We spent 2 more days in Marrakech.
Day 2 was spent going to the souks (the markets), Bahia Palace, (what we thought was) Jemaa El-Fnaa square, & Jardin Majorelle.
That’s a lot to take in in one day!
Our riad provided breakfast every day upstairs in a lovely lounge area – however, it was all different types of breads. I can only eat so much of that first thing in the morning before I feel a little sick. I had a little rolled pancake type thing with some jam & some fresh watermelon along with a fresh squeezed orange juice. The employees at the riad told us that it gets pretty damn hot (not in those words) during the days & that we should venture out in the mornings, return to the riad during midday to relax & lounge, then venture out again later in the day – of course, we did not do that. Every day in Marrakech was over 100 degrees with not a cloud in sight…wear your sunscreen & drink your *bottled* water.
We left & strolled into the souks & as I was trying to take photos of some of the lovelier shops that we were seeing, I got roped into a pottery shop with the promise of “it’s air-conditioned!” Sir, a desk fan does not constitute air conditioning but I appreciate your enthusiasm. I went to snap a photo of one of the spice stalls & the owner got me to go in there too. Next thing I know I have spent $400 dirham (about $40 USD) on spices. However, that Moroccan 35 spice really got me! It smelled amazing. I actually haven’t even unpacked it from my bags yet & I’ve been back for ,like, 2 weeks now. I bought the 35 spice, saffron, & argan oil from that guy.
“Here! Smell this! Very nice!” – shop owner
“Did…this…come from an animal or anything?” – me
“You like my shop? Come in! See my shop! It’s air conditioned! See? Air conditioning!” – shop owner as he points to a small fan on a shelf
“Madame this is not hashis, it is tea. Just drink it” – shop owner
“This? This is eucalyptus. It looks like crystal meth” – shop owner
We wandered around a little while longer & decided to visit the Bahia Palace. I want to say it was about $20 USD or $25 USD to get in but I can’t remember really. It was beautiful inside ,however, all the rooms were empty so we took a lot of photos of the tile work, the archways, the courtyards, etc. Walking through Bahia Palace was nice though because it was shaded & kept you from getting pounded by the sun for a little bit.
Upon leaving the Palace, we went into a shop selling tours to the Sahara Desert as well as other places. We purchased one for the Ourika Valley, Berber Village, & Atlas Mountains for $250 dirham (or $25 USD) – they would pick us up the next morning at 9 AM at our riad & we would get back at 5-5:30 PM.
We stopped & had lunch at a rooftop spot – I ordered a tomato & sausage (albeit, not pork sausage because again, Muslim country so I’m actually not sure what kind of sausage it was) tagine. Lindsey ordered “Moroccan Salad” – she asked what was in the salad and they told her it had 7 different things in it. When they brought it out, it was 7 individual little bowls of different Moroccan salads! They bring her this BIG platter with all these little bowls on them & we were looking at it like “…huh?” and as she tried them, we realize, these are not meant to be mixed into a salad. They are individual salads. One was ,literally, a bowl of caramelized onions & raisins. One was muddled cucumber with mint. It had the texture of jelly & was very sweet. A couple of them were pretty decent (I liked the green bean salad) but most of them were a miss. It was a strange lunch. My tagine was pretty good though – I liked the tomato sauce with bread. And don’t forget our usual fresh pressed juices!
We wondered into a large town square. At this point, it was very hot out! I was wearing little black Vans (that sort of look like Keds or Converse) & maybe because they’re rubber based or something, but I could feel the heat from the pavement radiating through my shoes. The bottoms of my feet were getting uncomfortably warm! I decided to start walking only in shaded areas…as I do so, I go underneath this one tent & -BAM- music started to play! I look over to see what I’ve strolled into & I there I see – a fucking COBRA about 4 feet from me. I jumped out of my skin & back into the sunlight, hot feet be damned! I shouted to Lindsey “HOLY SHIT DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?! THERE’S A FREAKIN’ COBRA OVER THERE!” & in my head I feel like I remember saying “We gotta get the hell out of here!” but I’m not sure if I said that or just thought it! She turned around to see it & had her phone prepared for a video as the cobra was moving around, doing it’s thing. A man walked over shaking a hat at us like it was a bowl & asked for money for taking pictures of his snake. Lindsey said “I didn’t take a picture of your snake!” & we started to walk off when another man came up & tried to hoist his MONKEY on us for pictures & cash. We got out of there quickly!
Across the street from that particular square was the Koutoubia Mosque. As non-Muslims, we are not allowed inside the mosque so I wasn’t too worried about seeing it up close. There is only one mosque that allows tours & it is in Casablanca. Lindsey wanted to see it up close & my feet were burning so I stayed off to the side while she went up closer for pictures. This square was not my favorite – the people were pushy, it smelled of horse shit, & there were too many animals out there that look mistreated & malnourished. There were tons of horse drawn carriages lined up to take people for rides – those horses broke my heart. Most of them were very thin & had their ribs sticking out or their hip bones jutted out. They all looked exhausted, heads hung down & eyes closed. I saw one that had swarms of flies clung to it’s face. I would never make those poor horse’s days worse by making it pull me around. I couldn’t wait to leave that square.
So we did – we caught a cab & went to Jardin Majorelle which is a beautiful garden. It is next to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent. As someone who used to be pretty into fashion, I wouldn’t have minded going into the YSL museum but I actually had read some reviews saying that you don’t get to see his home & that the gardens are the real draw – they really were so beautiful! They did have a few YSL things that you could look at (some of his art, mainly) but I enjoyed the plants & the fountains outside.
As we were getting in our cab to leave & go back to our riad, we watched 2 other cabs slam into each other! I said “noooo!” and our driver looked at me & said “no big deal!” and the 2 wrecked cabs ,literally, pulled away from each other and drove off. Morocco is wild y’all! We went back to the riad for our daily cold showers (I never once took a hot shower in Morocco) & decided on what to do for dinner. We took one of the riad employees’ suggestion & walked to a place called DarDar Rooftop. It was such a pretty little space! Inside & out! And it was the one place that we drank alcohol while there…Lindsey had a glass of wine & I had a frose’ – frozen rose’…which was very good. I never drink frozen drinks but I had not stopped sweating since arriving into Marrakech so I thought maybe something frozen would be a good idea! The drinks & our appetizer were very tasty & the setting couldn’t be beat but our entrees ,once again, totally missed the mark. We were striking out in the food department left & right!
Back at the riad, we decided since it felt nice out, that maybe we would sleep with our windows open to help keep the room cool since air conditioning alone certainly wasn’t doing it. As we were laying down, we heard some of the stray cats (which are everywhere, by the way) out in the courtyard fighting. It sounded really bad listening to them growl & hiss & finally we heard one of the staff come “shoo!” them away…we laid down again & I heard Lindsey say “what if one of those damn cats crawl through our window & we wake up with a cat in one of our beds?!” It was a chance we were willing to take – sleeping with the window open actually did help that night!
The next morning we were up early & ready for our tour. More breads & juices for breakfast & while about 40 minutes late, our driver did show up to pick us up. We drove to a local gas station where he had us leave the van we were in & get in another van with a different guy. Oh Lord, here we go! There were 5 other people in the van – 2 French girls & 3 Italian guys. We began the drive to the Atlas Mountains. We drove for an hour & possibly more before our first stop – on the side of the road to visit with some camels. They were very sweet but we chose not to ride them or get on them because they also looked uncomfortable. Another 15 minute drive & we stopped at a women’s collective (I recently learned this term because I was unsure of what to call it) & we learned about women’s roles in Morocco & all about how to make argan oils & argan products. I absolutely loved our tour guide!
She gave us a brief tour of a traditional Moroccan kitchen & how they make traditional dishes such as couscous & tagine, then a more in detail walk through of making argan products. The women that were crushing the argan almonds & grinding them into pastes had Lindsey & I come sit with them for photos before we moved onto sampling the products. We tried ,like, 10 oils plus 3 ways to consume argan. I managed to spend $58 USD on argan products & black soap there! (In my defense, Lindsey spent more) – I felt better supporting them than anyone else. Women in Marrakech are not allowed to work – Marrakech City? Yes. Old Marrakech, no. While Lindsey & I were in the shop trying the products, our guide had us try what she called the “magic lipstick” – it changes colors based on your body heat, chemistry, etc. It’s a totally different color on everyone & she said that men will often try it as well when they have a new bride to see if their colors are similar – the more similar, the more chemistry, the more babies she’ll have. Oh, and the darker the color, the more fertile you are. She swabbed it on our wrists – I felt like mine was pretty lightly colored & Lindsey’s definitely was. She said “So you see…I have a darker shade & yours -“ I cut her off and said “Ours is both light!” and she responded to me with “Oh no! Your’s is darker!” and as someone who does not want children, I wiped that lipstick off of me with a quickness & also said a silent thank you to Clinton for his vasectomy.
From here, we made our way to the village to begin our hike up a mountain to see (& I thought, swim in) a waterfall. I made it about…I don’t know, 10 minutes into it before I said “no thank you” & bowed out. I used to love to hike…when I was in shape. When my hip didn’t need ,yet another, replacement. When I didn’t walk with a very noticeable limp (love when people point that out to me). Now, I do much of anything strenuous & it feels like the muscles in my hip are stretching like a rubber band ready to snap. Sometimes it hurts so bad it makes me break a sweat. I was struggling almost immediately – the men who we paid for the tour from the day before said it was a very simple hike so I thought “okay fine, I can do it” – who knows? I didn’t finish. It may have been quite simple. Anyways, the guide set me up on this weird colorful couch in the mountains that was next to a juice stand & an argan shop (going up a mountain!) & honestly, I didn’t even mind. I did feel bad for Lindsey who said later that they would randomly stop & have time to take pictures & everyone was chatting amongst themselves, while she was the only one who spoke English in the group. THAT I felt bad about. I sat for a while before going into the shops & ordered a juice. After a while, my group came back down & we made our way back down the mountain.
They took us to lunch by the river. I don’t know the name of said river but I do know that it is the only source of water near Marrakech so tons of locals were swimming in it. Mostly men & children with the occasional woman dipping her feet in the water. At the restaurant we ate at, they escorted us down a hillside & to a place with lots of sofas & pillows so we could lay out by the water. We had a 3 course lunch for about $12 USD – I had a vegetable soup that was very good, a vegetarian couscous dish that wasn’t spectacular but was okay, & fruit salad for dessert. Some of the tables at the restaurant were actually positioned IN the water so you could kick your shoes off & cool off a bit! I thought that was so cool. They seated Lindsey & I with the French girls and moved the Italian guys from our group somewhere else. We didn’t see them again until it was time to leave.
It took a long time to make it back to Marrakech & I even looked in the back seat of the van (I was up front with the driver) at one point & saw that Lindsey had dozed off.
Back in Marakech, it was cold shower time & dinner. We had dinner at yet another beautiful rooftop called Kasbah Cafe – lamb & chicken kabobs, veggies, hummus, & of course, our beloved juices. On the way back to the riad that night, I tried FaceTiming my dad and he didn’t answer so I FaceTimed my mom & she got to see our walk back & it just so happened to be at the call for prayer! A couple times a day the city would play an announcement that would call people to prayer. I was prepared for that & always felt it was very cool to hear.
We had decided the next day to make our way to Rabat – the capital of Morocco. Rabat wasn’t our original plan but due to flights & scheduling, Rabat worked. It also helped that in the 60’s, Lindsey’s grandparents & her very young mother & aunt lived in Rabat, so we were going to see if their old home may still be standing!
And the story continues…