Monday, October 10, 2016

Marrakech, Morocco

October 10 - 13

We decided on taking a 4 hour high speed train ride from Mohammedia up to Marrakech with our friends Nadja and Manuel. We booked first class train tickets to ensure we would be sitting together as second class has no assigned seating. Our friends had never travelled first class by train and it was a novelty for them. To our advantage it was only a bit more than the second class tickets.

We grabbed our bags and packed lunch met up with Nadja and Manuel. Our train was scheduled to leave at 10:20 AM so we left the marina and walked the long walk up to the train station. On our way we stopped for directions and in the friendly Moroccan way, were directed to the station. We made a pitstop across the street at a cafe for coffee and wifi. We then made our way over to the modern station and to our platform to wait for the train.

waiting for the train
The train arrived and as we entered the first class car we found people sitting in our seats. Mohammedia is one of the many stops along the way so people see empty first class seats and sit until they are asked to move. We got ourselves settled and enjoyed the scenery. The train seats reminded us of the Hogwarts Express with 6 seats and a sliding door. There was even a fellow that came by selling chips, drinks and pastries. Not quite the selection sold on the Hogwarts Express but we were happy.

During our trip on the train we had some lovely views of rivers and dessert. I didn't have my camera ready but saw two young girls brightly dressed walking down a dirt road. They had smiles on their faces as they were chatting with each other. It was something that struck me and I will remember it always. There was also working mules, packing the farmers equipment, a fully loaded van with passengers on the roof, and loads of cactuses bearing their fruit which is very popular in Morocco. Paige tried it and described it as tasting like a kiwi but with many larger seeds and it was yellow.

our train seats 
Paige, Manuel and Nadja
river beside the tracks
an orchard of some sort
loaded van including two extra passengers on the roof
Upon arrival we were greeted to another super modern train station. We were very impressed. We walked out front to negotiate a price with a taxi to take us to our road in the centre of the medina (market).

umbrellas in the train station
view of the train platforms
We piled into the taxi, along the way we were pleasantly surprised with our surroundings. Our taxi driver explained that he was only able to take us as far as the medina entrance. Beyond that is a pedestrian only area.

a fantastic portrait on the side of a building
another interesting building
well kept streets
The driver dropped us off at the entrance to the medina and upon entering we got our first glimpse of the snake charmers. That was outstanding! We continued to walk further in while consulting Manuel's Google map. After a few wrong turns we were approached by a young fellow who took us to the correct street. We had read about this and knew that he would like to be paid for his services. We gave him a tip and rang the bell at the Riad Dabachi.

As we entered, our first view was the quaint inner pool and the lovely peaceful ambiance. We were offered the traditional Moroccan mint tea that is served in a silver teapot. This particular tea also came with some lovely cookies. As we were enjoying our beverage the manager approached us asking if we had a reservation. This was a red flag! Both Shaun and Manuel replied "yes". She left again and returned a few minutes later with a list. She looked on her list and pointed at a name (that wasn't ours) and asked "Is this you?". She explained that they did not have our reservation as we had reserved in the middle of the night. She further explained that they had another location 10 minutes from there that would be able to accommodate us at the same rate. The owner of the other Riad spoke with Shaun and assured him that this location was much more luxurious than the one we were at. He also said that he would arrange transportation for all of us.

We were crestfallen as we had already fallen in love. It was so beautiful and it was located so close to the medina. We expressed our disappointment but ended up moving to the Riad Kasbah instead of trying to find another location. It is very nice but, not quite the same. On a side note our friends Nadja and Manuel visited Marrakech at a later date and booked the same place and went through the same story. We chalk it up to a bait and switch. If you do take a chance and book at the Riad Dabachi, make sure to call ahead to confirm they have the reservation on hand.

We waited for fellow that would be transporting us and then made the walk back to the entrance. Our hearts were a little heavy. Jordan didn't seem to mind any of it as she had her own transportation. The fellow was gracious enough to allow her to ride in his luggage cart.

our first glimpse of the snake charmers
a closer view
one of the side streets before we met our helper guide
the inner pool at the Riad Dabachi that we fell in love with
one of the sitting areas
the upper floor
the lovely Moroccan mint tea
Jordan and Manuel
Jordan's ride
another view
view heading out of the medina
As we drove away from the medina we were all feeling a bit ripped off. We were really hoping to be in the centre of everything. The driver dropped us and went in search of a staff member from the Riad Kasbah. We finally arrived at the door of the Riad Kasbah and were greeted with more mint tea and were given the choice of rooms. We both chose the first floor near the pool. Don't get me wrong this Riad was very nice but it didn't have the same charm as the other one and it was farther away. It all worked out in the end and we got to see a little bit more of Marrakech.

the entrance to the Riad Kasbah
inner pool and terrace

one of 3 beds in the room
Shaun's and my bed
decorative lighting
the bathroom
decorative wall hanging and a peek-a-boo of Paige's bed
Once we got unpacked we decided to take a walk back over to the medina. We walked past a working mule and down the busy taxi stand street. One of our first stops was a beautiful lamp store. As the afternoon turned to evening the medina started to fill with people. There were traditional dancers, snake charmers, food vendors and henna artists. One lady approached me asking if I wanted henna. Shaun was speaking to someone and as I got distracted she grabbed my hand and started her work (without consent). I was so shocked that I didn't know how to handle the situation so I let her finish. Once she had finished she started to ask for 600 DH (60 Euro). We laughed out load and ended up giving her some money as a donation.

the mosque around the corner from the Riad Kasbah
one of the entrances to the mosque
a working mule on the street near our riad
main street entrance to the medina
the main square of the medina
plethora of lamps
inside the lamp store
variety of colours
tea pots galore
Jordan taking a break on one of the chairs outside a shop while he prayed
one of many back alleys in the medina
nuts and dried fruit stand
stall vendors
another nut and dried fruit stand
Jordan sporting her new Morocco shirt
night time shot
night time shot of the mosque
my unplanned henna tattoo
Every morning we had breakfast on the terrace. We were served bread with jam and honey, Moroccan crepes, juice, coffee and mint tea.

breakfast on the terrace
mint tea being poured in the true Moroccan style to get the foam effect
During our exploration we came across many unrefrigerated butcher shops. One such shop was full of caged live chickens and one peacock that roamed free. Later in the day all of the chickens were gone but the peacock remained. Shaun explained to Paige that this is how the people know that they are getting fresh meat.

one of the unrefrigerated butcher shops
On one of our many walks we came across a fellow laying tile. It is an art.

tile being laid
the finished tile on another day
another working mule
a small kitten

One of our favourite experiences in medina, was the snake charmers. We approached one and asked how much it would cost to video the charmer. The fellow responded that it was by donation. We ended up donating 60 DH = $8.00 CAD. An experience of a lifetime! The charmer played his horn and provoked the cobra. He then pulled another one over and had two of them in front of him plus the two adders. 

Off to the side another man offered the girls the opportunity to touch a docile snake. He then offered to wrap it around their necks. Jordan was all in no questions asked. Paige decided in her wary fashion to accept the offer after seeing Jordan.

the charmer pulling the cobra closer to him
playing his horn
a closer look from behind
closer look from the front

the charmer with the two cobras
a blurry close up

provoking the snake

look mom I have a new scarf
loving every minute of it
an extra wrap of snake
Paige adjusting the wrapped snake scarf
warming up to the idea of having a new live snake scarf

Warning: do not eat from the street vendors. The food looks awesome but most of them are washing their foods with contaminated water. The vendors are very aggressive and have excellent marketing skills. Be strong and walk on. Only eat in well populated restaurants. Sadly our friends Nadja and Manuel got very sick from eating street food. It took them a week and some antibiotics to get better.

After the snakes we decided to explore more of the medinas back streets. On one of these streets is where we purchased our traditional Moroccan lamp. Paige also used her negotiating skills to purchase a tea set. During our walk we came across a woodworker that manually turns wood into chess pieces, wood necklace charms, honey sticks and many other items. In fact as we approached he sat down and turned a necklace piece for Jordan right before our eyes. It was incredible to see his art form. We walked into his shop and looked at all of his wares. I was looking for a jewellery box and found a secret box and I also wanted a honey stick. Sadly, somehow it disappeared. We think that the maids accidentally threw the bag out as it had a bunch of newspaper balled up inside. I was super upset as it was a really well made secret box.

dried fruit stalls
more dried fruit stalls
back street entrance
the street where we purchased our lamp
the lamp shop
Jordan shenanigans with decorative finger nails
cool purses
close up shot of the Moroccan lamps
sneak peak of a back room
another path in the labyrinth
the manual woodworking lathe 
in action
another action shot
We were getting tired and hungry so we decided to go back to a restaurant that we had seen earlier. It had such a great atmosphere. After we dined on a traditional Moroccan meal tagine (A tagine is the clay cooking pot with a conical lid that gives its name to a myriad of dishes. Tagines can be seen bubbling away at every roadside café, are found in top notch restaurants and in every home, and are always served with bread) we headed back to our room as we promised Jordan that she could go swimming. Along the way I finally snapped a picture of the taxi stand.

our table inside the restaurant
beef tagine
the taxi stand
new kittens
Jordan in the pool
a view down from the rooftop
On one of our days we decided to take a taxi over to "new Merrakesh" as it was recommended to us by Manuel. Wow, what a contrast! Super modern shopping mall with a great selection of clothing, electronics and a big grocery store. We were able to finally find some clothes that Paige wanted to wear. We stopped at the food court to grab some sushi and then went bowling.

stork beer in the liquor portion of the grocery store
astro turf covered furniture in the food court

10 pin bowling
minibus taxi back to the riad
Jordan had her own bench in the back
Our time in Marrakech was coming to a close. As we had bought so many things Shaun had to go back to purchase a new back pack. With our bags packed we found a taxi to take us back to the train station to make our trip back to Mohammedia.

If ever you get a chance to visit Morocco, Marrakech is a must see. I only wish we had more time to experience more of Morocco. I would have loved to camp in the Sahara dessert. It will be on my list of places to return to.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

1 comment:

  1. I am very impressed with how brave the girls are! Awesome photos with the snake!