Marrakesh for the first time

I’ve been putting off this post because I did not really like Marrakesh.  It was the first time I actually experienced cultural shock.  Going to Morocco had always been my dream.  I thought it would be an exotic land of a 1001 Arabian nights.  It wasn’t and I had a really hard time there.

Marrakesh is a constant attack on all your senses.  It is busy, loud, dirty and in your face.   The merchants and beggars so aggressive and won’t take no for an answer. You are almost dragged into a shop because you glanced that way.  And haggling is taken to new heights.  I thought it would be like my beloved Turkey, but it wasn’t.  And maybe the reason I didn’t like it so much was that I was comparing it.

We had a driver pick us up at the airport.  Rashid became the face of Morocco to us.  He was so nice, kind and patient.  He took us to our hotel, which would have been impossible to find without a driver. So many twists and turns in a labyrinth.

We stayed at a small riad just by Saadian tombs, just outside the Medina.  It had such lovely decor.  That is one thing I did love about Morocco, all the beautiful home decor items at such good prices.

My daughter jumped right into all the shopping the Medina offered.  It truly is fun seeing all the wares and trying to figure out a fair price.  She wanted to pay whatever they asked but I am far more savvy and got everything for about half of the asking price.  But then you always wonder what is a fair price anyways.

One amusing thing was that if we just stayed quiet, the merchants couldn’t figure out what we were.  That gave us the freedom to slip by them.  First they thought I was Moroccan and would speak in Arabic, then Italian and since it appears that Italian is the one language they don’t speak they’d leave us alone.  So if you are trying to escape the many merchants grasps, just stay quiet and make them wonder what language they should be speaking to you.  This happens to me a lot, maybe because I have enough Arabic, Italian, and Portuguese blood in me to look like a bit of everything.

I think Morocco is one of those places that you truly need a guide.  I wish I had hired one for Marrakesh.  We went to see the palaces.

Bahia Palace is beautiful.  It is what you think of when you think Morocco.  Beautiful tiles, courtyards, fountains.  Each wife or concubine would be assigned a room.  The size and location of the room determined her importance.  (I forgot to charge my camera and my daughter would only let me take pictures of her).

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El Badi Palace was perhaps my favorite place.  I love visiting ruins.  It makes me sad to see how conquerors treated their conquered and destroyed their cities, palaces and monuments.  It reminds me that history truly was written in blood by the conquerors and the ruins are what is left of those who lost.  In this palace there is a short film showing what this complex looked like.  It still is expansive and you can imagine very easily how beautiful it must have been.  There are stork nests all around the walls.  They are fun to watch.

Saadian Tombs were right by our hotel.  I am so glad we stop by this site.  It was so beautiful, reverent and peaceful.  It was one of the few sites of the Saadian dynasty that was left intact.   It is perhaps the only place we can see their wealth and power.  I think it was because of respect to the dead that we still have it.

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Of course the part of Marrakesh that you simply cannot avoid is Jemaa el-Fnaa.  I wonder if all roads lead there?  It seems like it.

What is the best way to describe this square: humanity.  You have a snapshot of what all kinds of people, from all over the place, doing all kinds of things in one place.  It is crazy.  It is fun.  It is dangerous.  It is magnetic.  We went there every day and every night.

There will be people begging, and trying to sell you things.  There will be foods and animals, henna tattoo artists, snakes, sellers, families, pick-pockets, and people trying to guide you.  Our favorite part was the super cheap and extremely good orange juice carts.  We had all they had to offer: orange, grapefruit, lemon and mixed.  They were all great.  Beware that the lemon juice is just that, with some sugar added.  It will be an extreme boost of vitamin c to your system.  And if you happened to be coming down with something, it will kill it along with your taste buds.  But I liked it, a lot.

We also tried a cactus fruit.  There are several fruit sellers on the street.  It was good but unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  It has the consistency of mango (without the hair) and the taste is a mix between mango, guava, banana and a couple other things.  There also are several carts selling pomegranates, dates, bananas, tangerines and so many other delicious fruits.

Our final site was Majorelle Garden.  It is beautiful!!! Can I paint my house that blue?  It is probably the most expensive attraction in all of Morocco but worth it.  I thought it was bigger than it really is.  It doesn’t take much time.  We took a taxi there from old town.  It was also probably the busiest place we went.

This is what we did in Marrakesh the first couple days we were there.  Stay tuned to find out about our trip to the Sahara Desert.  It was amazing.

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