First a bit about the trip to Marrakech - memorable of itself. We caught the ferry from Tarifa to Tangiers. For reasons unknown, it took off an hour and 20 minutes late - no matter, there is an hour time change to Morocco. We were met at the gangplank by Said, a Tangier guide employed regularly by Dar Cilla guests. He was so nice to us - introduced his driver and took us to the train station to buy our tickets, to a grocery store to buy snacks for the overnight train trip, to get local cash (dirhams) and then he invited us to have supper with him.
Said asked "Would you like to have soup with me?" It was a warm 28C outside, so I thought that a bit odd, but we agreed, and wound up having a fantastic meal. The soup, harira, is delicious - made with vegetables and lentils. Said said it is the first thing they have after breaking the daily fast during Ramadan. Best soup I've ever had. We also had shish kabobs, breads and lots of good dips. A grand first meal.
I was so conscious of the cultural differences - they smack you from the get-go. I had on ¾ length pants, and felt so exposed with all the other woman with covered arms, legs, and hair. Morocco is the first Muslim country I've ever visited. I went to the toilet at the train station, and all the girls were readjusting their hijabs - I tried to watch discretely, and they were probably just as curious about my strange looks.
The train to Marrakech was an adventure too. When got on and saw how small the couchette compartments were, we thought, "Oh no! 12 hours in this…" It was clear that the train was crowded and that we wouldn't have the compartment to ourselves either. Two young guys got on separately, and we had to clear the way, so they could use the top bunks. It was mostly awkward silence, as we speak no Arabic or French. Still, I was so tired from a poor sleep the night before, I took my sleeping tablets and conked out for almost 10 hours. The rattling of the train was like a rocking crib. I went to the toilet at midnight, and resolved to not pee on the train again if possible. There were foot pedals on the floor to flush, and to run tap water - neither worked well, and of course, no TP, soap or towels. The guy on the bunk above me got out somewhere at 4am, but I rolled over and went back to sleep. Peter woke me for the last daylight hours. We watched the country go by out the window - lots of desert with the odd goat herd and one lone sole minding them. You wonder how there's enough greenery on that rocky land for them to subsist!
Sallah, the local head of our tour company Morocco Explored picked us up from the train station at Marrakech. An outgoing guy, he just smiled and said "Wild guess - are you Peter and Pam?" Yes, we were about the only non-Moroccans getting off the packed train.
Marrakech assaults the senses - mules and donkeys everywhere! Still a primary mode of distribution in the medinas, and as it turns out, throughout the country. And trash everywhere - that was something we never got used to the whole week - a curse upon whoever invented plastic grocery bags.
Our riad (lodging) looked literally like a hole in the wall - outside, you usually only see a plain doon, then inside,all riads open up to a large courtyard and fountain. We sat at a beautiful sitting area with Arabic pillows and carved furniture. We had our first of many Moroccan teas. They brew green tea with mint and sugar in beautiful silver teapots. You drink it out of lovely decorated small glasses, and they pour it from high about to 'airate' the tea. Quite a ceremony, and a lovely quenching cuppa in that hot climate.
Our room wasn't ready, but we got a shower in a spare room and took off on a walking tour of the Marrakech medina and kasbah with our guide Yousef. It was hot, dusty, and like Ho Chi Mihn, a dangerous walk, with no sidewalks, and traffic - donkeys, trucks, motorbikes, you-name-it - coming from every direction. The narrow streets of the media have such sharp corners, that you have to literally stop and peek your head around the corner to see if it's safe to proceed. It's usually not!
We saw a palace from the 1800s, lots of mosaics, cedar ceilings, stucco and tiles walls, etc.
==== I am so behind, that I'm posting this partial blog. It's all I got done while at the laundromat in Sevilla (but that is fodder for another blog post). TBC