A Day Sans Drama
Trip Start Feb 16, 2006
17Trip End Feb 28, 2006
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Where I stayed
Marrakech - 5:30pm and Midnight
Today is off to a strange start. I call the room of the client who is departing today to invite him to have breakfast with me, but I and get no answer. I ask the front desk if he is still at the hotel, and they tell me he is not checked out yet. I go to his room, and the maids are outside his door, and are quite perplexed. They say that nobody is in the room. I ask them to open the door, and find the note I had slipped under the door last night still there, unopened. It is apparent that nobody has slept in the room. I realize that he came only to collect his luggage yesterday, and then left immediately, probably spending the night in a different hotel.
When the group departs for sightseeing today I announce that one of the tour members decided to leave early due to the stress of the itinerary alterations. All of us are sorry to see him go, and wish him well.
The itinerary for today is relaxed, with a beautifully scenic drive into the mountains up the Ourika Valley. As we are leaving the city, the poor little lamb who went astray from the flock in the market yesterday relates the harrowing tale of being lost in Marrakech. It was thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of the concierge of the Hotel Sofitel that enabled him eventually to find his way back into the Toto fold. Our guide seizes this opportunity to announce his cell phone number, and instruct everyone to remain in the same place if something similar should happen in the future to one of us, as he has a network of associates who will fan out in the marketplace and find anyone who is missing and reunite them with the group. Our lamb's mistake was to leave the market and try to find his own way to a hotel he didn't know.
Friday is the day for Jemaa Ghmat-the weekly market in the village of Ghmat. We stop for photos and a walk through the market, being warned by Mohammad that the local vendors here are particularly sticky (i.e., they grab on and won't let go until you buy something)
True enough, I make the mistake of saying one small word to a peddler as I am walking at the rear of our group, and he latches himself firmly to my side from that moment onwards. He points out good photo opportunities, and clears the way if a native is being resistant to having a picture taken, so I decide it is good to have my personal guide, and I allow the group to get ahead while I take photos and chat with my Berber guide (who incidentally had breath that would kill an ox).
We merge with my group from time to time, but I don't mind falling behind because he always seems to be keeping a sharp eye on them. Whenever I panic and ask where my group is, he points to them and, sure enough, there they are. I decide I will tip him twenty dirham (about $2.10) for his services, and endeavor to do so as we head back to the bus, but he will have none of it. He is Berber, he proudly proclaims, and will not take a gift. The only thing I can do to make him happy is to purchase something from him.
He has a variety of bracelets and little ornamental boxes, and he offers me one box that catches my eye for a starting price of 600 dirham
We all detach ourselves from our individualized persistent peddlers, and drive away from the village carrying on and recounting our experiences and comparing the prices we spent on brick-a-brack. We haven't gone too far before someone in the back of the bus points out that one person seems to be missing. We do a quick count (our driver's assistant screwed up on that one), and realize we have left someone behind. It isn't an easy matter to turn the huge bus around, but the driver manages and we get back to the village before the abandoned person even notices we were missing. (Whew!) We had left a little early, after all.
Heading up the valley we stop several more times to take photos of small Berber villages dotting the hillsides. I pay a small supplement so that the group can actually go inside a Berber home and see how they live. It is quite large, and furnished simply but beautifully
Lunch is at a beautiful restaurant in the mountains named Ramuncho. I have couscous until it is coming out my ears. Returning to the city I pop off the bus at the hotel while several others continue on with the guide to go shopping. I misplaced my reading glasses yesterday (probably had them pick-pocketed in the square), so I take a taxi to an optical store and replace them.
Tonight is a Fantasia show at Chez Ali. The place is Vegas and beyond-total Moroccan kitsch for tourists, but so much fun. We enter through a phalanx of armed horseman. Making our way along an area the size of a football field, we are entertained by many groups of costumed musicians, drummers, singers, ululators, dancers, and camels.
Dinner is tasty and plentiful starting with a typical Moroccan soup, followed by lamb (each table had a huge slab of lamb served), a chicken couscous, and finally oranges and apples for dessert
What follows is a mix of costume parade, rodeo horse acrobatics, dancing, guerrilla marketing (Renault Trucks spelled out in fireworks), faux tribal warfare and pyrotechnics, all accompanied by ripped off amplified music (from Star Wars to Carmena Burana) or live bleating, blatting and farting horns and pipes. Oh, did I mention the slides projected on smoke or the flying carpet? It is one of those tourists things you just have to experience to believe, all the while hoping that someday someone with choreographic or design talents will come along and breathe some life into the corps(e) of performers. We have a thoroughly fun time trashing the production on the bus returning to the hotel.
Exhausted and happy hugs,