Friday, 26 June 2015

June 16 – Marrakech, Morocco

Arrive in Casablanca, Moroccoat 8am. Board bus tour for Marrakech. One hour wait before departing. 3 hour drive (plus 20 minute stop). Tour Marrakech. Drive back to ship. Room service dinner. 13 hour excursion. 

The tour was over  1 hour late leaving due to some couple having immigration/Visa issues. The tour did not apologize for the late departure or initially explain why we were sitting on a stationary bus for over an hour. We stopped at a gas station half way through the drive but did not think to eat because lunch seemed imminent and in the tour description it had listed lunch as the first activity of the day.

We arrived in Marrakech more than an hour late and instead of taking us to lunch (as it was described in the tour summary) the tour forced us to walk through the medina filled with scooters, bicycles and hordes of people jockeying for position in the narrow alleyways (much different than Tangier’s medina where motor vehicles are prohibited). We then toured an old Koranic school called Mederssa Ben Youssef. We asked why we couldn’t eat lunch. It was almost 2:00 pm by this point, and having had breakfast at 7:00 am with no protein, as usual, we were hungry. The tour guide said that we had to see the school while it was open and then she routed the two of us alone with a local guide who we had not been introduced to, to the restaurant where we would be having lunch. As we entered the restaurant, Bill spotted a man with a camera who was going to take pictures. Given our state of hunger and heat exhaustion Bill approached him to indicate that we would not like photos taken. While he was doing this, two women from behind April, dressed in traditional garb, said April had to wait, and then they restrained April on either side by each arm. Having just been told by the guide that there was a high risk of pickpockets, and in our famished and dehydrated state, this was very shocking and simply just too much.

The rest of the tour group arrived two minutes later.

The meal was mostly disgusting, except for the couscous, and the restaurant was clearly a tourist trap that survives on tours alone. The chicken tagine we had in Tangier was far superior compared to the dried out, grisly, carcass we were served.

The medina was terrifying with scooters and bikes mixing at random with humans in very narrow alleyways. The kittens were adorable, however.

We visited the Bahia building. The tiles, doors, and stained glass of the old palace were gorgeous. We walked through the Medina more (backtracking once again), and the guide took us to a rip-off store. We did not buy anything there. The Norwegians on the tour who had been on the previous day's tour with us also did not buy anything and we had a laugh about how the tours always seemed to culminate in the guide taking us to an overpriced tourist trap. We were still laughing about the price of the argan oil the day before. The Norwegian man said that one could by a barrel of North Sea oil for $27 euros when a litre of argan oil at that shop cost $30 euros.

We then went to the Jemaa el Fna, which is the heart of Marrakech with snake charmers, monkey trainers, food stalls, and various merchant wares. We wandered the market, drinking local fresh squeezed orange juice and tried a local doughnut. This was the place where we really wanted to go and it was a shame we only had 45 minutes to peruse the true heart of Marrakech.

We walked by the Koutoubia mosque (of the booksellers), that has a 70 m (210 ft) minaret. Then we drove back to the ship. The culinary highlight of the day was the cheese sandwich and pain au chocolat that we bought at the gas station.

Back at the ship, we ordered room service  and saw a note for us to contact the excursion office between 6 and 7 pm (they should have known where we were, out on one of their tours, but at least it was in English this time). We felt worried by this note but fell into bed exhausted.

8.69 km walked today.

The road system in Morocco was great

Moroccan Coca Cola

Fresh OJ, with lemon, and grapefruit = awesomeness
Kitty siesta

There's a minaret sticking out of Bill's head
April looking elegant 
A Moroccan sunset

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