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Published: February 7th 2008
Cafe Terrace View
Breakfast was more fun than usual because we had the company of lots of little birds which enjoyed our breakfast with us. We spent a while enjoying the courtyard and watching the birds and then headed into Djemaa el-fna in the medina.
We phoned Hicham and he said he would meet us upstairs in café France in the square. We both ordered Jus d'orange and sat and watched everyone going about their business and dodging hustlers etc. When Hicham arrived we chatted a while and then followed him to his workplace. We walked through more of the backstreets and there was so much to see. We must have gone through a very poor area because the smell was unbearable in some places. There was a little street market where kids were selling fruits that looked well past their sell by dates and even worse was the blanket of flies that covered people, fruit and buildings alike. Despite being alien to it all, we received plenty of smiles and people welcoming us to Morocco.
We stopped off at his grandma's house and we were both immensely amused to see a tiny backstreet with a road name, yet previously we had
from the ground
struggled to find any names for the main roads in the medina.
Neither Rob nor I realised that when Hicham said he worked very near the tanneries he meant quite as near as he actually did. We had to walk through the tanneries to get to his workshop which in sandals is a pretty horrific ordeal as the ground is sodden and the smell is stomach turning. His workshop was a ramshackle building with no comforts however the things they were producing were astounding. There is a group of them that all do different jobs to produce furniture and they sell to hotels in the area or by demand. It was arranged for us to have a tour of the tannery which we didn't really want but had expressed an interest in earlier. We were given some sprigs of mint "as gasmasks" which barely did enough but were appreciated nonetheless. I mentioned to Rob that it smelt like numerous decomposing bodies and he pointed out that they were animal skins left out in the sun. It was a pretty grotesque sight and the description of the process was just as bad. (They soak the skins in pigeon poo to
soften them). We were pretty glad when the tour was over but the guy wanted money from us and seeing that we had no small money we gave him more than we wanted. Lesson learnt; we now carry small change for hustlers like this.
We returned to Hicham's workshop and chatted for a while and had more mint tea which was poured correctly. You pour all the glasses from as high as you dare and then tip them back into the pot and pour them again the same way. It can get quite messy if you are not well practised. Eventually it was time to leave for the palace so we said goodbye and got lost in the medina trying to find the palace. The trick is to walk like you know exactly where you are so that no one offers to guide you, except by doing this you are making rapid decisions about directions without really stopping to think.
Lonely Planet explains the Palais De La Bahia "If you had Morocco's top artisans at your service for 14 years, this is what you could build". Well we paid 10dh to get in and it was definitely worth
it. Not only was it great shelter from the heat of the day but it was so intricately tiled, it was beautiful. It is no longer in use so it is just the bare rooms and gardens to look at but we spent quite a while looking around and taking it all in.
Just down the road from the palace we found a patisserie which we decided it was high time we visited. I opted for a chocolate ball thing and Rob got some muffin thing. We walked up to the grounds of the Koutoubia mosque and found a bench to sit on and soak up the sun whilst eating our cakes.
Back at the hotel we both had interesting showers; the water was hot but barely more than a trickle. We sat down for a while and enjoyed being off our feet.
We wanted to eat in the new part of town but couldn't find anywhere we liked so we ended up walking into the medina again. Rob was pretty starved so we ignored the activity in the square, didn't stop for the hats held out for money and avoided the paths of the young children
selling biscuits and tissues. We went to Chez Chegrouni which is described as a local legend in the guidebook and it is obvious why. A vegetarian tagine is 30dh which is two pounds and Rob had a chicken, rice etc for the same price and both were surprisingly good. We sat on the terrace and despite the cold enjoyed watching people go past.
On the way back to the hotel we saw an internet café so we nipped in to phone home. We only had an hour as the place closed at eleven so it was only enough to let people know we are still alive.
The room was so cold when we got back because we had forgotten to shut the windows. Beautiful as the room is, it doesn't have any heating, so we are both huddling under the covers whilst I write this, and rob is ever so nicely trying to keep my feet warm. Night night. Stob.
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