Marrakech: “We were in that cafe two days ago.”

9 May

Well, first let me affirm that I’m totally fine, despite a terrorist attack in Marrakesh (more on that later) and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately, for some parents in the US, this is all too much, and two girls from my program are leaving this Saturday, a week early from the program ending, and being (forcibly) sent home.

…Thank goodness my parents are cool (although, they’re probably thinking, “After an evacuation from a politically unstable country where tear gas was wafting through your windows at night – yeah, small beans.”)

Anywho, two weekends ago I was in Marrakech! Marrakech is considered the destination for tourists to Morocco. And I can see why: it provides the quintessential “Moroccan” experience…but from a foreigner’s perspective. As I explained in my class the other day, “It provides that nostalgic experience of Moroccan that is imagined in a foreigner’s mind: the Moroccan experience of 60 years ago, not the reality of the rest of the country.” This isn’t to say I didn’t like Marrakech, I did, but it was such a different experience from the rest of Morocco. It was a California Adventures but for Morocco, and while I love California Adventures you would never say that it represents the whole state of California.

We left last Saturday early in the morning as usual, but since I was sick/in the doldrums I was already out of it and after a five hour ride to Marrakech, definitely not in tiptop shape. But the scenery, as always, was beautiful on our way there.

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When we got to our hotel (Hotel El Andalous), we all went, “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmnn.” It was swank, let me tell you. I didn’t take pictures of it, and I wish I had. But all of the hotels in Marrakech came off as swank. It’s often been called the Las Vegas of Morocco and I can see why. Not that the hotels were themed, but there was definitely a Strip mentality to it. Also, all of the buildings there are this redish sandstone color, hence its other nickname, the Red City. After dropping off our stuff, checking out the awesome pool (which I never swam in…dang my cold!) we headed to Djemma el Fna.

Which I only realized now I did not even take a picture of. Stealing from Macarena:

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Djemma el Fna is the main attraction in Marrakech. It’s a large square, surrounded  by the medina and souks. During the day, juice stands and people with (ill-treated) monkeys and snakes harass you fill it up, but at night, it turns into a entertainment hub, with outdoor restaurant food stands selling (delicious) kebabs and performers eating fire and juggling and other such shenanigans. Unfortunately, while I got to have some delicious orange juice during the day and ate at one of the outdoor restaurants, I was too sick (plus the weather wasn’t pleasant) to enjoy the square at night. But I’m returning in about two weeks, so inshallah I’ll be well and the weather will be beautiful.

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After eating lunch on the square, Robin, Macarena, Caity and I walked to the Saadian tombs, “rediscovered” (aka oh look white people found them) in the early 20th century.

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It was so odd, not the tombs themselves, which were fine, but the fact that we had to wait in a line to view them. 1) Never, in Morocco, have I encountered something I’ve had to wait in line for…it’s just that Morocco isn’t such a hot spot that lines happen. 2) Moroccans don’t even do the whole “queue” thing anyway, they do the blob group thing where it’s survival of the fittest. So, by standing in a line, I definitely felt like I was in alternate universe Morocco.

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After that, we headed to El Bahia Palace, which was awesome and opulent and all that jazz. And huge. Guy had like 28 wives (as a woman, I wanna know how you could deal with that. 28 wives = hassle).

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We wandered back to Djemma el Fna, had tea in a terrace restaurant overlooking the square and then got ice cream at Argana Cafe (…the place that was bombed), caught a ride home. I at this point was nasty sick with my cold so stayed in the entire night and watched Mamma Mia! Does that still make me awesome? Absolutely.

Next morning we got up and headed up into the Ourika Valley, which is a large valley cutting in the Atlas Mountains known for its beautiful waterfalls/landscapes/such things. However, it was raining/misting the entire time. So we didn’t get to do any hiking, and when we stopped for lunch and were told it would take 45 minutes to make tagines, I and half the kids loaded up on one of the buses and headed back. Everyone else went to the square and I went to my room and took a five hour nap. Being sick really sucks!

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Eventually everyone got back and I went with Macarena and Brittany to square again. We wandered around some of the souks, when it started pouring rain. We eventually caught up with friends, but I was feeling way too weak to walk around a lot, so Brittany and I ate at a food stall (I got yummy kebabs. Nom nom nom.) and then we headed back to the hotel on our own. Later than night everyone went out clubbing (apparently there was something about fire rings?) but I once again stayed in and slept.

Sunday morning/early afternoon we went to the Marjorelle Gardens, which were gorgeous, but VERY crowded. The gardens were originally owned by this artist (Marjorella) but were purchased by Yves Saint Laurent about a decade or so ago. When he died he had his ashes spread there, so I guess I visited the grave site of Yves Saint Laurent? That’s fun.

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We headed back to the square for lunch, where I proceeded to take copious amounts of photos of this adorable kitten.

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We also got ice cream again from Argana Cafe. It was so odd a few days later when we heard about the bombing in Marrakech and turned on the TV and I said to Macarena, “Mac, we were literally just there two days ago. That could have been us.” WELCOME TO MOROCCO!

We then headed home, where I slept the whole time and then slept when I got home then slept most of the day after. And that’s Marrakech! (I’m going back in two weeks)

Up next: The best day ever and the day I swam in my clothes.

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