day 2: marrakesh
day 3: essaouira
day 4: essaouira
day 5: ouirgane
day 7: ouarzazate
day 8: ouarzazate
day 9: erfoud
day 10: fes
day 12: fes
day 13: fes
day 14: marrakesh
day 15: marrakesh
1: Marrakesh, October 3, 2000
The interesting part begins right with our arrival. The taxi driver from the Marrakesh airport stopped the car in the middle of chaos and said “your hotel’s down that way.” To give an idea of what our surroundings were, we had just turned off the main square in the center of the medina (the old town). In the square there are cars, grands taxis, petits taxis, horses with carriages, people on motorcycles, bikers, pedestrians, mule drawn carts… all trying not to hit each other. There are no lanes and there’s a lot of noise. The driver went into the medina as far as he could go and dropped us off without any real indication of where to go from there.
We saw no signs for our hotel. We were in the edge of the medina and there were many locals around. Shops were everywhere. It was a covered part of the medina and there was a scent of raw sewage in the air. A couple of men approached us; one offered to show us the way, the other was asking if we were from Paris. The driver wanted $10 US but was okay with the 100 DH (dirhams) and left us to follow the guide. All the guidebooks warn you of false guides but what were we supposed to do in the middle of unfamiliar ground. On our way to the hotel, the guide pointed out his shop and said that he would like us to come by the next day. He sold shirts that I can’t imagine us wearing: one was blue with a large, white and intricately embroidered collar. We said we might. He lead us through what seemed like a maze of small streets, all lined with many shops. A few women tourists passed us by and said hello to our guide. That was reassuring. Then a few more turns and we were lead into an alley. We didn’t want to go and I was scared. A shop owner said “that is the right way” but I said no and stood there, not knowing what to do. Just then, an obvious tourist emerged from down the alley looking totally unaffected. So we went ahead. He rang a doorbell at the end of the alley that had the #9. I remembered that our hotel was #9 but there was no street name and no hotel name posted anywhere. I was still on guard. A frowning man in uniform answered the door and let us in. I thanked the guide, gave him 10 DH and we entered. We were told to wait. It seemed like a long time and we were still uncertain. Another guy in uniform asked us for our reservation. We gave him the printout and he left with it. I started to look around. While we were in the roofless hall, there were gently breezes carrying the scent of sewage and something chocolaty. Finally Ursula came out and I knew we were in the right place. She said that she never received the confirmation I faxed but they have a room available anyway. Our room is the Blue Room and it is very nice.
We had lunch in the courtyard of our hotel, the Riad Enija. It was delicious and a beautiful experience. I was exhausted from the trip and because I deprived of sleep while Laina was visiting.
We went out into the streets of Marrakesh to find the Saadi tombs, the Palais Badi gardens and the Palais de la Bahia; none of which was easy. The Saadi tombs were good to see. It wasn’t a large place and it didn’t take more than ½ hour. The tombs were flat on the ground and done in white and blue mosaic. We saw lots of cats around.
From there we tried to find the Palais Badi gardens. The walk was surprisingly long. We were out of the covered medina but there was still that smell. We passed carcasses of meat hanging outside shop windows, in the sun with flies buzzing all around.
As we were approaching the gardens, four kids (different ages and sizes) with their arms around each other followed us around insisting that we take their picture. They gave us each a flower that they had picked from the sparse garden. The kids lead the way to the Palais de la Bahia, which was our next stop. Along the way, they pointed out stalks in their nests that were balanced on the city walls. When we got to the Palais de la Bahia, we gave each boy a coin and said good-bye. The Palais was much different than the ‘Tokapi’ I had expected. It was sort of run down and empty but you can get an idea of what it could’ve been long ago. When we left, a man stopped us and told us that he was the father of one of the boys. He told us things about Marrakesh and we had a nice conversation. He invited us to his house for tea, but we did not feel comfortable going down the small street (alley) he pointed to towards his house, so we declined.
We left the Palais de la Bahia and by chance, happened to find the main square. (We thought we were somewhere else when the square appeared.) We filmed some of what was going on around us. There were snake charmers – Bob kissed a cobra, there were old men sitting banging tambourines on the ground, there were storytellers and “pharmacists.” There were boys doing flips, there were stalls selling OJ, watermen trying to sell water and more and more grills were being lit up for BBQ. We had drinks on top of the rooftop terrace of the Café Glacier and watched dusk turn into night on the square. What a sight. Huge amounts of BBQ smoke lift over the lively square. I thought we were going to smell of it. Click here to see a picture. I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing that whole day.