Thursday, August 7, 2008

Magical Marrakesh

Words cannot describe my first impressions of Morocco. Vibrant, bustling, friendly are just some of the words that spring to mind. Marrakesh greeted me with a blistering 39 degrees but it actually isn't as hot as it sounds because there is such a sweet breeze that drifts by and really cools you down.

Marrakesh is the most amazing city and I have already had such a blast. I met a girl in London at the airport who is doing the same tour as me so we checked into our hotel and pretty much chucked our luggage in our rooms and disappeared in the hunt for food... We found this cute restaurant and sat on the balcony which overlooked the main street just before the souks. I had a lamb tangine which was very tasty! Tangine is a traditional Moroccan dish (I think it is also in Turkey too) which is cooked in a clay pot. The aim is that the pot is sealed so that the water from the top drips back into the dish making the meat really tender. It was really nice and as you can see in this cheesy photo, I am enjoying it!

We then decided to head into the souks which is basically just a term for MASSIVE market place! By the time we went it was dusk and there were people everywhere. They had games out where you had a fishing rod and a cap and had to try and pick up a bottle of coke to win... then there were muslim girls trying to sell us henna tattoos, young girls running up to us trying to sell us slippers. I was surprised at how well they took 'no' because after being in Egypt and being so hassled I was expecting them to be more pushy but they were okay.

There were nut stalls, dried fruit stalls, fresh orange juice stalls, sandal stalls, bag stalls, traditional Moroccan dress stalls, spice stalls, sunglasses stalls - you name it! They had a bit of everything. The best bit is everything is really cheap and it is so much fun haggling with them to make a sale.

I wish I could put this into a way which describes how amazing the city of Marrakesh is. Every person we have encountered so far has been extremely friendly and helpful. Sure, they are talking to us in the hopes that we will buy something, or become their sixth wife but hey, it's all in good fun and they know not to take things too seriously - much unlike Egypt. I actually felt quite safe walking around the souks although I probably wouldn't have liked walking around there at night so much if I'd been alone - although I still would have.

We got to hold a chameleon whose owner was selling spices in the souks. We took a few more cheesy photos and decided it was time for us to head back to the hotel and get some rest before tomorrow! We're planning on going swimming at the hotels pool in the morning and then heading back to the souks to check it out before our tour pre-departure meeting tomorrow night.

Our second day in Marrakesh was spent lazing about and taking things at our own pace. The city is really is vibrant and bustling but it comes alive at night more so than during the day. The Moroccans who are out and about during the day seem to be the ones who are aimed at the tourists and they chase you around offering you henna, photos with monkeys, photos with cobras, orange juices, etc. There was this one kid who came up to us trying to sell biscuits and he couldn't have been older than six. He was beautiful, I wanted to take him home with me. It makes me sad that children so young are subjected to haggling with tourists on the streets because their family needs the money. Compared to Egypt it is not as bad but still a complete culture shock.

Another thing that makes me really sad is the animals.. the poor horses are so thin and the donkeys even look sad. I swear I saw one look at me and then it brayed ' Simone, please save me' and I wanted to cry. In a way, the Moroccans can't help the way the animals are treated - it is a world of survival and it is either them or the animals. In your position, which would you choose to spend your money on? The animals are their income.

Moroccan roads are crazy. Less crazy than Egypt but still crazy. There don't appear to be any specific rules. Cars stay on their respective sides of the road but our taxi overtook other cars by going over the other side of the road when there were no cars there. Donkeys, horses and scooters are a common sight on all roads. It's normal to see a car giving way to a horse and cart or a scooter zipping in and out of traffic. The amount of times I've had to dodge getting hit by a scooter is laughable. It's so much fun though, I'm looking at the scooter trying to judge what it's going to do and they're looking at me trying to figure out where I'm going and in the end we do one of those left-right dances until I pretty much jump out of the way and it zooms around me (usually followed by a beep of the horn).

I am in love with this city. Nice to visit, nice to spend a few days in and I would love to come back and do some shopping but unfortunately my suitcase and budget both don't allow me to do this so I have to be content with many happy photo memories.

More to follow as my adventures continue!

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