Monday, August 09, 2010

Day 55: Marrakech

"Didja know we're riding on the Marrakech Express..."

Well, we didn't get to take the Marrakech Express (probably a good thing, I've already heard about some interesting times on the Moroccan railway system), but did get to enjoy a 3.5 hour bus ride from Casablanca to Morocco.  I think it's safe to say that we hit the climax of insane traffic in Egypt, but it's still pretty wild here.  During the trip we got some standard Morocco info from the guide and made the obligatory gas station pit stop.  I often wonder how the owners of these little shops in the middle of nowhere feel about being bombarded with rabid tourists every few hours.  Despite how annoying we can be, I'm sure we provide some good income.

Upon arrival in Marrakech (among the impoverished desert villages and groves of palm trees) we stopped at the Majorelle Gardens for a little while.  I don't think it was originally part of the trip but I'm glad we made the stop.  Marrakech as a whole can be described as kind of hot, dirty and crowded but the gardens were the exact opposite.  There was quite a bit of really beautiful desert landscaping in a very tranquil atmosphere.  It was another view or Morocco and very nice to visit.  After departing we drove by the original adobe city walls (with their famous 7 gates) we stopped for a visit at the Bahia Palace.  The palace used to be home to top ranking appointed leader for Morocco when Marrakech was the capitol (the historical name escapes me at the moment and I can't decipher my'll be nice to get real internet back in a little over a week).  The building is a great example of Moorish architecture with some gorgeous plaster work and fine mosaics.  Each room has a unique ceiling design and mosaic floor.  We walked through the gardens and each of the four wings before continuing to the Dar Si Said Palace.  The palace is not in great condition and was converted into a museum.  A quick walk though revealed quite a few Berber and Arab antiquities. 

Following the museum, we walked to a restaurant close by for lunch.  As usual for these trips, it was a set menu so I was really excited to try some authentic cous-cous.   It came on a giant platter for our table (thankfully we had silverware and didn't have to "authentically" eat by hand) and was unlike any other cous-cous I've had before with lots of whole veggies, tender beef, and an interesting sweet sauce.  It was excellent, quite delicious.  After lunch we had a few hours of free time in the Medina.  The hundreds of shops give it a very Turkey/Egypt bazaar feel but the salespeople weren't nearly as aggressive.  It's been hard to find decent pens in the last few countries but I think I came up with a few.  Other than that, the shopping wasn't too useful for me since I have no need for fake leather or a tarjine.  We ended the day by winding up at the Jemaa el Fna Square.  When you think Morocco, this is the image that probably come to mind.  There were all kinds of people with monkeys, snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers, and so on.  It was pretty crazy.  It was fun, but I have to admit that the experience would have been a lot better had it not been so "stressful."  We didn't stay in the square too long because every time you turn around somebody is handing you an anesthetized snake or a monkey is jumping onto your shoulders.  These would both be fine with me if there weren't 4 Moroccan men surrounding you asking for photos and money at the same time.  We got out relatively unscathed; Daniel had to pay a little over a dollar for a decent monkey picture.  The game plan then turned to taking covert pictures of the activity from a distance (thank you 10x zoom), some of which turned out surprisingly well. 

After our excitement in the square we boarded the bus for the trip back to the ship.  As always, the three hours seems to go much longer when it's dark and you're tired/hungry.  We got some dinner back on the ship, did a little planning for the next day and called it a night.


Peg Ryan said... love of snakes (yeah right), I would freak out if one landed on my shoulder! Monkeys, I can handle....what an adventure!

Anonymous said...

My skin is crawling since I read about your snake encounters! You will have to pre-warm me if you captured any of the slimy foes in your pictures!
Love, Weezie