Wednesday, March 2, 2011

knock my continent count up to 3

Because I finally went to Morocco!!! Morocco has been on the top of my list of places to go since I studied abroad in Sevilla. I finally got the opportunity to go to Casablanca and Marrekesh with Alberto. We flew into Casablanca and easily found our hotel where the owner, finding out Alberto was Spanish immediately renamed us "Hola amigo." I would come to find out quickly that would be our permanent name in Morocco. We set out to see the medina or the city center. All of the medinas in Morocco are zig-zag winding streets where the point is just to get lost and find the next cool thing around the corner. And what did I find? Snails! I have never tried snails before so I thought heck I'm in Morocco why not? And they were awesome. And the man cooking them let me take a picture with his hat.
Trip off to a good start. We roamed around the medina for awhile then started a futile search for the ¨Royal Palace¨ of Casablanca. What looked really close on the map actually proved to be a 45 minute walk and 15 minute cab ride away. When we got there it was dark and everyone looked at us like we were crazy for wanting to take pictures of a dark building. Whatever, at least we found it right? When we got back to the hotel, the owner was waiting to give his amigos some Moroccan mint tea. I quickly found out I LOVE this mint tea. I could drink kettles and kettles of it, it is so good.

On Saturday we woke up early to see the enormous mosque in Casablanca. It is relatively new, only 18 years old but can fit over 80,000 worshippers in the mosque itself and the plaza surrounding it. On the guided tour we learned that the minaret is the highest of any mosque and the prayer room was the most spectacular I had ever seen. The mosque is built on water to show that water is the foundation of all life.

Continuing on our journey we caught the train to Marrekech (not before seeing Rick's cafe of Casablanca movie fame). When I arrived in the city and we were winding around the streets and bazillions of little markets I really felt like I was in Morocco. And the guidebooks weren't kidding, the people are very aggressive with tourists and are always looking for a way to make some money. Although Morocco is a very exotic place to me it is also a poor one. There are a lot of tourists and I felt like many people were trying to swindle us out of our money. Although I like to think I could handle it myself ,I was definitely glad to have a male presence with me when the people got especially pushy. Ok back to the good stuff. We found the main plaza of Marrekesh, Djemma el Fna as the sun was setting. The place was alive with energy and lots of fresh squeezed juice stands. The first thing I had to do was get some fresh squeezed orange juice for 40 cents. As you can imagine I drank juice all weekend. Orange juice, grapefruit juice...there is nothing better than fresh squeezed juice. After quenching my thirst we took a walk around the plaza to see the chaos. There were jesters, musicians, berber storytellers, henna artists, games, and people just walking around in costume. I think during dinner we didn't talk because of all the people-watching going on. As you can see in the picture below it was beautiful chaos.
The next day I had a bee in my bonnet to go to the famous souks, or markets of the city. The are well-hidden in the maze of the medina but are well worth seeing. There is a seperate market for the men that work on animal skins, those that dye the skins, the jewelers, the spice makers, the ironsmiths, those who dye yarn, and everything under the sun. We got to see the yarn dyers (what is the english word for that?) who hung the drying yard from clothes lines strung up around the houses. We also got to take this cool photo:
Seeing the animal skins being made was a little more treacherous. A boy in the street led us to where they make them and then we got a tour around the site. It was really cool and the tour was hunky-dory until they asked us for 200 dirham or 20 euro. Uhhhhhh negatory. Well just saying no doesn't exactly work in Morocco. You have to say no, make excuses, and basically run away for about 15 minutes till they leave you alone. After doing our shopping we saw one of the palaces and had some delicious food on a rooftop cafe. I loved just wandering around and finding what would be on the next corner maybe an Arabic-style door or neat shop. That was the romantic side of Morocco. And I was in love.

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