Morocco, Day 2

Posted by Ted on Oct 28, 2007 in Travel

We woke to the sounds and smells of breakfast from the courtyard outside our room. Inside courtyards are a common design element in Moroccan architecture. Ours had an orange tree in the center, surrounded by chairs and tables. We sat down and had omelettes, pastries, and the most amazing lavender yogurt with dates, nuts, and coconut. After a very welcome shower, we walked to the Jardin Majorelle, avoiding being picked up by more guides. The gardens were beautiful, with pools, trellises, and numerous varieties of cacti.

Afterwards, we hired a cab to the far side of the medina, ending up at a government-run souvenir shop with regulated prices. It was here that I saw my first moroccan mirrors. I hadn’t expected that I would look at mirrors as something I “must have”, but they really caught my eye. I was especially drawn to the ones that had carved bone, dyed with henna. Suddenly, we were starving, and so we wound up going to Riad Omar and dining underneath Berber tents on their roof. We had another “mixed salad” of olives, carrots with cumin, baby zucchini, and the best lentils ever, as well as a kafta tagine (lamb meatballs). The meal ended with a fruit plate, including the sweetest pomegranate, and of course, mint tea.

Then we walked to the Koutoubia Mosque, and through its rose garden. As we entered the garden, we smiled at the sight of a gay couple holding hands; Marrakech has the largest population of same-sex couples in the country. We rested on a bench for a while, watching a family with a little kid, playing just like any other. On our way back to Djemaa el-Fna, we looked at more mirrors an jewelry, and then had a macaroon cookie from a wandering woman and some more of the cinnamon tea. Needing a break, we walked back to our riad. Even just the second time walking back through the maze seemed more familiar.

After an email check to let folks back home know we were safe and a nice nap, we headed out again, leisurely stopping at shops along the way to the square. I bought a beautiful white shirt and pant set for 700 dirhams, which comes out to about $91. In hindsight, I probably could have gotten it somewhat cheaper, but it was still early in the week and the first “big ticket item” negotiation. We also ended up buying a cheap watch, which turned out to be one of the smartest 120 dirhams that we spent. Without either of our cell phones, we still needed to be able to catch buses on time! Our next purchase was a hard lesson. We walked into a bag shop with a very pushy salesman, and bought an admittedly nice camel leather bag, but the exact same bag was offered right next door for 75% less.

Deciding that it was time to extract ourselves from shopkeepers, we stopped by Stall #25 which we’d passed the night before. However, food stalls are no exception to the haggling culture. For every cart, there is not only the cook, sous chef, and bus boy, but there are hawkers enticing any and all passers-by to come to their stall, and who erupt in claps when new people sit down. Here we had the best olives yet. Perhaps you’ve noticed a trend? Like mushrooms and eggplant before them, I’ve now come to the realization that olives can be yawmy. Not all olives, mind you; I still rarely like the black ones, the green ones are hit or miss, but the light purple ones are the best.

As we got up after our meal, we wanted to take a picture of the stall, and they would not have that! We were invited behind the cart to stand in pose with the cook. We then walked around and stopped at one of the many carts selling nuts and dates. Not only did we buy some of the most delicious peanuts and almonds, we got yet another behind-the-cart tourist photo. Then we decided to call it a night and head back to the riad, down the less scary empty streets, filled with cats.

As near as we can tell, from our own experiences and from talking to other travelers, Morocco is overrun with cats. As cat people, it was a unique pleasure to see so many cats wandering around as part of the scenery. However, it was a mixed blessing in that a good number of them did not look too healthy; some would be missing an eye, others just looked scraggly.

And that was Day 2.

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An adventurer at heart, Ted Beatie is at his happiest when he’s off the beaten path. His deepest passion is sharing the world through photography and writing, found at The Pocket Explorer. He is also managing editor for Rolf Potts' Vagabonding, where he curates a Case Study series. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

4 Comments

palmwiz
Nov 21, 2007 at 3:44 am

I noticed way more cats in Marrakesh than elsewhere in Morocco.


 
Anonymous
Nov 21, 2007 at 2:49 pm

While the desert towns didn’t seem to have as many, Essaouria certainly had a fair share, comparable to Marrakech except more healthy. Travelers we spoke with said that Tangier and Fes both had a large population as well.


 
missionista
Nov 21, 2007 at 9:07 pm

we smiled at the sight of a gay couple holding hands; Marrakech has the largest population of same-sex couples in the country.

Something else I’ve noticed in travelling–in countries where male/female pda is frowned upon, male/male or female/female is totally acceptable, and is often seen as a sign of being “just good friends.” Female coworkes/friends in China would often hold my hand, rub my shoulders or ears, and also be very insistent that they weren’t gay. I alos saw lots of guys holding hands while walking down the street. Did you notice these behaviors anywhere other than Marrakech?


 
Ted
Nov 21, 2007 at 11:33 pm

It’s possible that it was just that cultural closeness, but it certainly seemed like it was more than that. They looked of the right young generation, and it pegged both of our gaydars. I don’t think we saw any other same-sex men holding hands on our trip. There were a few women, but that seems pretty normal in most places. We did witness the cultural warm greeting of a hug and kisses on the cheek, but that’s clearly different.


 

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