Moroccan Standard Time

Trip Start Dec 16, 2009
1
6
25
Trip End Jan 09, 2010


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Monday, December 21, 2009

Up WAY too early - probably 6:30 AM, or so. Surprising that I wasn't able to sleep, given that it's so dark and peaceful in the Riad's rooms ... perhaps it was the hard mattress.  I ended up surfing for a while, waiting for Mary to wake up. 

It's quite dangerous walking around the Riad - lots of tripping hazards with all the carpets and raised thresholds in the doorways.  And the shower curtain in the bathroom is terrible, so water gets everywhere - not too safe when the floors are slippery stone. 

We lingered over coffee because we wanted to speak with Mahjoub to firm up the tour, but he wasn't awake yet.  We waited ... and waited ... and decided to instead go to the Cyberpark and come back an hour later. 

The park is unique - it's got free Wi-Fi and also a number of free stand-up terminals, in addition to a pay-for-use internet cafe.  There was also a photographic display, with a theme of human impacts on the environment - it reminded me of a similar display I once saw in Brussels (see blog entry entitled "I like girls that like big head ... on their beer!" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/belgium_2007/1177234800/tpod.html)  In fact, it could very well have been the exact same one.  It was a nice place to stroll as the air seemed fresher, on a very polluted day in Marrakech. 

Back to the Riad, where we waited for a bit longer to chat with Mahjoub, finally making our plans.  We got going a bit late, but the next stop was the Ali ben Youssef Medersa, a 14th-century Quranic learning centre.  Getting there was not easy, though it looks simple enough on the map - the medina and souks almost seem designed to get you lost.  I was hesitant to ask directions, as that probably would only encourage a conversation with a hustler that I didn't want to speak with anyway.  A young kid ended up bringing us there, and of course expected the requisite tip, which we gladly handed over while making an empty promise to visit his shop in the dyer's souk.  Of course, even if we tried to, I doubt we could've found our way there. 

The Medersa was nice, but the guidebook was lacking in any real info, and there wasn't much information posted about.  I ended up chatting with a couple of Spanish ladies from Barcelona, Ines and Raquel - I'll need the practice for when we get back to Spain!  Morocco seems to get quite a few Spanish tourists, not surprisingly, given its proximity - and Spanish tourists are always a good thing, I just need to find some way to convince them all to come to Canada for a visit!

We purchased a joint admission ticket that also got us into the Musee de Marrakech - originally, we were going to skip this, but when the ticket agent at the Medersa asked if we wanted to see the museum as well, I thought he was referring to a museum that was located within the Medersa.  The museum itself was quite the sight, and had some very interesting art on display, including some uber-cool pictures that had been photo shopped, lending them a feeling of fantasy.  The museum was far more interesting than the Medersa.

As a tourist in Marrakech, it's necessary to allow lots of time to get between sights, as without fail you will need more time than estimated to get to your final destination.  Things seemingly run on a different time zone here – MST, or Moroccan Standard Time, as we’ve come to call it.  A good example is our journey from the Marrakech Museum to the Saadian Tombs – judging by the map, this should have been a 15-20 minute walk, if you don’t get lost

But inevitably, you WILL get lost – it took us about 70 minutes to get there, even with the help of a guide to get us back to the Place.  A funny thing about "guides" and hustlers in Marrakech - they're extremely annoying when you don't want to talk to them, but a godsend when you're lost!  A teenager showed us the way back to the Place, but then quickly turned annoying when he told us our tip of 20 dirham was too little - it's about 2 Euros, which is actually a decent amount of money in Morocco, especially for only 5 minutes of work.  

Part of Morocco’s charm and quintessential experience is losing all sense of direction and time in the souks; this can be quite enjoyable when your intent is to wander aimlessly through the souks, but terribly frustrating when trying to get somewhere.  So far today, we were never really sure at what we were seeing in terms of sights, because we never really knew where were located, at any point in time!  

Complicating the matter was the rain – navigating is even more difficult when juggling a guidebook, map, umbrella, and contending with all the hustlers and heckles about my girly-little umbrella purchased this past summer http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/9/1251472258/tpod.html#pbrowser/pwong/9/1251472258/filename=u.jpg
 
Along the way, we did receive some entertaining, slightly-more innovative calls from the hustlers today – one shouted "Sakana", which was obviously a reference to a suspicion that we were Japanese, though we still didn’t quite get his meaning.  Another shouted “I AM CHINA!!!”, followed by “I AM JAPAN!!!”  If a Moroccan says that to Chinese people, what’s our response to that supposed to be, “WE ARE MOROCCO!!!”?

So far, my feelings on Marrakech are quite ambivalent, hating the constant harassment of hustlers and disliking how chaotic everything is.  Other times, the chaos is enjoyable, when it’s dodging scooters and donkey carts in the narrow streets of the medina, or the way Place Jemaa El Fna assaults every single one of your senses.  But so far the highlights of Marrakech have been chilling in the tranquility of our beautiful Riad, enjoying the Marrakech Museum, or strolling through the Cyberpark – in other words, being in places that let you catch your breath and gather your wits. 

After a long and exhausting afternoon of touring through Marrakech it was back to the Riad, to meet with the tour company’s representative in order to book our trip out into the Sahara.  We had already decided to re-book with this company, but the rep still took time to explain what the tour offered, including showing a number of photos of previous guests obviously enjoying themselves.  The photos of what appeared to be Spanish women on the tour definitely convinced me that this was the right choice
 
After sorting out the details, it was time for some dinner - couscous, something that might agree with Mary's finicky stomach.  It was a cool night, and perhaps wasn't ideal for sitting outside like we were.  We finished up the meal and did a bit of walking around before returning to the Riad,since we have to get up very early tomorrow morning for the tour.  
  
Funny moment - on Facebook, Mary received a friend request from a guy named Bilal Belkou Belkou.  She suspected that I had made up a fake Facebook account because it was so random, and sounded like a name that I would invent as a joke.  The truly funny part is that though I had nothing to do with it, it did sound exactly like something I would do!  
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Comments

rachelkw
rachelkw on

I love your sense of humour. We are Morroccan made me laugh out loud. ;o)

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