Travel Journal

Marrakesh - at a snails pace

(Wednesday 13 October 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 47-49 – 9/20-22/10 Marrakesh
Again with no metered cabs. We almost got a deal for 20 DH but it fell through so we walked a bit before finding a cab willing to take us for that fare. We had reservations and on the review for the hotel there were several complaints about how hard it was to find so we knew we had a task ahead of us. We enlisted a kid who said he knew the place to take us there for 20 DH. A half hour later it turned into four kids before we finally found the place and they demanded 100 DH. I gave them 20 DH and they were still complaining to the housekeeper while we were going to our room.
The hotel was very nice inside and had a rooftop balcony with a view over the city. The housekeeper only spoke Arabic and French but helped us settle in. After securing the location with the Garmin (there are no street maps on the GPS but it can save coordinates and give distance and direction to that spot) we headed out to explore the medina. Medina is huge and even by the end of our stay, we saw only a small portion and we would get lost on every outing. We made our way to Jemaa El Fna which is the main market and Julie immediately got some snails to eat. I saw the Glacier Café and the escargot stand as they appeared in the Amazing Race. It was already getting dark so we headed back to the hotel for the night.
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The next morning, we walked to the tourist information center which actual was quite a bit away. We passed the Grand Taxi stand and the bus station which I made note of as we might be using them to get to Imichil. As usual, the tourist information center didn’t know about the festival but provide another number for information. We stopped in to a private tour company who confirmed the date and location and gave us a price of 240 Euros for a driver who would drop us of at Fes afterward as it would be easier to get back to Tangier and accommodations for the trip. Too rich for our blood. A car rental place offered us $25 Euros per day which I toyed with but I’m sure there would be other charges. Julie thought it would be best to make it there ourselves but I was skeptical as the guide book suggested a bus, then Grand Taxi, then local bus, then Grand Taxi just to get to the town. On the way back, we stopped at the bus station and found that the bus for the first leg left at 7 AM and cost 120 DH in case we chose that route.
The owner of the hotel was in so we asked for the bill which I paid. Julie overheard the price from the second floor room and came down pointing out we were being charged too much. The owner showed a printed email that the housekeeper had given him with the standard price for the room. He didn’t believe us when we told him that we haven’t had a printer so that wasn’t our email. He didn’t believe Julie when she showed him the email from booking.com to her confirming the price. We finally got him to check his emails and sure enough his email had the price we claimed and he reluctantly agreed to that. Thanks to Julie’s bulldog determination, we weren’t overcharged 21 Euros for our stay.
We headed back into the Medina and saw the Ben Youssef University
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by peeking inside but we didn’t pay to enter and we also skipped the Marrakesh Museum after stopping there. We went back to the Jemaa El Fna where I picked up ½ kilo of cashews which is a heck of a lot and Julie had here daily fresh orange juice. Julie also did a bit of haggling for a scarf. We also tried to get her brother a license plate but the seller was staying with twenty dollars which was too much.
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We also got some snacks some kebabs for me and fish on a stick for Julie. We also had befriended a local who had spent some time in New York and was now finding living quarters for people. Very laid back and spent most of the day sitting in an area near our hotel watching life go by. He offered to take us to lunch at a friend’s house the next day and warning lights went off in my head. We didn’t commit to anything but said we’d let him know the next day.
We decided to give him the benefit of doubt and agreed when we saw him the next morning. We stopped at the Koutoubia, a big mosque inside the medina and walked the ground,
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found the Saadian’s Tombs
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where a former king buried his concubines and a later king kind of hid the grounds so it would be out of sight. Next was Badi Palace now in ruins.
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We got back a little later than we agreed for lunch and met the man whose house we were going to visit. We found out that our friend would not be coming and the man we were going with didn’t speak English and that lunch was postponed till 2 PM. Back in our room I voiced my concern about the arrangement and we decided to skip lunch. I was willing to blow off and not even see the guy as we were leaving early the next morning but Julie wanted to be nice and explain why we weren’t going. Of course when we tried to tell them we weren’t going, we were told that much preparation was done to make lunch and our friend would go we broke down and agreed and walked over to the man’s apartment.
We got to see them making cuscus and enjoyed a good meal. We met his family including a niece who was studying in Italy but was home for the summer and spoke English well and bonded with Julie. We spent a couple hours with them talking and Julie asked about a hamman which is like a bath/spa and something we had discussed doing in Morocco. Julie wanted to go if it was nice and I suggested she go with the niece and because male and female hammans are separate, I would skip it. I gave Julie a couple hundred DH so she could treat the niece to a upscale hamman and they would take Julie back to our hotel later. I left with the men making sure that I saved the location of the apartment and that they knew I had the means to get back.
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As it was getting dark, I was just leaving the hotel when Julie rushed back in an excited state. Apparently the whole family had ended up going to the hamman and went to the cheap 10 DH one after keeping the 200 DH. The mother had done the scrubbing and cleaning on Julie rather than paying an attendant and Julie figured out then she was being shaked down. They began the stories that they needed money for the Grandma’s medicine, the niece’s flight back to Italy, the niece wanted some more money so she could travel with us to Imichil, and so on. They tried to get Julie to get me back there as she had no more money and at first didn’t want to return her clothes or backpack. They were messing with the wrong women though as Julie got her stuff and set off on her own breaking away from the niece that actually tried to pull her back into the apartment!
It’s too bad that what starting as a good time and culture exchange between us turned ugly at the end. We packed up and left the next morning at 6 AM to begin our long journey to Imichil.

  • Julie's Man Who Knew Too Much by The Elder


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