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Published: November 1st 2011
enjoy the market
Our last blog took you to the deserts and mountain towns in Morocco and now ----------- the Sounds, sights and smells of Marrakesh.
We approached the outskirts of town with great anticipation. We were approaching the famous city of Marrakesh, which has a deep history and is also home to our guide, Mustafa. We’ve traversed quite a few miles in these last days and the next stop would surely prove to be all that we hoped. We’re both sitting in the car with the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song playing in our heads…….”do you know we are riding on the Marrakesh express….they’re taking me to Marrakesh”. Actually that song has been playing in our heads for about three days and we are ready to give it a rest.
We’ve learned a few facts about Moroccan life that we would like to share with you.
Few Moroccan women drive and in Marrakesh we have seen increased numbers. Driving around the country you will encounter police check-points, you may be waved through or not. They are looking for drugs, illegal alcohol and anything nefarious. We asked Mustafa if trouble was encountered did they accept bribes to allow you to
pass—he said no, they are tips. Driving without a seat belt will cost you 4 points on your license and 400 dirhams. We’ve been told a speeding ticket is 8 points and 800 dirhams. In this country they have what they call “quick justice”. You can negotiate with the officer at the time of the infraction and be on your way. “Making new friends,” he said.
Marrakesh is the second-largest city in Morocco and home to a large city market that we’d heard about and longed to see. From the city, you can make out the Atlas Mountains, and we’re told you can see the snow-peaked caps during the winter months when the air is not so hazy.
We motored in from the countryside and almost immediately found ourselves in a lot of traffic, which we hadn’t experienced in several days having spent them in the desert. Cars, motorbikes, taxis, trucks, carts pulled by mules along with any number of other modes of transport were all competing position on the road. Sure, there were lines on the road, but they served as merely a suggestion, or rather just a line on the road with no apparent significance. This city
of over one million residents is bustling.
We like the feeling of Marrakesh, the city is alive and vibrant. We were surprised by the cleanliness of this town compared to other locations in Morocco. There is a sense of pride and caring.
Mustafa introduced us to our guide for the day, who was also named Mustafa. He kiddingly referred to him as Mustafa #2. We spent the better part of the day visiting gardens, a few palaces and the outside of two mosques, one of which was completed in the 12th century and was over 70 meters high, quite an architectural accomplishment back then.
There is a law in the city that forbids buildings from being more than one-half the height of the tallest mosque, so that it could always be seen from anywhere within the city, which is also possible as the city is quite flat. Non-muslims are not allowed inside the mosques (with the possible exception of the one in Casablanca) due to a law passed during the French occupation. Seems some soldiers wandered into a mosque with some alcohol….you can imagine that didn’t go over very well with the locals. As a result, our views of these
lovely structures were from the outside only.
MJ had longed for the sights and sounds of the souk (market) inside the medina (fortified city), as she knew they would reward her with numerous photos. We were not disappointed. The souk had it all, everything from traditional spices to footwear and everything in between. This was the Walmart superstore for the denizens of Marrakesh. If you could not find it here, you must not have looked very long.
Besides being cleaner than the souk in Fes, the streets of the souk in Marrakesh were wide enough for bicycles and motorbikes to traverse the area, and you constantly heard the riders beeping their little horns to warn you they were coming through. And they were not kidding and they darted in and out of the pedestrian traffic. They were quite skilled actually and posed no threat to us or anyone else during our meanderings.
We also spent some time in and around the square, which is a UNESCO designated site and is quite busy even though we were there during the off season. The square has some interesting trappings, including snake charmers, palm readers, monkeys who will hang on you, (take a
View of Mosque
beautiful palm lined streets
picture and fork over 10 dirhams) a crazy dude who smiles, spins his head so the tassel swings around from the top of his fez while clanging some rather large metal castinet-like things. Again, for a price you get your picture taken with this man whose neck muscles must either be very strong or he would probably fall down from dizziness after swinging his head around in such a fashion.
There was also a gent who sat behind a small table with teeth and what looked like some old dentures and partials. I made the mistake of telling Mustafa that my brother was a dentist (thank you, Bob) and the next thing you know, Dave is sitting on his little chair and this dude is attempting to put into his mouth what appears to be a rather ancient-looking extraction tool, all the while smiling and laughing as MJ took pictures. Dave was quite the unwilling subject for this foray. Dave all but bolted out of the chair after the picture was taken.
We would heartedly recommend that anyone visiting Morocco should spend time in Marrakesh to drink in the sights, smells and sounds of this city which is alive with
culture and history.
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