Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trois gazelles in Marrakech

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In Morocco, they call girls "la gazelle". . . just like the animal.  As we walked through the Medina in Marrakech, we could always hear the continuous hum of "la gazelle, la gazelle". It eventually became something we would block out, as you learn to stop paying attention to the men in the market pitching their leather wares, silver teapots, and beautiful scarves. But other than that the men in Morocco were really not that sketchy. I was honestly expecting them to be a bit more aggressive after experiencing the demeanor of 2nd generation North Africans in France.

In the souks
We stayed at an amazing hostel called the Riad Agdez. The manager, Claude, picked us up from the airport and my favorite thing will always be hearing him say into his phone "we'll arrive in 10 minutes, start the tea". He didn't disappoint us from there giving us advice and dropping us off at the Majorelle gardens, and who could forget the delicious sugary mint tea that was always at our disposal. It was a really great price for a great amount of comfort.
Riad Agdez

We had our own room and bathroom and every morning they served us breakfast on the terrace, which was always gloriously sunny. The weather was amazing, not a cloud to be seen, and the temperature stayed a steady 70-75 all weekend. This was exactly what we were hoping for during our weekend holiday away from cold, rainy, northern France.

Morning breakfast! 
Initially, we had wanted to stay in the desert overnight and ride camels. But our level of comfort and happiness at our Riad made us decide to book another night at the hotel and do a day trip to two Berber villages with Sahara Expeditions, a local tour company. 45 euros got us into a Land Rover with a toothless driver and an awkward German couple, and off we went to see a bit of the Moroccan countryside.

Trois Gazelles

We were not disappointed. Morocco has a breathtaking beauty to it in the spring, there is green everywhere and the temperatures are perfect. What we weren't expecting on our trip were little photo stops at gimmicky places; where the locals were waiting for us, ready to sell cheap necklaces and teapots. It was sneakily planned, but we were rather delighted to find that tourist trap #2 had CAMELS waiting for us! Ciara and I sat on camels for a total of 10 minutes and were perfectly content with checking off camels from our list of "must do's".

After a while, we got to a little mountain town in the Ourika Valley, where we were given the opportunity to hike up to see some waterfalls.  As soon as we arrived in the town a group of "guides " surrounded us and asked if we wanted a tour to the waterfalls. We were trying to be frugal on this trip and confidently brushed aside any offer, but even after our persistent "go away's" one of the guys continued to follow us around as we began to climb up towards the waterfalls.

We started to get kind of nervous as we climbed up and he was still following us. At one point we even stopped and told him to go away. He would not leave. So we waited until there were more tourists around and kept climb up. What we didn't realize was that it wasn't as easy as climbing up the side of a hill. There were slippery rocks and loose rocks as well, which our little guide happily climbed up like a little mountain goat. As we kept getting higher (this was all taking like an hour to just climb up), he would give us his hand on difficult passages. Little by little, we realized that we couldn't have made it without his help.

I, for one, am not a great climber (and usually do not climb as a rule) and  had to be helped numerous times as we slid, jumped and dragged ourselves around. He came in to use the time when we had to scale the side of wall to get to the "easier path" or when we were practically sliding down the hill with our cute converse on. These moments made us realize that a helping hand was definitely needed. I think when we finally accepted that we needed his help, things got a little easier, and we continued on our way. I guess, sometimes being less stubborn makes climbing a mountain that much easier.
Our second stop, four hours and some fun in the snow on top of the mountains later was in a little town called Imili. In Imili, we could spot the Jebel Toubka (the tallest mountain in Northern Africa). Zoe, Ciara and I bought friendship bangles from a guy that promised us they were "pure silver".
That night we went back into the center of the Medina to have dinner on the square. Every night, the little food stands set up their wares and start heaping out plates of couscous, tagine, and olives to all who pass. As you walk from stand to stand, you are welcomed, begged and harassed into sitting at stall #115 or #117 "just like heaven". At one point, we walked by a stand and I told the guy that we had already eaten, he looked at me, pinched my arm and said, "mais ça ne se voit pas (you can't tell)". 

All in all, I'm pretty in love with the haggling, the fresh orange juice stands (seen everywhere) and the blue from the majorelle gardens (I have house slippers in this glorious blue). I love the sound my bangles make as I move around my room, it's like a constant reminder of a really fun holiday, tinkling at all the right moments of my study routine.
Blue Majorelle! 

Two hilarious things happened as we were at the airport ready to return to France. The first was the fact that our "silver" bangles went off through the metal detector (I can see the German couple with "I told you so faces") and the second happened as we taxied toward the runway. I was reading a chick-lit book and settling into my seat when a voice came on over the loudspeaker. They announced that due to the French Food and Drug administration's regulations, they would be spraying insecticide all over the cabin to eliminate any critters we might have on us.

1 comment:

  1. this is possibly my favorite post you have ever written! and is that first picture really your hotel? it looks like a doll's house