Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bargaining it up in the Medina - Marrakesh

Happy birthday America! We celebrated the Fourth of July as we traveled through the desert. We sang patriotic songs in the car (don't worry, the two Saras provided firework sound effects) and ate some watermelon for dinner. We had a great Fourth!

We arrived in Marrakesh around 8pm and the streets were filled with cars, motorcycles, people, animals, garbage, etc. Sara thought she was back in India for a moment. We spent a half hour driving around the outskirts of town trying to find a working ATM. We tried three different ones and they were either broken or out of money. Incredible.

Once we had paid our driver we ventured into the Old Medina. Momo, the manager of the riad we were staying at, met us at the car and helped us navigate the crazy streets. Riads are restored houses in the medina that are turned into guest houses. We were blown away by our riad. It was gorgeous and felt like a spa. There was soothing music playing, a water fountain, and candles everywhere. The center of the riad was outside so you have a courtyard in the middle of your house. Our riad had three floors. First floor had a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. Second floor was just bedrooms and the third was a beautiful terrace. We loved Momo and the riad so much that we decided we are going to buy a riad in Marrakesh and hire Momo to take care of it. Don't worry, we even started looking for potential properties.

We had a hard time wanting to venture out from our peaceful riad into the crazy medina but we finally mustered enough strength to face the chaos. Our first day was spent wandering through the Djemaa el Fna (main square filled the famous snake charmers) and Souks (labyrinth of narrow streets filled with small shops). We had a great time bargaining with the shop owners. We came away with amazing bowls, plates, rings, games, shoes, etc. It was a shoppers paradise!

The next day we got up early to see the sights before it got too hot. Our first stop was El Badi Palace. As our guide book would say, "it's a romantic set of sandstone ruins, policed by nesting storks". The mosaic walls and ceilings were amazing. Then we ventured over to the Saadian Tombs. Here we saw the burial ground for several prominent Saadians.

Our next stop was supposed to be the Ali ben Youssef Medersa (16th century Koranic school) but a few people on the street told us that it was closed for cleaning and that we should go to the Festival of Colors instead. A man took it upon himself to lead us there ensuring that "no guide, no money". Later we found out they were feeding us a bunch of lies. The Festival of Colors turned out to be the disgusting tanneries. The tanneries smelled so bad that they handed us a handful of mint leaves to smell as we walked around. Trust us, the mint didn't even come close to helping with the smell. They wanted us to enter via a doorway that had a bunch of animal hides semi-blocking the entry (yes, long hairy fur still attached). We refused and they took us to another entrance. Still disgusting but a little more bearable. They gave us a quick explanation on the tanneries and then we were free to leave. As we were leaving the man leading us to the festival asked us for money. Hmm, remember when he said "no guide, no money". We just walked away without saying a word.

As we were walking back to the main square we stumbled upon the Medersa and guess what, it was open! Imagine that! We took a quick tour and then headed out to find lunch. As we were walking back people kept coming up to us and telling us to go to the tanneries. Lizzy, after being sick of being fed lies and tired of being hot and sweaty said, "if you talk to me about tanneries one more time I'm going to punch you in the face". Amen sister! Overall we loved Marrakesh. We would just suggest you hire a guide in order to avoid being fed lies!


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  2. Sarah,
    I have loved reading your blog! Someday I'll travel the world...Someday :) It's so fun to see and read about all of these places. You're awesome.