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Published: September 21st 2010
My first experience in Morocco is when I get ripped off by the taxi driver on my fare from the airport to the hotel. It should be about 100 dirhams which equates to around 10 euro, I'm charged 200 D
dirhams. I find that you cannot accept the first price offered by a taxi and must immediately ½ any suggested fare. Later, I find that Marrakech is one big extended hand always asking for dirhams from a tourist. This is very much in practice in the square, if you ever want to take a photograph of a person, you had better have a pocketful of change. Marrakech is no longer a very cheap city!!! Thursday, 2 September, 2010
I arrive at the Imperial Palace Hotel, take a shower, have a beer and then go outside to find something to eat. A Poulet Tajine and a beer cost me around 10 euro. Friday, 3 September, 2010
I'm sold a trip to Atlas Mountains and the waterfalls by the on-duty manager at the hotel. The 15 seater bus is not full, there are nine of us and along the way we stop at the pottery shop, the Berber Market, and finally
the factory that makes beauty products. The Berber Market is worth the experience, but rather than being allowed to walk around on your own, you are latched onto by would be “guides”.Still, the experience is worth it and I am shown the donkey market, and the local dentists doing extractions. I pay my 20 dirhams to my “guide” who tries to extract more from me. Back on the bus and into the mountains to the waterfall, we stop for lunch and then its another “guide” for 30 dirhams to take the nine of us to the waterfall. It's all a bit of a rip off and the tour gets a 4/10 from me. We arrive back at the hotel around 6.00pm.
My evening plans are to get a taxi to the Medina, see the mosque and walk through the souks. It's Ramadan and Muslims fast during daylight hours, but before dawn and in the in the evening they eat. First, I go to the Koutobia Minaret where five times a day the faithful are called to prayer. Outside of the minaret there are prayer mats in abundance and the faithful and the men are all facing Mecca. However, as
I make my towards the actual mosque I am turned away, the mosque is off-limits to non-muslims. After this experience, I cross the road to Djemaa El-Fna square and from now on it will be referred to as the “square”. I'm hit by a cacophony of sound and a wall of color. Large open air restaurants have been set-up, these are dismantled at the end of each evening and set-up again at sunset. Vendors beckon you to there stalls to eat. I have a sea food platter and a fanta for 90 dirhams. not great, but plenty of food and after all it is part of the “Marrakech Experience”. After dinner I wander the square, and join the crowds watching and listening to the musicians and snake charmers, but remember, it's all about the dihrams. Saturday, 4 September, 2010
I rise at around 8.30, showerand head down stairs for breakfast. I start my day with a haggle over the taxi ride to the square. During the day you can get around the city for approximately 20 dirhams and in the evening it's 30 dirhams. I'm heading to the Souqs. The Souqs are narrow covered and uncovered streets with open
Surely the cobra has been defanged.
shop-fronts tightly packed together; a permanent market place is the best way to describe them.. Each shop owner beckons you in, to look at his shop and will often grab you by the arm to lead you in. This is an invasion of personal space to us Westerners, but is part of Morrocan and North African culture. In addition to the throngs of people, you also have to deal with motorbikes and donkey carts. The motorbikes often come at you at break-neck speed and veer around you at the last minute. Anyway, I walk the Souqs taking pictures and decline entry into every store. After the Souqs, I have lunch and then make a booking for a 3 day, 2 night “Sahara Experience”. After which I head back to the hotel and take a nap. At 5pm it's time for a beer at the pool bar and a catch-up with an English couple that have befriended me.Time for dinner, I take a 15 minute walk and find a very nice restaurant, eat and then head back to the hotel to pack. I talk to the duty manageress about booking a room for an additional 2 nights on my return from
And, I had several bowls over the week.
the Sahara. It seems she cant even offer me my original price and directs me to booking.com. At this point, I make up my mind to stay close to the square in a cheap hotel .
I Sunday, 5 September, 2010
My alarm goes off at 6.30, I shower, make my way down stairs, grab a couple of croissants and wait for my tour bus. I am picked up by a taxi at 7.00am and taken to the square where there are 14 additional adventurers. I of course am over 30 years older than my fellow travelers. There are two single seats on the bus, and I firmly ensconce myself in one of them. Our driver, has a number of CD's, most of which can only be described as rubbish and it's a hard 3 hours of Celine Dion as we head into the mountains and the Algerian Border. Our first major stop is an Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO World heritage site and the setting for movies such as Gladiator, The Mummy and Lawrence of Arabia. It seems this town has a population of 28 families and was originally on the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Still,
if these walls start to fall down you just mix camel dung with straw and re-plaster.
Our next major stop, other than for a potty stop, is Dades Gorges, no not “Dead Gorgeous” which is one of the lines from an Aussie in our contingent. The rock formations are very unique and I can only hope that my photo's do them justice. Arrival at our hotel is around 6.pm and I recon we have had 8 hours of driving to get here. We have all pretty much introduced ourselves and I hang out with a group of four Australians and an English Guy. Everyone on the bus turns out to be fun and I find them all to be really great bunch of young people. I thoroughly enjoyed their company.
We have dinner together and then head to our very basic sleeping accommodations for a night of rest. I can't complain as I have a room to myself with a shower and toilet. Monday, 6 September, 2010
Breakfast is at 7.00 and Mohammed, our guide, bangs the horn at 8.00pm to board the bus. We're off to Todra Gorge (See pictures). Then it's back on the
Performers in the Square
Note the Chicken on his head.
bus and off to another town to see the old Jewish Quarter and a carpet factory. Of course, the Jews have all left and it's now inhabited by Berbers, but we follow our guide and end up at the carpet factory. Two young English girls show interest in a carpet and this is my cue to exit. They later turn up with small carpets under their arms. Unfortunately, one of them has second thoughts and tries to return it to the guide, who will not do it and charges her an extra 20 dirhams for causing trouble.
Back on the bus and another four hour drive to the dessert. We're introduced to our camels and then take a 1 ½ hour treck to the dessert camp. I'm in a caravan of two with an Aussie called Nathen and we streak ahead of the remaining caravan. Unfortunately, darkness descends, we dismount and we trudge the last Kilometer through the sand . I'm in luck and after ½ Kilometer I get picked up along with a couple of the English girls in a 4X4.
It's a warm night, we have dinner of rice and onion stew. The Berbers break out
My Scarf for the Desert
Supposedly, all natural dyes.
the drums, castanets and a guitar like instrument. Yes, it's a Berber version of “Cream” and a bunch of fun. Then out come carpets, mattresses, blankets and we're asleep under the dessert stars. Tuesday, 7 September, 2010
I'm awakened at 5.30 by clapping, and told that it's breakfast and off. Back on my trusty camel with my cohort, Nathen. We blaze a trail that the remaining train follows. Back through the sands as the sun rises. We arrive at our embarkation spot, immediately run for the toilets, and download. It's good to be first in a clean toilet.
It's final picture time with our camels and then it's the bus for an eight hour drive back to Marrakech. We're all friends on the bus now and I must say that they were all fine young people.
I paid the princely sum of 900 dirhrams (90 euro) for the dessert experience and it was the best 900 dirhrams that I spent in Morocco.
I find a hotel for the night with shower and bathroom, just of the square, have dinner at one of the open air restaurants and then retire for a good night's sleep. Wednesday, 8 September, 2010
I find a new hotel “Fantasia” for my final evening, and bonus it has WiFi, I even get to talk to Caroline later that night. The new hotel is more of a Riad, but still quite basic, however I manage to get a room with a shower for 200 dirhams. I walk the Souqs taking pictures and then build up to a Hamman (a Moroccan bathhouse and massage). Supposedly, this is a must experience when in Marrakech, however I get more than I bargained for. Yes, it is an experience and starts with a shower, followed by your body being soaped with an oily soap. After this, it's the steam-room and then back in the shower, before getting exfoliated with a rough hand-cloth. It climaxes with a 35 minute oil massage and all while wearing only a loin cloth. Then, just when I think its all over, the male masseuse offers to take me to the WC for oral sex. Needless to say, I just gave him 30 dirhams and dressed very quickly....
In the early evening I sit in one of the restaurants having a fanta while watching the square unfold. Snake charmers, acrobats,
I'm Taking these Home For Dinner
AT least six chooks hanging from the handlebars.
fortune tellers, story tellers and guys with monkeys all wanting dihrams for photographs. While the stalls for food are erected and BBQ's set-up for the evening trade. Afterward, I walk the square and run into my new Aussie friends, Brendan and Nathan, as well as an Argentinian girl that had been on the Sahara bus. I have taken a number of photo's and promise to publish them on facebook or to email them.
Because it is my final night I have decided to treat myself to a major Moroccan meal and I am not disapointed, there's entertainment, although out comes the Marrakech hand for dihrams. It's worth the 300 dirhram for the food and three beers.
I retire to the Riad for a very hot and uncomfortable nights sleep. Thursday, 9 September, 2010
I take my final photo's, do some bargaining, but don't get the prices that I want, so I leave with my bag pretty much the same weight that it came in. My taxi to the airport costs me ½ of what I paid on arrival.
I'm ready to leave Marrakech and if I was staying in Morocco I would move on
Movie Mecca, Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Mummy and so on.
to the coast or to Fez. Still it has been an experience and even though I find the Moroccans a little aggressive and impolite by Western standards, I realize that this is their culture. And, I would come back, but a 3 day Marrakech experience is more than enough. However, I would go to the Sahara again and I would like to go to Fez and to the coast.
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