Manic Marrakech

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February 27th 2011
Published: March 15th 2011
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We had a lot of sightseeing to pack in today, so we got up fairly early and had breakfast on the terrace. We were overtaken by honeybees! We sat by the roses and when they brought out the orange marmalade, the bees just kept coming! Finally we got up and moved and left them happily slurping away in the marmalade. We survived breakfast without getting stung and decided our first stop would be the Bahia Palace (10 MAD). It took Morocco's top artisans 14 years to build starting in 1860 and later on it was further embellished. Many of the ceilings have inlaid wood. Much of the palace is closed, but at 10 MAD it is worth a visit and is pretty impressive. We went the wrong way in the beginning because there were quite a few tour groups in our way, but we were stopped by a security guard when we reached the haram. So we retraced our steps and toured the first part going in the correct direction, and then we ran into the same securtiy guy when we popped out into the haram. He looked at Enis like he'd grown a second head. I don't know why, but the look on his face was hilarious and we could not stop laughing for a long time. It was so funny, I forgot for a moment that I had footed the bill for this entire trip and lent Enis, my carpet dealer Kurdish boyfriend, a lot of money to buy carpets in Morocco. I forgot for a moment just how difficult it was going to be to get that money back. This palace is a beautiful palace and was a great start to our day.

When we left it was easy to find our way to the Dar Si Said Museum. It was a former palace but now houses Moroccan handicraft displays, both old and more recent, and it was also 10 MAD to enter. There is no English explanation - written or spoken - only Arabic and French, which to be honest, I really could not figure out. Do the Moroccans think the only tourists worthy of their attention are the French? Is it really so surprising that some tourists DON'T speak French? They seemed constantly surprised by this and it got pretty tiring, I must say. But, this museum is interesting and the architecture is as interesting as the exhibits.

For some reason, we were pretty tired today so we wandered over the Koutoubia Mosque to have a sit-down. I thought maybe Enis could go inside since only Muslims are allowed, but we couldn't find an open door anywhere. After taking a rest, we walked to the Saadian Tombs (10 MAD). Also worth a visit. The Sultan who is buried here didn't want to be lonely or unprotected, so he buried 170 chancellors and wives with him! They weren't ready to die yet, but that didn't matter. And while he and his mother have quite posh mausoleums, everyone else just has a slab of stone out in the courtyard, not even protected from the sun. I guess it doesn't matter since they're already dead.

After our visit to the tombs we were really tired and it was hot, so we went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and relax. Then we had a wander around the medina and bought some ceramics we had seen the night before. We now had three ceramic pieces to get back to Selcuk, Turkey without breaking them. We went to a terrace restaurant for coffee and then took our loot back to the room, walked around the Djemma El Fna and had dinner, and then we were done. Enough of the crowds and the noise and the beggars. We were off to bed. We had an early start to Casablanca tomorrow.

Our drive to Casablanca was uneventful and once we arrived, we arranged to meet Mr. Ahmed at the bus station to pick up our purchases from him. We were early and he was late (not his fault) so we found a local restaurant that was cheap and had chicken sandwiches, salad, and fries and a coke for lunch for about 6 dollars. We were so full after all that food! We got charged 30 MAD for parking our car on the street for less than an hour. They had put a boot on the front tire! Unbelievable! So the asshole that put it there unlocked it after we finally understood how much money he wanted because, yet again, he wouldn't speak a damn word of English and couldn't be bothered to write it down. I said a few choice words to him that would either totally shame or totally crack up my father, and we found the bus station after asking directions 15 times. We still had over an hour to wait, so we went to a cafe that looked decent, but when I went to the toilet I almost decided not to stay there. It was appalling. Finally Mr. Ahmed came with the poofs that Enis custom designed and Mr. Ahmed's tailors custom made. They were beautiful. And excellent quality. And I had no idea how we would get the 12 of them home along with all the other stuff we bought. Enis wasn't worried though. He could only think about business. Instead of visiting the famous mosque in Casablanca, the only sight really worth seeing, we sat at a crap cafe all day so Enis the carpet dealer, once again, could do business. I was starting to think about all the time we had spent on Enis' carpet business on this trip, and I realized that he was actually going to make a profit while I had spent a lot of money so we could both have a nice holiday! Hmmm. What's wrong with this picture?

When we left Mr. Ahmed, we drove straight to the airport to return our somewhat temperamental car and the guy we rented it from, also named Ahmed, drove us to the Atlas Airport Hotel. We did not make a reservation, so they charged us 872 MAD for one night!!! Robbery!!! He robbed me anyway. I was the one paying, after all. Yes, I was still thinking about that fact that Enis was going to make money on all the stuff he bought here. At any rate, for that price, we were thinking this room better be nice. It wasn't. The furnishings were old, there were no towels and no rubbish bin, and the bathroom was not up to my cleanliness standards, but it was passable, but not 87 euros worth of passable! I was furious! And the staff, while they did speak English, clearly didn't like to and they were the snottiest, rudest, most arrogant Moroccan men we had encountered so far. We had to wait one hour for our room, which made no sense given that it was 7:00 at night. So we sat in the lobby and no one, no one offered us tea or water. In Turkey, we would've been offered numerous cups of tea if that happened, and probably a snack as well. At no charge. I had to call three times for towels, and the last time I called the guy at the desk said, 'He brought them to the room.' So I said, 'Well did he hide them in your ass because they are not in this room!' So when the poor housekeeping guy finally brought them, he only brought one!!!!!!!! He got an earful and it still took him another 20 minutes to bring another one. And the restaurants are both overpriced, just average food, and we had to ask for our water to be served before our meal instead of with it. Everyone else got their drinks before their meal but we had to ask.

Do not, do not, do not stay at Atlas Airport Hotel if you can absolutely avoid it. It is such a rip off and really left a bad taste in our mouth the next morning when we took their shuttle to the airport. Our flight reservation said we needed to go to Terminal 3. I already wrote this story in my previous entry entitled 'You're Turkish? Baksheesh? Baksheesh?' and I simply don't have the energy to write it again. Just trust me when I say if you fly Royal Air Morocco make sure you double check which terminal you are leaving from and don't trust what your eticket says.

So we're finally at the airport, without having paid any baksheesh, and are waiting to board the plane. If we make it to Istanbul in one piece, I will never again take Turkish hospitality and the more than occasional impracticality of it for granted. The LP says Morocco is one of the most hospitable countries in the world. Sorry LP. I think you got that one wrong. Maybe if you're French, it is. But we are not and it was not.

So to Morocco I say goodbye, not see you later, because I hope I don't.

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