10 February 2018

Sat., Jan 27, 2018 - Marrakech

Marrakech, Morocco

What a city!  Tourist laden but for good reason and, oh, so cool!

We had to meet our tour group for the first time at 6:00 p.m. so had the day to wander.  We headed to the medina along one of the main modern boulevards, through clean spacious plazas surrounded by low rise, sophisticated condos, stores and government buildings.  A park full of interesting art installations was green, clean and cared for.  Culture shock!
We happened to be in Marrakech on the weekend of their marathon.  Could have been in Toronto...
except for the tea vendor.  Starbucks was down the street.

As bike fans, we liked this one.  Great way to recycle.  Note green lawns, lack of garbage caught in bushes.  There is money here to care for public spaces.

And then there was the wall of tits - as a former, sexual health educator, I prefer "breasts" but somehow it doesn't fit.  Very risqué in an Islam country where revealing knees and shoulders are frowned on by many.
Koutoubia Mosque.  Buildings in Morocco are not allowed to be taller than the local mosque  dating from the 12th century.

The mosque uses solar energy.  A city of contrasts - new sophistication side by side with ancient history.  Impressive!
In a matter of steps, we passed from elegant modern to colourful yesteryear crossing the chaotic  carnival in the main square, Djemao el Fna.  This time, we were there mid morning when the place was just starting to rock. Later in the day, especially in the evening, it is a mass of moving bodies - which we experienced on our return to Marrakech. Cobras were dancing to the snake charmers ear-irritating piping, men in incredibly colourful costumes who used to sell water were waiting for tourists to take their picture and then requiring dirhams, male storytellers standing on a carpet enticed large groups of people around them, and then there was music, food street vendors, carts of citrus fruits,  nuts and dried fruits, women waiting to anoint hands with henna.  As obvious tourists, we were swarmed if we showed any sign of interest, raised a camera or even made eye-contact.  We kept a steady pace while taking in as much as we dared.  Truly eye-popping!
Peter was able to covertly snap a pic of the snake charmer in yellow hat playing not so charming music for his cobra at the foot of the guy in the black djellaba.  As Peter walked by another guy slung two snakes around his neck!  Peter stayed calm but made it clear that he wasn't interested in posing with snakes for some dirhams.  Glad it wasn't me!
 From the square we entered the souk - a multitude of twisting, turning lanes the majority of which were lined with stores selling locally made shoes, bags, herbs and spices, rugs, jewelry, bread, fruits and veg, fish, meat, metal work, pottery, tassels -they blow in the wind and scare away the bad spirits.  And then there's a few of the usual souvenir stores.  To make it even more exciting, one always needed to be ready to hug the wall of the covered alleys for scooters, bikes, even small trucks whizzing by.  We wandered for hours, getting lost up blind residential alleys several times.  Young men wanted to lead us to their brothers' or cousins' shops, others asked us in to their shops "just to take a look" and have a cup of mint tea but we were happy to look from the outside.  Too early in our trip to buy.  It was truly amazing.
Just a bit of bread!  Bread or something similar is served with every meal.  All different shapes, sizes, consistencies and grains.  All fresh.  A large loaf is about a dime.

A cart of rugs heading to the rug souk.  Each of the major locally made items had their own labyrinth of alleys in a particular area.

These homemade toques in the hat area were great.  Wish I'd bought one.  
We had watched Jamie Oliver in Marrakech before leaving Monastir and so knew there were communal bread makers and tajine cookers around.  We kept seeing children and women carrying wooden boards of something covered with a cloth all quickly on the move.  They weren't trying to sell but seemed very purposeful and fast.  I spied one and followed around a couple of corners into the bread bakery.  There were loaves waiting to be baked and others being picked up from shelves by women and children.  Each was marked on the top with an identifying family dough mark.  Very cool!  
The baker welcomed us in to take a look.  The dough waiting to be baked were all wrapped in the household tea towels.  Communal bakery.  Great idea!

Agains, from Jamie we knew that people also cooked their tajine's in the hot ashes where some poor guy is stoking the fire to heat water for the local hammams or hot baths (more about that later - I've been to two in Monastir).  Mary, our cruising friend, spied a dark stairway.  We peaked down to see a man at the bottom of ash covered stairs. He was stoking the fire with wood chips for the water.  And around the corner, lo and behold, were two tajine pots cooking away.

This guy welcomed us to his basement furnace - what a job.

Apparently, this method of cooking lunch is popular with the bachelors is the medina.

He earned his dirhams.
Such a dynamic city.  We were leaving the next day but looking forward to ending the tour back in Marrakech.

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