Day 4: Marrakech

We started out the morning in Marrakech by going to the Bahia Palace. Our first mistake was trying to drive into the place. Tiny little street, people, animals, carts, vehicles everywhere. We managed to find a parking lot and squeeze the car in. Don’t think by parking lot, I mean a paved lot with lines. I’m talking about a dirt lot with cars crammed in two or three deep.

We walked back to the palace. I realized that this is where all the European, Australian and American tourists are. I fit right in with my Nikon taking photos. The palace itself wasn’t much to see. All the contents had been robbed, mostly by the harem, after the death of the last owner.

We rescued the car and headed to Djemaa el-Fna to see what we had missed the night before. I knew that if I took pictures, I’d have to pay, so I kept my camera away for the most part while I was close. I did take a picture of a snake charmer, so a guy came by with a hat. I tossed in a coin, then he started talking to Tour Guide. Next thing we knew, Snake Charmer had wrapped a snake around Tour Guide, was whispering something about getting the devil out and feeding them, and then stuck the snake down Tour Guide’s shirt. I was laughing so hard and taking pictures. It was all fun and games until Snake Charmer put the snake around my neck!

Next, we wandered through the medina. To commemorate the Snake Charmer, I bought a wooden, hand-carved snake. I saw the artist making them. The seller said 250Dh. I said 200Dh. He said 230Dh, I said, No 200 Dh. Tour Guide said something and I gave 200Dh for the snake. I know I could have started lower and gotten a better price, but I’d decided that just over $20 was reasonable for a snake hand-carved out of one block of wood. The artist deserved me not haggling over his work.

Back in Djemaa el-Fna, we contemplated the fortune tellers and monkeys. We thought it would be fun to mess with the fortune tellers since we knew they’d lie to us anyways. Instead, we decided to get pictures with a monkey. Dirty monkey. Actually, it didn’t seem too dirty, but I was petrified of it biting me or tearing my face open. I just imagined having to go to the hospital. Luckily that didn’t happen. I’ll admit, It was kind of exciting to hold a monkey.

After the monkey, we went for lunch. Italian pizza with a view of the tower across the way. Quiet and out of the way. Tour Guide had a nice conversation with the British couple behind me who were trying to figure out all the Muslim prayer times since one was just starting.

Back to the hotel, we dropped off the car, took a short Internet break, and then walked to Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful, enclosed park gifted by Yves Saint Laurent. An oasis of peace among the chaos of the city, it was a lovely retreat. We wandered around and took lots of photos.

Next stop, coffee shop. I finally got the gelato I’d been looking for all day. Not the best gelato I’ve had. I guess that isn’t really what Morocco is known for.

It was too early to go for dinner, so we decided to go for a drive. On the outskirts of Morocco, there is a ton of construction happening. Like miles of it. Plots of land ready for building, concrete blocks going up. Posters of gigantic buildings to come. Almost as if they are building a new city outside of the existing one. It was like that outside of all the cities. Suburban sprawl, not with houses, but apartment and condo units and gigantic hotel resorts. The city stretching out a leg here, an arm over there, expanding at an exponential pace.

Then we were outside the city expansion and surrounded by fields as far as the eye could see. The mountains of the High Atlas loomed ahead, and farmers walked the fields, herds of sheep and goats grazed beside the road, families had picnics among the rocks, boys played soccer on dirt.

In the mountains were tiny roadside towns with shops open to the passerby. It was always hard to tell where a building ended and the dirt began. I would not survive well in places like that.

The sun had set as we drove back into the chaos of Marrakech. We went up to the Sky Bar at the top of Le Caspien hotel hoping to have a drink. It was cold and the view was lacking. Skylines aren’t particularly interesting when all the buildings are the same height. And the bartender only had bottles of beer, anything else had to be brought up from the restaurant on the first floor.

We retreated to the restaurant by the pool. I tried a Casablanca beer and it tasted a bit like Budweiser. We had the salmon bruschetta, which was a bit large, but was excellent. I switched to a wine from the Sahara. It was surprisingly good, although warmer than a red really should be. Not sure if they heard me, but they brought me a bucket of ice water for it.

The waiter brought a plate we hadn’t ordered. Two more pieces of toast, one with sardines and a sauce, the other with roasted red pepper. The center had a bit of green salad with cherry tomatoes and carrots and the other end had a pâté of some sort.

By then, it was nearing 11 pm and getting too late to go anywhere else for dinner, so I skipped right to dessert. The tiramisu was an excellent ending to the evening.

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