Backpacking through Morocco: Day 4 wrapping up Marrakesh

Part 4 of the Morocco backpacking series: Backpacking through Morocco

Day 4: wrapping up Marrakesh

Google map position


Breakfast split: 10 Dh
Camel ride reservation split: 400 Dh
Hotel Chellah split: 150 Dh
Tips snake charmer split: 20 Dh

Fruits split: 5 Dh
Child guide split: 10 Dh
Orange juice split: 6 Dh
Coke and Sprite split: 24 Dh

Toilet Mark: 1 Dh
Eggs split: 4 Dh
Pastries split: 2 Dh

Admission palace: 40 Dh split

Dinner split: 75 Dh
Showers Mark: 20 Dh

The list

Lost kittenThis ATM is where I tried to withdraw cash, the transaction went through but no money spit out from the machineThe Bank that the atm is attached toCacus flowerI have never seen a cacus flower before. Now I have

Map of Marrakesh and our journey

The list is an assortment of sins and must-dos which Mark and I came up with for this trip. One of the items that I wrote down was watching an authentic belly dancing show. This is from a pet peeve of mine. When I travel I want to learn everything I can about the local dance culture, their business model, people’s perception of it and the nuances that come with the lifestyle. So the previous night, we did just that.

Music troupeWhat a vibrant dancer. An oasis in a desert where woman covered up from head to toe. Seeing this much flesh all of a sudden gave my heart a jump. That and the fact that the things she can do with her stomach is amazingOld belly dancer

Culture and Economy

Here’s a footage of us crossing the street to get an idea of the chaotic nature of the traffic

Here’s a list of us walking in the souks alleyways.

Between child prostitution in the new city, peddling wares or photo-ops to tourists in the old city and finally, selling hashish (better quality pot more on this in a later entry) to every white skinned people looking lost, I think Marrakesh has a pretty good economy going for them. This impression I have of this place can probably be attributed to the underlying conflicts between the French and their “Colony”. So to speak.

I’ll try to demonstrate this first with examples. There’s a very big difference in interaction with the locals between Mark and I. First of all, it’s rare for them to see a white guy walking around in with an Asian. Second they never expected me to be able to speak French let along jokingly stab back at them. For the most part, people left me alone (the reason will be revealed in a later entry). So besides the normal: “You Japonais?” while showing the Buddhist prayer hand they usually just blurt out whatever English they know and be done with me. Mark however gets a completely different treatment which includes and not limited to: “Want hashih?”, “Take pictures?”, “Cent Dirham!”. I am not sure if he gets solicitation for “Jeunne fille” sex, I did not ask and do not intend to. We did have somebody asking us if we want “Good stuff with woman” around a street corner in CasaBlanca, but I didn’t think the woman was that young or good looking.

For us, Marrakesh was a new experience, but for the French who were visiting for the 10th time in their life, it was pretty much a colony where people are to be ordered around and that everything is cheap. You can basically collect France welfare and just stay in Morroco for its low living standard if you want (based on my calculations, detail feasibility study still need to be done). So the French’s attitudes towards the locals are that of annoyance and impatience (Which is the type of attitude I ended up adopting near the end of the trip as well for a different reason).

Overall, Marrakesh is worth staying 3 days for. Western tourists pays very well since our living standards are luxurious compared to the scraps that they have to fight for. 100 Dh  (roughly $27) may be pocket change for you, but for the locals it can probably feed a person for a week (I once survived off 15 Dh/day on this trip).

What I believe will really help both the tourists and the locals, is for an effort to be put into making a transactions binding and to develop a pleasant attitude when an offer is rejected. The changing of an agreed upon amount made me suspicious of anything they say. The insults that they blurt out when I refused them, made me dread any contact with the local people. It’s true that by adopting the two, you might not get my business, but if your neighbor can get my business, it will benefit Marrakesh eventually. The way it’s going right now just pushes me to be my cruelest self without regret.

Sight Seeing

View of Marrakesh from on top of Palais Badii

Panoramic view from the top of riad Chellah in Marrakesh's ancienne médina

The abandoned Palais Badii. Built for the king's one concubine

Jardin Princesse Lalla HasnaIn Jardin Princesse Lalla Hasna watching tourist groups stumbling around with no clue. As a backpacker is one of my lesser entertainments. Not that I am any betterJardin Princesse Lalla Hasna looking at La KoutoubiaEagle tower in Jardin Princesse Lalla HasnaLa Koutoubia from the sideLa Koutoubia Prayer tower. Wakes you up everyday at 5Palais Badii looking at the swimming pool from one of the sleeping quartersEpic shot of palace BadiiPalais Badii what used to be a swimming poolPalace catacombs

There are quite a few point of interest for sight seeing if you are into that type travel. Personally, traveling is more of a way to learn another lifestyle and a chance to interact with people that I would otherwise have not met. When you have traveled a lot, sight seeing in every country becomes the same. But this was a slow day as we waited for the next desert excursion to start, so we decided to do what all good tourists should do. Visit these places of interests. Palais Badii, La Koutoubia and Jardin Princesse Lalla Hasna. Add some more of the souks crawling and we managed to waste a whole day. As a consequence of this more leisurely pace, we got to witness more of the day to day life of Marrakesh. That includes a knife fight between a souk kid using WWF style huge metal belt against a street bum wielding a knife. Some blood were shed before people finally broke up the couple. All without the police being informed. I think the police are there more to protect the tourists than to enforce order between their own kind. There were also a rock throwing fight between kids. By rocks I mean rock the size of your fist. A police confiscated the camera of a tourist who took pictures of the royal palace which they were not allowed to.

Change of Plans

When we got back to the hotel, our hotel owner took us to a travel agency to register for a camel ride at 700 Dh each. Ralid was the person who serviced us. We were surprised by how fluent he is in English in a country with strong French influence. It turns out that he actuall graduated university in the US, go figure. For those of you who wish to take a desert excursion with a caravan, it’s best if you ask the hotel owners. Travel agencies tend to charge double the price and provide the same type of experience.

After much deliberation between me and Mark, we decided that signing up for this will not only provide for a good experience, but also allow us to travel towards the southern part of Morocco without having to worry about finding transportation. We made a conscious decision to break off from the original plan and make a leap of faith to go the less traveled road. Less protection for tourists and more potential dangers in less civilized area. By making this change, we no longer know if we will make it back in time for our plane nor do we have any idea how to travel from here on. I am scared of the numerous possibilities for error, but at the same time excited to see what I can do.

Night of Marrakesh

Marrakesh night market

We spend the night at the night market in Jamaa-el-fna, splurging on food. For 75 Dh, we had: Tanjine, calamari, Pastille, Aubergine, soupe, coke and bread. This is definitely awesome and worth it. The place completely makes me feel at home. Reminds me of Taiwan’s night market but with different people. That about wrap up the day for the calm before the storm hit. It’ll be a while before I get to splurge on food like this again. But I didn’t know that back then…

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