Marrakech - The Authentic Tourist Friendly Morocco

Trip Start May 28, 2010
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Trip End Aug 09, 2010


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Monday, July 26, 2010

Marrakech – Arrived here, and have been getting better at dealing with the Moroccans. I flagged down a petite taxi and told him to use the meter. He told me no, they don't use the Meter to the old medina, only in the new city. I printed out a list of instructions, and pointed to Café Argana. He says 80 Dirhams. I get out of the taxi and tell him hes crazy. I grab my backpacks and he says ok 50, its very far 9 km. I walk out, and another guy comes up to me… "40 good price". I tell him hes crazy too. I walk out into the street, and find another guy. He doesn’t really speak English but gestures with his hand not to worry about it. A French girl asks him where hes going and he tells her to get in as well. We’re both going to the main square. At the end he asks me for 10, and her for 10, so I’m pretty stoked. I get out, but unfortunately a giant red backpack sticks out like a sore thumb in the medina. I immediately get approached, asking where I’m going. I tell him equity point, he says ok 5 minute walk lets go. I take about 2 steps and ask him how much, 50 Dirham. I wish I could make $6 for taking a 5 minute walk… I tell him hes crazy and offer him 1 euro. We eventually settle on 1 euro and 3 Dirhams.  He walks me there, it would have been pretty difficult to find, even though I did have a printed out map. The hostel is nice, its 17 euro a night, and has a pool. It’s nice, but not spectacular. The first night I was in a room which had its own shower and bathroom. The second night they moved me to another 8 person room which was larger, but didn’t have a bathroom so you had go to the roof to shower or use the bathroom which was a little annoying. Both nights it was difficult to sleep, the first night was just hot and humid as hell, with no airflow, and the second night there was 2 a/c units in there that one of the Brits turned on without the hostel knowing it, but the room was just too big and my bed was too far from them to make a difference for me.  

One recurring theme about Marrakech is that they REALLY like to haggle and bargain here. I tried asking how much a plain t-shirt was with 2 colors of printing on it, and was told 300 Dirham ($39 USD). I just laughed and walked away… How do you start a legitimate negotiation for a $5 shirt when he starts at $39. The market here is incredible, it changes from orange juice carts, and date stands during the day, to food stalls, and all sorts of performers at night. I ate at two stalls 81 which I read good reviews about online, and number 26 who we sort of stumbled upon. 81 was awesome, cheap, a lot of English spoken, fair prices, no surprises, good food. 26 was miserable, they charged us for bread 40 Dirham, plus 10 Dirham for sauce, and 10 Dirham for olives. That’s bullshit, no one else had ever been charged by any stand for that. I ended up having to pay 50 Dirham for a 30 Dirham meal, that’s unreal. I also had some juice from the stands, depending on the stand a glass was 3 or 4 Dirham. It was a slightly watered down, but overall you can’t complain for 40 or 50 cents.

I booked a 1 day trip with the hostel for 500 Dirham or about $60 USD. It was supposed to include transportation to some waterfalls, a camel ride to the waterfall, lunch, and a guide. The alternative was to just get transportation to the waterfalls for 250 Dirham ($30). I decided when in Morocco I had to ride a camel so people would think I was a local. Overall the trip was lackluster, and would recommend a group of people from the hostel getting together and just booking a taxi and guide by yourselves instead. Here’s basically how it went, we wait around from 9-10, than eventually leave. On the way out, we stop for a scenic picture. It’s a tourist souvenir shop in the middle of nowhere that you can climb onto the roof and take a picture of ???? We are forced to stay here for about 15 minutes before we get back on the road. Later we stop on the side of the road where there are some camels. 5 of the 10 of us bought the camel trip, so the 5 of us get on camels and start our walk. We walk for about 15 minutes at an incredibly slow pace, when our 8 – 10 year old guide turns us around and we walk back to the vans. Wow.  Evidently if you didn’t buy the camel ride, you had to sit on the side of the road until we were done. We come back, and get back in the van. We drive another 15 minutes or so, and stop off at some herbal gardens. We are split into groups according to our language and are given a grand tour of all the herb gardens, and explanations of what each one does. We are than brought into a room, and are told about all the wonderful natural Moroccan remedies we can buy. This probably took 45-60 minutes. Finally we get out of there and head off to lunch. We are told we’re going to eat lunch here, and are guided to a restaurant. Lunch is included for us, so we sit down and eat. The guys who just bought the transportation get a coke for 10 Dirham and take some pictures and play in the water a little. There’s some confusion, and about 45 minutes later a guy walks up to us, and tells us that when we’re ready he’s going to be the guide to the waterfall.  The English guys ask him about it, and are told that they are going to walk to the first one, than take a van to the second one, if they want to go with us, they have to pay 50 Dirhams. Thinking there is a mandatory van ride involved they agree. We start walking, and walk up to both waterfalls, which was actually more difficult than it sounds. There’s no real nice path, or handrails, its pretty steep and the rocks are slippery so the guide has to grab me a couple times and help me across some pretty scary places (which I’m appreciative of). We eventually make it to the top, and it’s cool, crowded but cool. We grab a soda to celebrate climbing the mountain (naturally cooled by the waterfall water, and the soda must be brought up by hand, there are no roads to get up here so everything must be manually carried up). On the walk down, we are now “guided” into another shop. This shop is “different” though, everything’s hand made by Berbers and we should buy things here, because it helps the community, instead of the other shops. The prices are low because it’s up in the middle of nowhere in the mountains… Sure. We make It down and I’m stoked to make it down alive and in one piece. We are waiting by the van for a group who went off on their own, and the guide offers to show us some more of the town. We follow like moths to the flame. On our left is a school, and here is a Berber house, come see. Fuck, it’s a carpet shop. We’re hurried into a small room in the back. One guy asks where we are all from, we go around and tell him. Small talk for another 10 minutes, I put on my backpack and am ready to make a run for it, when out of nowhere the salesman comes in, and this guy leaves. Same routine, asks where everyone is from, I feel like we’re in the middle of a timeshare presentation. We’re friends now, and even if you don’t buy anything we leave as friends. We are told the difference in 3 types of rugs, than about 50 are laid out in front of us. Effectively blocking any exit I could hope to have. I didn’t want to risk walking on any of their crazy carpets and getting charged for them. After they are done going through each one asking if anyone is interested, I make a dash out the door before they go back through the ones people said they were interested in.  

Overall Marrakech was the city with the most tourists and English spoken I have been to, so its probably a good place if you want to travel to an “authentic” Moroccan city, but can’t speak French, and like being around tourists. ;)
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