Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

Our hotel's yard in Marrakesh

At chef Mohammed #15

OK, one of the hundreds of door-pictures that I took

at our favorite breakfast place




watermen convention in red

dates and more

OJ time

lots of good food

We planned to go to Marrakesh by bus as soon as possible, but the next available seats weren't for a couple of hours so we checked out Casablanca for a little while. I wasn't feeling that great (let's just say that the inevitable digestive problems had started the day before) so it was not the best sight seeing expedition. It was hot, of course, and the only sight of note in Casablanca is the Hassan II Mosque on the edge of the city. [Matter of perception, but I was feeling better so I liked Casablanca more than Michelle did, although it really was no big deal. Also "Rick's American café" from the movie Casablanca is none existent -Charlie] We walked there through the medina (the old city) which was a maze of tiny, smelly alleys. The mosque is very pretty and impressive (supposedly the third largest religious monument in the world, don't ask me what 1st and 2nd are). It also has very high tech features such as a heated floor and a retractable ceiling (although we didn't get to see inside). We got there just in time for my "digestive problems" to resurface so I can also confirm that it has very nice public bathrooms (although unisex, which I thought was odd for a religion that is so caught up on modesty of women, but I didn't really care at that point). After that we walked back to the bus station, getting lost on the way since there are virtually no street signs. My glimpse of the city was colored by my illness and the heat, but I wasn't overly impressed.

The 4 hour bus ride on the state run CTM bus line was very comfortable, although it inexplicably stopped at a restaurant for an hour when we were only an hour away from Marrakesh. My first impression of Marrakesh was very good - even though it is south of Casablanca it felt pleasant with a little breeze, lots of palm trees, wide, fairly clean streets. Despite these advantages, we still got lost trying to find the medina, where the budget hotels were. We stopped in at the Tourist Information office only to find that they only spoke French...We finally found the medina (which also was a maze of tiny alleys but didn't smell bad) and got a very cute (although very small) hotel room for about $10, the last room this hotel had available. The hotel and the city was full of other backpacker type tourists [95% of them were kids from France-Charlie]. The city is also full of package type tourists and there is even a Club Med there.

At night the main square (which has an unpronounceable and unspellable name that I can't remember) fills with hundreds of tourists and locals and mini restaurants and food stands that get set up and taken down every night. We settled on "Chez Mohammed No. 15" and had a delicious and cheap dinner of couscous and soup [$5 for two people-Charlie]. There are also dozens of carts selling fresh squeezed orange juice for 25 cents which you watch them juice into the glass for you. We liked Chez Mohammed so much we ate there again the next night. I had chicken tagine (a kind of stew), but I didn't like the chicken. A little girl who was sadly begging for her family came by with a plastic bag and pointed at the left over chicken in front of me. I was of course more than happy to give it to her, but the way her eyes lit up like it was the best find ever made me sad. We found it strange that although on average Moroccans are better off than Egyptians, there are many more beggars there. Little kids especially seem to have the idea that they should expect money from foreigners, so we were often greeted by little hands outstretch chanting "one dirham" or "one dollar" or "c'est bon" (some French phrase I'm assuming) followed by "un dirham". Although I'm sure their lives are not as easy as ours, they didn't look malnourished and were dressed properly and were generally playing and doing just fine until they caught sight of us, so we didn't give them money. By the end of the two weeks there Charlie would tease them and ask them to give him money, to which they'd either laugh or run away confused. It really wasn't as mean as it sounds. Anyway, with all the money we spent to get there and while we were there we figured we were doing our part to help the economy, especially because with one exception we stayed at locally owned hotels and usually ate at locally owned restaurants. [generally it is a local custom that might sound not so good but in practice it works very nicely that if someone ordered too much instead of a "doggy bag" they look around, find a poor, wave him there and he will finish their meal-Charlie]

Marrakesh by day was also very pretty and colorful with beautiful old tile work and elaborate arched doorways throughout the medina (Charlie took a picture of every one of the 100s of doorways...) It is hard to find your way in the twisting and narrow alleys and there's plenty of offers to "help" sometimes to the point that they won't leave you alone, but no one was aggressive towards us. I tried to reason that if the worst thing that happens when you have a map out, clearly lost, is that people try to get you to pay them to show you around, then it's a pretty safe country (although it can get annoying when you want to be left alone.) In Marrakesh we also found out that a breakfast staple is the most delicious crepes with honey and almond oil. Of course, mint tea with tons of sugar is also ubiquitous. [my eyes are still misty thinking about our $1.50 breakfast of crepes, tea, croissant and orange juice-Charlie]

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