last nite travelers checks and the medina

4/12 where I left off- After a little while I made my way back down using a different route, and my instinct that I could just head downhill and hit the village was right on, I followed a different path that is used more by the locals then the tourists and it was much easier. Kids were getting out of school; I saw lots of them in front of me with backpacks, doing normal kid things.

I saw the guy again that told me to come back after the mountain. I told him I had only 50 dirham (about $8 US) but he sold me a pretty great necklace for that – saying it was good challah (sp) for his store. He told me there was a Californian named Alex from the Peace Corps working in the village near the top of the mountain on irrigation. Helping the local people.

I left him and went into another shop also telling him I had nothing but traveler’s checks. He decided that was good enough with my passport number and a business card, and so I spent $150 US in this little shop and got 2 necklaces silver and stones and 4 pairs of earrings. All in all I left Imlil with 2 bracelets, 3 necklaces and 4 earrings. I walked back down to café soleil, explaining to every shopkeeper I have no cash, they all know the driver, said he will give me money and I can pay him back in Marrakech. I decide that this happened for a reason and I didn’t need any more stuff, I had given the village my injection of cash for the day. I felt good about the people, the place and what I spent so no worries.

I called Redemon on my cell and in a few minutes he drove up. On the way down the mountain we saw camels by the stream, but I think they were really for tourist rides. They are the first camels I have seen in Marrakech. Mostly horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, horse drawn carts and carriages, little taxis, big taxis, and motorbikes. Motorbikes everywhere. Lots of bicycles too. Surprising more people don’t get killed.

Traffic here is crazy. But in the heavy traffic areas there are guys you pay to park your car to run to the bank, and you double park and give them your keys, and when you return you tip them. Great plan I’ve not seen elsewhere. So I remind my driver that I have to cash travelers checks (American Express) and we go to two banks, I stand in the queue only to find they won’t touch Amex traveler’s checks. I tell him to drive me back to riad. The riad proprietors Roselyne and Jacky have me talk to some guy on Skype about what I am trying to do and he tells Roselyne to take me to her bank which is a French bank. We go there, and no- they won’t touch them either. It is around 4pm and I have a total of about $10 US to my name for the next few days, including dinners. I still owe Jamila for my embroidered linen jellaba and matching brown linen pants of $1300 dirham (divide by 8 for us dollars) , plus paying for water and transport to and from airport at riad, and the bank trip, and I’d like to give Jamila something for all the coordination and effort she made on my behalf, but no cash.

So back to the riad, up on the terrace to write and my new Stuttgart friends come upstairs. I find out he is a musician (blues and jazz/ guitar) classically trained, teaching now, and she is a goldsmith making jewelry. We lay around the terrace chatting, the Italians come home and then depart for dinner, and the Stuttgart couple invite me to join them for a snack at our same little local café. I have just about enough for dinner, so I go with them and have OJ, a chicken brochette, rice, pasta and some French fries. The fries were really good. These two have been married many years, and they talked about each of them having a passion, and allowing each other separate passions. They bought two metal lamps for their terrace at home. I told them about Jamila and gave them her name to Google. We had a nice dinner, then time for bed. Somehow I’ve managed to lose the second camera battery, but hopefully one with the charger will be enough for the rest of the trip. It is really easy to lose little things like that when you are traveling. Sometimes they reappear also in the place you have already checked 30 times. Oh well. We walk back to the riad, and say goodbye. They leave early in the morning on a bus to Agadir for 4 hours and then fly home. He said they will be home by this time tomorrow. We exchange emails and she will write to me.

4/13/10 I woke up at 615 this morning probably when my new friends were having petit dejeuner before they leave for the bus station. I continue to lie in bed until 7:45 when I decide I have to get up and take care of the money situation.

I meet up with the young Italian couple at breakfast, and then the other 3 join us- so now I know two names Mino, and the neighbor lady is Daniela, and I finish and go to hookup to the wifi in the hallway outside the office to move some money from my savings to checking just in case no one will cash the American express travelers check today. I go back and forth about how many to cash, because I will have to convert any money I have left at the airport because you can’t take the dirhams out of the country. I think I chose $600 US dollars.

I went back up to the terrace to get a large bottle of water for my trek today, and headed out of the riad about 9:30am I think. I walked about 10 blocks and caught a cab to café negotione which is near the branch of credit maroc who told us yesterday they would cash the check. There was already a woman in a head scarf in the back seat. He drove her to the medina, and then took me to the café.

Of course that intersection has 6 streets leading out of it, and I walked all of them, finally finding the bank a couple blocks away on my 4th or 5th try. I paid $20 dirhams for this cab ride, under $3 US. It took quite a while to complete the transaction and I got 4800 plus change in dirhams, right on the street, and put $3000 dirhams in my money belt bra liner right away.

I tried to get a little cab several times, but this is a very busy area so I walked the few blocks back to where the cab had dropped me off and headed back the way I thought the taxi driver had come after dropping my cab buddy off. After about 45 minutes I saw the mosque come into view. I made it. This is a funny city, and the street names are really hard to find. Somehow I instinctively have found my directions but haven’t been here long enough to trust my instincts so I think I take a lot of unnecessary detours. Fortunately it’s broad daylight and there are literally hundreds of people on the street, and no one has bumped into me.

Oops, I just got excited because I saw the mosque and tripped, my sunglasses flying, but caught myself on the way down so I didn’t hit hard. A bunch of man standing in front of a mechanics shop were watching and when I got up I gave them the thumbs up and they all cheered as I hobbled up the street. Thank goodness I’m wearing stretched out baggy pants anyway. No harm.

I make my way precariously across several bits of street, dodging taxis, horses, motorbikes, and cars- I’m getting pretty good at this risking my life to cross the street stuff. On a two lane road there are 6-8 lanes of traffic. The street is painted, but cars go in between others like motorcycles do at home. To make a left turn, a bunch of cars and motorbikes form a little herd and turn in unison. Pedestrians look for this bunching up and dash across while the herd is turning. It works, but I’m glad I can walk because it would be a real pain if you couldn’t move fast.

All the cafes on the way only have Moroccan men in them, and I’d like a coke, but I’ll wait until inside the medina. I am amazed at the tourists and the young girls dressing like they are at home with their bellies showing, standing next to a fully covered woman in a headscarf. Great people watching.

I see the sign for the Cyber Park just outside the medina, and walk through. It’s a beautiful park with kiosks that have internet access all over, benches, and a cyber café for those without wifi. Lots of young people crowd around the kiosks. I think it’s free. The park has big trees and shaded pathways, lots of seating and fountains and is a great place to escape the heat of the day.

I work my way through the park to the entrance to the old city, and walk around the mosque and what may be the tombs. The walls are very old, and he square here was declared a UNESCO (sp- something else to look up) international treasure or something like that for preserving the customs like storytelling in the square in the evening. I hear the sound of the snake charmers just like in the movies and there are several umbrellas set up in the square with rugs underneath, and a bunch of men in socks and the snakes. I didn’t stop to watch because I didn’t have any coins to give to take pictures.

There were also fortune tellers, and henna tattoo ladies, fresh orange juice vendors and people selling all sorts of things. Sitting on stools in the middle of the square under umbrellas. Lots of open fronted shops/souks and restaurants line the central square.

I started down one road and walked through some leather and gold souks and saw lots of baboush vendors (Moroccan slippers) and saw the hand of Fatima that Alexandra- my coaster friend from Nice- is hoping I bring her. I walked basically all around the perimeter of the medina along the walls which is I think about 6km not sure. In and out of little streets, shoe shops and shops selling rugs and washing machines and spices and more. I ended up where I started and sat down in the shade at a restaurant I had passed the first time that was filled with both men and women. I ordered a lamb kebab with rice. They brought me some really good bread and a small plate of olives.

I also ordered a coke, again delivered in a bottle just like in turkey. And a bendy straw. I haven’t seen those for years. They really are a bit of a pain in the a@# because they float up to the top and keep falling out of the glass, but they are fun to drink with. It reminds me of when I was little and I remember that the floating and falling out of the glass thing was a problem then. Design flaw I guess.

I sat there for about an hour, eating that great bread and the olives, drinking from my bendy straw and watching the parade of humanity pass by including women in burkas with kids with disabilities asking for money, guys playing instruments very badly and then asking for money, old men with canes and tin bowls asking for money, vendors saying hello, bonjour, hola and where are you from come and look at everyone walking past. Shoe shine guys hoping to make a few coins, young couples, she in head scarf with her arm draped around her husband or boyfriend, he looking happy and a little sheepish. Surrounded by people speaking French, Spanish and Arabic. Seldom hear English here at all, although I do spot some north face gear so they may be closet Americans. Not sure if they sell it internationally, probably they do. Lots of noises, music, the snake charmers, motorcycles, vendors,

After paying for the meal- with tip $100 dirham (about $12 bucks or so)I headed back to the square after checking my lonely planet guide to see how to head in the direction of the Dar Bellaj exhibition and the Ben Josef Madrassa, and the Musee de Marrakech (sp, sp).

Now I’m in the middle of the souks, mostly darkish alleys, tiny stalls jammed with merchandise, scarves, rugs handbags, jewelry, trinkets, spices, nuts,meat, fruit, furniture, everything. After about an hour I let a young guy help me find the medrassa and the other places are all right there. He seems happy with the $1 euro coin I give him. I buy the 3 monument pass for the museum, the medrassa and the tombs for $60 dirham (about $8 bucks) then see the sign you can’t take water bottles into the museum, so I walk down the alleyway to the medrassa, and just leave the bottle hidden in my bag.

It is an amazing building that used to house an Islamic school, and I also got to see the rooms the students lived in. The mosaic tiles and the carved wood are extraordinary and cover the floors and walls. I head back into the dark bellage and find my way to the exhibit in the basement, and the display of old photographs and the hamman that used to occupy part of this building. Gorgeous building once again with carvings, mosaic floors and walls and an enormous pierced metal fixture in the central plaza area over a shallow pond, or mini pool, since it was only 6-8 inches deep.

I then went into the museum and looked at the exhibits (all 3 of these are not very large, so easy to scoot through), especially since all the captions are in French and Arabic and it’s poorly lit.

I headed back through the souks, amazed at the pyramids of spices. I don’t’ think I can take them into the US but it would be really fun to just buy a bit of everything, then find out what it is. I don’t buy anything, despite the literally millions of items up for sale. It’s kind of like going to the largest swap meet in the world in dimly lit alleys, and so many stands have similar wares it is a bit overwhelming. I wish I’d had cash with me in the village yesterday because I really like the two silver Berber bracelets I got, and I’m not seeing them in the souks. Tomorrow will have to be shopping day. Maybe Jamila’s French friend from Belgium Francesca who is due to arrive today will accompany me and help me navigate the place.

On the way out I give brief thought to renting a horse cart for a circle tour of the medina. They ask $50 dirham which is less than $10 bucks but I am still confused since Euros are 10 to the euro, and US is 8 something to the Euro. I was hot and tired, and think I have my first blister of the trip (an amazing feat- or feet lol) so I head for the small taxi rank, make it across 6 lanes of traffic, which at the entrance include fleets of tour buses as well as the normal craziness, and about 12 guys rush up. I tell them where I am going and they say 50 dirhams. I say too much and a little old man says $40 so I go for it. He drives me the 20 minutes or so to the Aymain patisserie, around the corner from the riad, and I hop out, giving him an extra 3 dirhams for his trouble. He smiles up at me, missing a few teeth.

You know the one thing that is great about being here is the heat and the humidity. Odd huh. But makeup is a waste of time, dressing for comfort is the ideal, and no one gives a s##@! I did for some reason forget to bring both my tiny tubes of toothpaste, so I stop in a pharmacologic which are everywhere , point to the colgate in the glass case, and buy myself a 12 dirham bigger tube so I can have fresh breath my last day and a half.

I dash up the stairs to the patisserie (sp) and they have about 60 feet of counter full of breads, cakes, pastries, and tarts, but I’m not really hungry after the lunch, so I head back to the riad. I hit the buzzer, hear the greeting, say “it’s Sharon” and Roselyne buzzes me in. I head up the stairs to my corner room, grab my computer, and change out of my closed shoes into my sandals. There are two pairs of slippers in the room, one men’s and one women’s, but I don’t feel comfortable putting on generic shoes even though this is a clean place. I take a quick look at the riad drink offerings and note that they have beer, so I find Roselyne and have a cold glass of Casablanca beer in the afternoon shade. It’s about 4pm by that time. I’m sitting on the outdoor lounges, with my glass of beer, completely filthy and dusty, uploading the photos and videos from my camera, and finishing up this story of the last day or so- so far.

My Italian friends come in, tell me they tried to go to a fancy restaurant in the medina last night but didn’t have reservations so ended up at a cheap place. Today they all went out to the Palmerie looking to do some horseback riding, but instead found a brand new city development with big hotels. They had lunch and then went to the Jardin Mayorelle and spent the afternoon in the cool shade of the beautiful garden. When the young guy saw me drinking a beer, he began jumping in the air and singing in Italian, his wife/girlfriend the doctor said thank you Sharon thank you Sharon, and the rest of them came upstairs and we all had a beer. I continued to write, and they chatted in Italian, occasionally directing a question to me. It looks like maybe we all leave on Thursday, so Mino talked about dinner with Jamila and this new woman arriving today tomorrow night.

It’s about 6:15 right now and I’m trying to decide if I have the strength to go out again tonight. Probably not. Maybe will grab a snack at that local café (it’s not really that good but its close). If I go early enough I can probably get a Panini again.

I will head back to the medina tomorrow, my last day in morocco. I am ready to be heading back towards the states, and I hope like hell that all my connections work. I will enjoy a last night in Barcelona, and then begin the trek through Madrid Chicago San Diego. Hope I don’t get stuck in Chicago. Oh well, what will be, will be. Still have 2 more days to go on the ground before folding myself into the plane.

Well I think I somehow lost a lot of my photos but I guess that is life. I’m going to let it go for now and hope they magically appear. I think I screwed up when trying to upload on the cruise. Bummer.

See you tomorrow!


prettybaby341 said…
your journey is just fascinating, Sharon. We all miss you and welcome you home with open arms and ready pen and paper. Do you have a lift from the airport? If not, let me know.
best- Maureen

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