus, including Tara and I, assumed there was another parent with the kids. Nope. So when the bus left the gate for the plane, the kids were essentially alone on the bus with us strangers and, big surprise, they started to wail and bang on the glass and scream in Arabic. So of course, we´re trying to reassure the kids but, according to my watch, it was a good 20 minutes before the mother returned. Can everyone say "winner?"
The weather was much hotter than Barcelona but that was ok given the lack of humidity. Dry heat is good heat we say. But Tara says it is still "sweat heat" nonetheless. It took only a few minutes to get into the old part of Marrakech where we were met by someone from our riad. I guess a riad is Morroco´s version of a very trendy B&B. We stayed in two different riads and both were enchanting. We spent one night at Dar Soukaina ( www.darsoukaina.com) and two nights at (www.riad-marianis.com). We took a few pics but their respective websites do a much better job of showing the intimacy of the acommodations. The rooms were incredibly spacious, comfortable and cool (thanks to A/C) and were traditionally decorated. Both were ideally situated within the medina or old part of Marrakech so we only had a short walk to get to the souks (markets). At approximately $75 euros a night, much outside our regular budget but what the heck, we thought it represented good value. Two big thumbs up (reminder, that was two thumbs down for Royal Air Maroc).
Tara again: Another bit of information about Morocco: almost everyone speaks French. So between our French and our Arabic pleasantries we picked up in Egypt (Nathan before Egypt with his friend Omar) we were able to make ourselves well understood whether in bargaining with taxis, ordering in a restaurant or asking for directions or otherwise. I have to say, after spending the majority of our time in countries where we don´t speak the language it was great to be fully understood - despite our charming anglo-Quebecer accent. This went a long way to reducing how much we were ripped off.
So, a word about shopping. Morrocans are great salespeople. They are able to size you up as soon as you enter their shop and they continue to watch you during the entire "price" negotiation. Now we´ve been to markets all over the world and I think we both agree that, next to the kids who sell stuff in Cambodia, Moroccans are the most cunning.
No matter what you are trying to buy, they start with an insanely high price. The price is almost laughable. What, $300 for this mirror you say, I can buy that at Ikea for $15. Well, says the Moroccan, this is different quality, made by an artisan, different from the guy next door who tried to sell you his fo $200, etc. etc. In the end we found the best system was to establish a price we were willing to pay. If we thought the mirror was only worth $15 then we would start lower and - if necessary - eventually move up before saying that I am giving you $15 no more and if it´s worth more than that I´m sorry but that is all I have.
Most of the time we must have hit the nail on the head as with some coaxing they would sell us the items at our requested price. If not, well, then we didn´t want it that much anyway - or at least certainly not for their price. An example is a pair of shoes I bought. The man wanted $85CDN for a pair of shoes and I said, I´m sorry, but I will only pay you $15. He gave me the schpiel about quality and workmanship, and lots of middlemen between the artisan and him and I said, no, I will buy them for $15 and no more. He said I will sell you this other pair for $10 but the pair you have are very pricey, $75CDN. I said, no, I will only pay $15. He would then ask for $70. Well, after a few minutes, I said Nathan, we must go as we cannot afford these shoes. Let me tell you the man was after us lickety split with the shoes in a bag and his hand out for the money.
You might ask how did I know the shoes were worth $15? We had been told to check a few stores where they have fixed prices and one of the items I checked was shoes, so I was confident in my price and he was quick to sell when he saw that we weren´t going to pay a dollar more. In the end, buyer and seller were happy and I went home with a lovely pair of red leather Moroccan shoes.
Nathan here: Much to Tara´s chagrin, we did not spend all our time in Morocco shopping - but definitely a good part of it. We also visited a former royal residence called the Bahia palace and the royal Saadian tombs. We had a great time visiting these sights. We also had just as much fun getting lost in the narrow streets and alleys. Delicious grilled food and freshly squeezed orange juice (the best ever) in the main square amidst snake charmers, traditional medicine men, tooth pullers, storytellers and preformers completed our brief but rewarding experience in Marrakech. Oh, and there seemed to be music all the time. It was usually wonderful to listen to.
More from Barcelona.
PS. The cheap flight back to Barcelona was with Click Air and without incident. Two big thumbs up.
Where I stayed