Watermen & Photos
Baby Tanjine & Pizza
Marrakesh. What to say? It’s cleaner than we expected. We are not hassled as mush as we expected, and it’s fumes are worse than we expected. Granted it is a city, but the fumes from the bikes are getting to us.
It is a pretty place in areas, and there is a lot of construction going on. Apparently the Medina was only redeveloped about 20 years ago. It does show signs of its poverty though. Most of the people have been fairly friendly, and it seems a lot freer than country towns.
Today we wanted to meet up with David & Sophia. They are supposed to land here today, we know what hotel they will stay at, but not the time they arrive, and I’ll be darned if I am going to meet them at the airport (although it would be fun). Walking out of the hotel, I was asked six times before the corner 20 meters away if I wanted to by Hash. This trend has continued days later, and I am thoughraly sick of it. This is a surprise. We have seen it many times in Morroco, but to be this blatent and upfront is weird. It is illegal both by government and religious laws. Yet it is so blatent. Walk into a cafe and you can smell the old men smoking down the back. 16 y/o’s asking you if you want some on the street, and hearing it wispered to you everywhere is disconcerting.
Going outside the walls for a bit,we came to a bookshop. We have been wanting a guide book for a while, as reliable information for tourist has been hard to come by. Even though we haven’t looked since Agadir, we asked. They had plenty, so we picked up a 2007 Rough Guide. One job done. It only took a month! Still, we now have a (small) map of Marrakesh. Going online for a few minutes to check our email, and get directions to their hotel, we marked it on the map and set out. Not wanting to wander through the souk just yet, we tried to go north of it, with the winding streets, we ended up there anyway. Going back out we came across someone that told us about the Berber Market. Not being interested, we started wandering away (we didn’t want a guide to attach himself to us). However he said that it was today only. We went on a bit further, then decided we had time to check it out. Going that way we ran into the guy again. Walking in the same direction for a bit, we came to his shop (bike shop, nothing to do with tourism, unless you get a flat tyre) and he left us. No hand or anything! Befor he left us, he grabbed a friend to take us the rest of the way, as he lived in that area. The Berber market turned out to be the Tannery.
The new guide quickly dissapeard. Again, no hand! There was no market, but we were at the Tanneries, so we thought we would check it out.
There are two tanneries here, the Berber one (that we were at) and a little further, the Arabic one. These are specialised, and the Berber Tannery only deals in large animals. Basically Cows and Camels. The Arabic Tannery uses sheep and goats. We don’t know who gets the donkeys. They also do not work together. It is the same principle everywhere. Dunk it in shit for a few weeks. In this case Pidgeon Poo from the nearby pidgeon house. Take it out, and stick it in Ammonia for a while to soften it up. From here you can put it in different vats for dyeing. These are supposed to consist of all natural ingredients, but in reality, are now just chemical dyes. The same as the rest of the world, but people are still working waist deep in waste or chemicals. Not a pleasant job at the best of times, but must be really bad on hot days. Today was quite cool, so the smell was bearable. We had also been given sprigs of mint to hold under our noses if we needed to. There was a man here that wanted to show us around.
We explained we had no money for a guide, but that was ok. He basically told us what is written above, and took us for a quick peak at the Arabic Tannery before depositing us in a shop. Here we learnt that cow is the thickest and goat the finest. They had some nice things, but we are the wrong sort of tourists for them. Realising we were not that into leather, the carpets came out. We hastily made our goodbyes and left. The person from the tannery was waiting outside. We had expected him to go back to work. The hand was out. I had half a dirham in my pocket, left over from breakfast, so offered that to him, as it was all I had. He was very offended, and wanted much more. We told him that we had said before that we had no money, and asked why he was asking now, when it wasn’t a problem at the start. We just got ranting about him, his starving wives and kids. Having enough of that, we walked off with him cursing us. We don’t know why he was so annoyed. We had made it clear we had no money, and did not want a tour. It was his choice to show us around.
From the tannery we made our way to David & Sophia’s hotel. Stopping to try and work out where we were, I looked up and saw the hotel. It was the door we had stopped at! There is hardly any signposting at all. Knocking we were allowed in. They had not arrived yet, so we left a note for them. The hostel is nice, and we considered defecting from our hotel. However we thought we would wait and see what the guys thought of it.
Job done, we now had no plans untill 11am tomorrow (if they get the note). Not worried about where we went, we just wandered for a while. On coming to a gate in the wall, we went out for a look around. Apparently we were near a tomb of an Islamic Saint, so we went looking for that. We never did find it, even after canvasing the place for a few hours. So wandered some more. Most of the streets are clean, if you ignore the water coming out of drains and pooling on the roads. A few places indicated the need for more public bathrooms, but nowhere near as bad as Rome. In this way we managed to compleately miss the Jewish sector. A few people wanted to point us towards it, but wary of the hand we politely declined. It seems that a tourist here without a guide is considered lost and in need of someone to take you somewhere (A later day we were after the Museum, and one of the impromptu guides would have taken us the wrong way, gotten us lost, and poped us out at a nearby street for a fee. We were just around the corner from it, and luckily didn’t take the offer). We walked right past the Mosque that held the Saadian tombs, and out another wall on the far side of the Medina. We did want to see the tombs, so looked them up in the trusty guide book, and tried to make our way there.
The Tombs are down a little dead end alley behind the mosque. As with all Morocco, there were no signposts, but we managed to find them. On paying or 10Dh to get in, we wound through a small gap in the buildings to pop out in a small park.
The Saadian Dynasty was from 1554 to 1669. Most of what they built was plundered by later Saltans. However the tomb was left alone. Superstision is great sometimes, as he feared the bad luck that would come from robbing them. However he blocked off all access to them, and they stayed there forgotten untill re-discovered in 1917 by the French. This is a bit weird as it was still being used until 1792, and you could still get access through the Mosque itself.
There are two main mausoleums. One was Ahmed El Mansour (Some guy!). He was the Saltan that had a major building spree here. Building the El Badhi Palace and more. The other mausoleum was for his dear old mum. Nice to think that Saltans still think of their parents. Scattered around the small park are the tombs of over 100 other royal princes and members of the royal household (princesses).
The two mausoleums are beautiful. The woodwork is delicate and supurbly done. Tiles cover the floors and walls. Intricate patterns cover everything. The tombs outside are simple affairs, and only have tile covers. There are roses and a few trees. Simple and stylish. We arrived at the wrong time of day though, as all the tour groups turned up. The place was packed. One group passed through on the heals of the last. People were everywhere, but it only lasted a while. We sat down the back for a while, and got a good look around after the last group left.
From here, our wandering took us to Djemaa El Fna. The big square. It is apparently the big must see in Marrakesh. On arriving we poped out in a back corner. The square is not square, but there is a large open area. This is full of watersellers, snakecharmers, and story tellers. The story tellers have large groups around them listning. Most of the people here are Moroccan. There are plenty of Western tourists as well, but these are preyed on heavily, as people make their money from having their photo taken. We have heard horrorstories from people taking photos before organising a price, and that made us wary. Snatching glimpses at the cobras, we were a bit dissapointed. No baskets, and they were just lying around. The men were playing music, but there was no reactions from the snakes. The storytellers were talking in Arabic, and the crowds seemed to love them. I wish we could have understood what was being said. Walking around Anna tried to sneek a photo of some belly dancers from a distance. This didn’t work, and within seconds we had a very irate man come running over to extract payment. Photo deleted and we moved on. I think this is a little unfair as the Moroccan tourists can take as many as they want. If it was a dish out, and donation for photos, we would be more inclined to take some and donate, but the way it is done leaves a bad taste. Even if you stand still too long they come demanding payment.
The rest of the square is filled with numbered stalls. As it was near dinner time, we decided to check them out. The prices were ok, so we decided to try one. Sitting there waiting, watching the sun set and the musicians starting up was ok. Nothing special really, but not something you see every day.
The tanjine came out, and I had to burst out laughing. It was a baby tanjine. Full price, but a tenth of the size. There were 2 slices of potato and aparently some chicken under them. The waiter was a bit surprised at my reaction, and we asked why it was so small. According to him, this is the normal size. We cracked up at this. We may not have bought a tangine as large as the original in Agadir, but we have never encountered one this small. We started joking about baby tanjines, and how it is a meal for an infant. He offered to fill it with some beans if we managed to eat it all, but we declined the offer and went in search of some real food.
Making our way towards the hotel, we came to a pizza shop. I know, I know, it is not Moroccan, but hay, after spending a month eating mainly couscous and tanjines, a pizza was just what we needed. It was pretty good to. While sitting there, one group of tourists passed making the same comment. Why come to Morocco to eat pizza? They were so clean and fresh that they really haven’t been here that long, and I do understand the sentiment. Another two came and asked how it was. An English couple. They just wanted something to cover them until a late dinner, and thought this would be good. A nice couple, and we chatted for a bit. We warned them about the baby tanjines (we had checked in other stalls, and they were all roughly the same size. Just right to catch tourists on their first days in Morocco) and headed home.
The thing with this hotel – It has hot water! So you have a wet room including squat toilet, but it is actually hot. Perfect. (We swapped from the one we were in last night!) So a good shower, and went to bed, still laughing about the Tanjine! (It was THAT small.)