Hello. I’m finally writing my last entry about our trip to Morocco in December. YAY! (…it’s about time) The rest of the trip went much more smoothly (see previous two posts). Our bus ride back to the city was around 11 hours with very short stops. Traveler Tip: Be prepared for this! We had thought that the bus ride would take about 8-9 hours and didn’t really consider the fact that we would not be able to get food. Sure, there were a few stands that sold mandarins, but that was it. So, that is all we ate that day.
Originally we had planned on hitting up Casablanca and Fes post-Sahara, but due to the lengthy travel times, we decided to stay in Marrakech and really soak up that city. We can always go back for the others. 🙂 With this new mindset, once we arrived in Marrakech and checked back into the Riad Eden, we felt like we were ‘home’.
The next four days were a blur. I’ll quickly recap the highlights:
Bahia Palace: This tops Marrakech’s tourist attractions. …Not sure why. It is beautiful, the tile-work is stunning, but it’s also just now being renovated, so most of it was under construction and poorly maintained. We did take some good pictures in there though and it was only a few Euro to roam around. You could breeze through it in less than an hour. Here are my husband and my reflection in a giant mirror:
Jardin Majorelle: Former Yves Saint Laurent hidaway turned memorial for the famous fashion designer. Seriously beautiful gardens filled with cacti and lush greenery offset by brightly colored buildings. Take a cab – it’s a far walk from the central medina. Wander around for at least an hour and enjoy the quiet peacefulness. Like I did:
Hammam: Absolutely the highlight of our time in Marrakech. We tried out spa hammam le Bain Bleu. It. Was. Heavenly. So for those of you that do not know what a hammam is, it’s a bathhouse that is basically essential in a desert climate like Morocco. After we got back from the Sahara, we still had sand everywhere and this is just what we needed. First you get led into a small warm room (looked like a little fancy grotto/cave) and the girls pour warm water all over you. (Traveler Tip: If you are modest, bring a swimsuit!) Then, they cover you with oil and let you lay there on hot stones for about 10 minutes. They return with rough mittens (sold all over the city btw) and scrub. you. down. Your whole body. Then cover your entire body in a mud mask. Another 10 minutes. They come back in and wash it all off. That whole process takes about 45 minutes. We finally felt clean! I’m not sure what a public hammam costs, but it’s worth it to splurge on the private one. Sorry, no pictures of this experience. 🙂
Souks: These are the shops that line the twisty, maze-like streets in a condensed pocket of town. Maps don’t even bother drawing them out – too confusing! Traveler Tip: Make sure you bring a good sense of direction. It’s easier by day when the sun is out and you can use that as a compass. At night, forget it! Always turn back to see what the street will look like as you return. Just allow yourself to get lost, it’s more fun. 🙂 We bought tons of souvenirs here. Just make sure you are ready to negotiate. One of the shopkeepers even taught me how to wear a turban:
Just call me Fatima.
Henna: This was the most disappointing part of the trip for me, so excuse me if I get agitated while I write. I was really excited to have this done on my hands as a little reminder that would stay with me for a little while after we got back. First of all, the women in Djemaa el-Fna are ruthless. They attack you from every angle with books and henna squirt pens. I finally relented to one woman that seemed particularly nice (and spoke good English). I told her I wanted something small and simple on the backs of my hands, even pointing to a picture of what I wanted in her booklet. She expertly and fluidly drew the first line… halfway up my forearm!! This pissed me off, but I wanted to stay pleasant. Even as I was telling her, “No, no, no, more simple, not so high up, not so much,” she kept at it until my whole arm was covered… “Don’t worry, I give you good price.” Jaro and I exchanged glances. Meanwhile, heraccomplice friend was doing the same thing on my other arm. I was extremely uncomfortable and kept trying to tell them to stop and they wouldn’t. But, I also didn’t want to move because I didn’t want to ruin what they had already done! I felt trapped. And annoyed. Finally, they finished after about only 15 minutes. I had to get tough when they continued to try to add more to the inside of my arms. Time for payment. Inside the book before she started, we had seen prices and it was around 40 Dirham for a simple, small design on one hand. She looks at me and says (completely serious), “Okay… normally this is 400 Dirham per arm, but I want to give you good price…” UM 400 DIRHAM?! Hell no. I thought it was going to be a 10th of the price. Then she reveals that she used the “long-term” henna, meant to last a full month. The prices in the book were for the “short-term” henna, that lasts only 2-3 days. Naturally, she chose not to tell me this until after they were done. I hadn’t even known there were different kinds. Why would I? I even told her that was a cruel trick, but she didn’t seem phased. Just “pay what you think is fair.” Okay… So then Jaro pulls out a 200 Dirham bill and hands it to her and she says, “Don’t insult me” and shoved it in his shirt pocket. How rotten! Finally, I told Jaro to just give her three hundred because that was “all we had” (a good trick that worked when shopping in the souks, here not so much) and she finally accepted. Here is the funny thing: Once we handed it over, she and her “friend” grabbed my arms (smearing some of the work they had done) and started drawing up the insides! Even as I protested, they continued. Obviously, this means that we paid WAY more than was fair for the work they had done, so they pretended like they were giving me this bonus art, when really, it should have been included in the first place. And then some! I should have been painted from head to toe in damn henna for the price that I paid. I walked away angry, but not enough to make a scene. Once it dried and I peeled it off, it looked horrendous. Sloppy and ugly. …And it washed off in about a week. Sigh.
At least it looked good for this picture.
On our way out of the city on the last day, we hailed a taxi in one of the round-abouts. We had 60 Dirham left in our pockets. The driver said a one-way to the airport was 80 Dirham. We pleaded, he gave in. As we arrived at the airport, we handed over our last 60 Dirham. Understanding smiles were exchanged and we were off. Officially Marracashed Out.
Overall, we loved the city, the country, the food, the people, everything. Can’t wait to go back!