Friday, May 8, 2009
And Now for Something Completely Different - Morocco
So after saying goodbye to our Javea friends, we packed up our stuff and headed to...Morocco. Hey, if we were going to break up the monotony and head out on the open road, this was certainly one way to do it! Our friends, the Andrews had travelled there in February and had such an amazing experience that we arranged a nearly identical trip, albeit with a few more days added on. After a bit of confusion at the Madrid hotel - where we reluctantly and anxiously opted to leave our computer and other valuables in the hotel storage closet - we had a surprisingly easy time getting to Marrakech, which turned out to be only 2 hrs away by plane. Our driver from the Riad (a typical Moroccan guest home) met us and began the seemingly impossible negotiation into the Medina, or old quarter of the city. Even with the luxury of a driver, it was quite a stressful experience, with people sharing equally the narrow roads - from bikes to motorcycles to walkers to big trucks - you name it. Cars were bumping up against bikes and people alike, and everyone seemed to take it all in stride. As we passed the Jema el Fna square, we saw monkeys and king cobras with their handlers. Everything was confusing and chaotic, yet exhilarating. Finally the car could not pass further and we were guided on foot out onto the streets with our bags towards the Riad. We passed through a dark, narrow alley that felt like a cave and passed through a small door no more than 3 feet tall, where we entered a beautiful, peaceful courtyard. We were greeted with sweet mint tea while we lounged on large couches with pillow cushions and were given an orientation to the city. The kids loved the courtyard - particularly the board games and feeding the two resident tortises who seemed to have the run of the place. After dropping off our stuff, we ventured out into the Souks of the Medina - the primary shopping/bartering region which is the ´nerve center´ of Marrakech. This is where things started to go downhill for us. We found ourselves disoriented and out of our element as people were calling us from all over, inviting us into their shops. Before I could practically turn around, Suzanne was off with the kids and they were all getting henna tatoos from two seemingly friendly ladies. ¨How much did you agree to?¨ I asked. Suzanne replied that she never discussed a price. Ouch!...this was not destined to end up very good. Of course, when all was finished they wanted 40 euros for their 90 seconds of “work” – not a very comfortable place to bargain now that services had been exchanged! We refused to pay what they were asking, and they started yelling at us angrily. After giving them more than they deserved, we kept wandering through the souks, albeit a bit flustered. The kids started to melt down, as they were up at 5 am to catch the flight here. We tried to head back for naps but quickly became lost. The locals were only too happy to help…for a fee of course! One man offered to help, only to lead us deep into a back alley in the souks to his store to try to sell us some blankets. Suzanne was getting freaked out about being cut off in a back alley without any people around, the kids were crying and we were clearly flustered. We turned around as fast as we could and found someone else to help us work our way through the maze of narrow crowded streets. We finally made it back to the Riad, only to be haggled with about the size of our tip! Everyone seemed to be trying to get money from us. After a much needed massage and nice full course dinner (with a wonderful lemon chicken tangine and bottle of Moroccan cabernet), things started looking up again. We were very much looking forward to the start of our guided itinerary tomorrow, and I was more than happy to let someone else take the reins for a while. Today certainly fit the bill as a memorable day in the annals of our “adventure” year.