Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Marrakech, a fiest for the senses!

Marrakech day 1: 

Welcome to the oasis! Marrakech, Morocco is by the Atlas Mountains (on the west side) and on the other side of the Atlas Mountains is the Sahara desert. Arriving, it was a beautiful 75 degrees and sunny. Believe it or not, the area has amazing fresh fruits and vegetables with a lot of vegetation. It really is an oasis in a desert climate!

Getting to our riad (The Moroccan version of a Bed and Breakfast) was interesting… the cars barely fit down the alley ways of the Medina (the old part of the city). The guides that picked us up at the airport weren’t even sure where our riad was, so we had to stop many times to get directions. Once we finally arrived, we had to stop about a block away because the car would not fit on the street with the riad (and it was a small vehicle). Everyone here has motor bikes for this reason… literally a bike with a motor- not what you would think of as a mopead. Although, you do see a few of those around. After dropping our luggage, we were offered mint tea- some of the best tea I’ve ever had! Amazing. It’s made with black tea, sugar and mint leaves- something we will definitely take home with us!!
We then left the riad and decided to make our way to the famous souks where all of the craziness happens. You literally get lost in there! It seems like something straight out of Indiana Jones. Walking through the souks we were bombarded with people trying to sell us things, "For you my friend, I give good price!". We ended up purchasing a beautiful jewelry box made of juniper roots with inlaid mother of pearl from the little shop shown here. This was after many stops at wood shops and learning about the boxes. We also talked to a “chemist” that told us that the people here are very suspicious and are worried about their eyes. His shop was by the old slaves market (now a wool market)- they used to buy and sell slaves at that location. He told us that the people of Morocco have many things that protect against bad vision. They also keep things such as scorpions to ward off black magic. They do “white magic” here, only for good. They are into natural products like lavender, patchouli, and sandalwood for perfumes. He kept a small little chameleon as a pet, they let me hold it and take pictures with it. He also said that they use crystals for after shave (what looked like quartz). They make a lot of wood products here, as well as scarves, sandals, lanterns, spices and anything you can possibly imagine. There is fresh squeezed orange juice in the main square (Djimaa El Fna) that is amazing! It helped me to kick the nasty cold that I caught after arriving to Milan. The Souks really are a feist for the senses! There are people everywhere, shops as far as the eye can see, and smells (some good... some bad!). It's so much fun!! The first day it was energizing... After that it was exhausting!

After some shopping, we went back to the main square shortly before dusk and got sniped by some snake charmers. They roped Josh in and put a snake on his shoulders, before we knew it the guy had our camera and was taking pictures of Josh and me with snakes and a king cobra on the ground in front of us ready to strike!! After that, a henna lady came up and asked if I wanted henna. I said no, but then she promised a good baby out of the deal, a free picture… and before I knew it I had henna all over my wrist! Again, we got sniped! Of course every time this happens they want money, so we learned very quickly to ignore those people and keep walking! Run- the henna ladies are coming!!

By day it is an open square with snake charmers and ladies doing henna, and what looks like a large open parking lot, but at night it turns into a festival of craziness where there are many food vendors wanting you to eat their food, and people spinning lighted things high into the air. There is music, thousands of people, and just a general energy about the square at night. There are men driving their motor bikes with girls on the back, and it seems that all of the locals descend on the square for story time and socializing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced! So far, I’m in love with Marrakech and am looking forward to spending more time in the city and soaking up with craziness!!

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