Sunday, 28 October 2007
Les Dossiers des Marrakech - Day 2
Excuse me while i wipe away the blood and sweat from my computer screen and press the 'publish post' button. Below is the account of my second day in Marrakech last month. I got there in the end!!
Sight seeing on Day Two got off to a slow start. This is because something arose back home which needed to be sorted out ASAP and although my mobile phone had registered itself automatically on to one of the local networks, i was somehow still unable to make calls.
I got up quite early determined to find Place Jemaa el Fna, having been thwarted by pesky Mustafa the previous night. I begin my stroll through the fairly quiet streets of Gueliz, using the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque as my marker. Apparently the square is north of the Koutoubia Mosque.
After about a half an hours walk, i get to the Mosque and subsequently the Square. It's virtually deserted at this hour, save for the numerous Cafes dotted along the perimeter. In between making phonecalls home, leaving sufficient time for the chinese whispers to filter down the line and calling back for updates, i read for a while in a cafe sipping espresso, then i take a walk through the Souqs (markets). Think the outdoor part of Tejuosho market. The Souqs are usually arranged according to, and known by the name of whatever goods are being sold e.g. fabric, jewellery, leather goods, spices etc. The traders are very friendly. Again, think Tejuosho market traders. Plus, i'm a bit of a novelty. They call out greetings to me in French, Spanish, and English and i respond in English of course, my French being atrocious. Someone invites me to have a look at his stall, offering 'ASDA price'. I found that quite amusing...
Still reeling from my Day 1 experience, i resist the urge to buy anything, or indeed even price any goods. I do manage to buy some spices from a stall with the prices clearly displayed.
Crisis back home averted, i now face the business of the day - sightseeing. Yippee!!! I purchase a ticket and jump on the Hop-on-hop-off bus and off we go. My first stop off is at the Jardin Majorelle, set up by French painter , Jacques Majorelle in 1919, and now owned by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. The garden is not a big as i thought it would be and is packed full of tourists. Apart from that its nice and cool due to the greenery (trees and plants from all 5 continents) and the rich vibrant colours of the buildings and flower pots, and the gentle singing of the tropical birds are all très hypnotisant
Next stop, the Menara Gardens. By this time, the unrelenting heat and burning sunshine has begun to get to me. I'm also conscious of the fact that Mustafa will be turning up at the Hotel at 5pm. I take quick walk around and take some pictures. As i turn to leave, a guy comes up to me and strikes up a conversation. His name is Yousef, he's Moroccan but lives in Paris and every year he comes home to pass the month of Ramadan with his family. According to him, Paris presents too many distractions. We chat for a while and he tells me of how he had travelled home by boat and how it had taken 26 days! On further thought i realise he must have said 6 days. I have to leave to catch my bus and we arrange to meet up at Cafe France in Place Jemaa el Fna at 9pm that night. Or rather, he suggests it and i say i'll see what i can do.
Next stop, the Kasbah Mosque. This is where things get a little bit confusing. My real target is the Saadian Tombs, but i can't seem to find them. I won't bore you with the details of my search, though. However, i do get accosted by a so called 'guide' and whilst i insist on not boring with the details, can i just suggest to you that if you travel to Morocco or indeed any North African country, do not get carried away by the accounts you might have heard about the friendliness of the people, so that you are lulled into a false sense of security by random people offering to show you the way or give you directions, because, THEY WILL DEMAND PAYMENT!!! I had such an encounter and ended up giving the guy (couldn't be older than 13!) a 20 dirham note, after which he proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that that was the equivalent of £1 and i should give him more! I told him to bugger off, as we probably spoke for less than 5 minutes, which consisted of him giving me dodgy directions i.e. directing me to the women's entrance to the Kasbah Mosque, while clearly pointing me away from the mosque and down some obscure alley way. Needless to say, i didn't follow his directions!
Anyway, it's about 6pm now and i head back to the hotel for a short rest. As i pay the taxi driver, Mustafa rolls up on his scooter. He had come earlier, only to meet my absence. Tough! I pay him and he invites me to come and have dinner with his family. I politely decline.
I rest for a while, and then i head back to Jemaa-el-Fna for my rendevous with Yousef. Once i get to the Square, i remember i'd seen an imitation Gucci travelling bag while sight-seeing in the Souqs earlier in the day, and i decide to go and pick it up in order to fit my ever-increasing luggage in for the journey home. I then get distracted by the enticing aromas emanating from the several food stalls where both locals and tourists gather to chow down on the local cuisine, and i decide to have something to eat.
Delicious! My only regret was ordering snails. Instead of the Naija style Igbin (what was i thinking!), tossed in a spicy, peppery stew, i got tiny little tachere things that had the tentacles on, and tasted as if they'd been boiled in salt and water, period! I wasn't impresssed, needless to say. Oh, and i also had the opportunity to meet the Moroccan (self-proclaimed) Jamie Oliver.
Dinner over and Jamie Oliver gives me directions to Cafe France, my rendevous spot. I make it to the roof-top terrace at about 10:15pm, over an hour late, and i find that Yousef had either not turned up or had turned up, got tired of waiting for me and left. Ah well! I grab a seat and watch the world go by for a while in the Square down below. Then i go back to the Hotel to get some sleep, ready for my trip into the Ourika Valley the next day.
End of Day 2.