Monday, July 14, 2008

Morocco: Day Four: Tourists


We got up at a reasonable hour, and had breakfast on the rooftop terrace. Still love the food.

We were determined to visit some of Marrakesh's gardens. First on our list was Jardin de la Menara It was too far to walk, even if we knew where it was, so we needed to figure out the local transportation. They have petit taxis. They're cheap, at most 10 dirham anywhere in the city, but they'll only carry three people. Petit Taxis in Marrakesh are beige. We convinced one to take all four of us, but he wanted 40 dirham. We checked out the grand taxis, which hold more in their Mercedes sedans, but they wanted 50 dirham. After some discussion, we checked out the Marrakesh Tour bus. It's a double-decker open top bus that runs all day in several loop routes around the city. For 390 dirham, all four of us could ride for 24 hours, and get off/on at any of the 20 or so tourist-interesting stops, including both gardens we wanted to see. there was also an audio soundtrack in our language (and seven others) pointing out what we were seeing. It was the Bateau Mouche of Marrakesh.

We got on at Djemaa el Fna, and got off at Jardin de la Menara.

I'm not sure what made this a garden, other than several hectares of olive grove and orchard. There was also a huge reflecting pool with large fish that enjoyed yesterday's Moroccan bread. There were several guys offering camel rides, but we did not make avail.

We got back on the bus and took it to the main stop (which immediately follows the Marrakesh McDonalds stop)

where we transferred to the blue line. By this point it was 30°C (86°F) but still felt very comfortable in the breeze. The reason is because the humidity must be ridiculously low. Humans sweat all the time, but when the air is dry, the sweat evaporates immediately and keeps us cool. We don't feel "sweaty." That's how it works here. In North Carolina, the humidity is much higher, and the air is closer to being saturated, so the sweat does not evaporate readily, and the reslut is feeling hot and wet. I'm thinking I'm definitely a desert kind of person.

We got off at the Jardin Majorelle, a private garden and former residence of Yves St. Laurent, who loved Marrakesh, and designed the gardens. Coincidentally, he died just last month, but they had already erected a proper monument to him. The gardens were impressive, with a lot of bamboo, cactus, and water features.

We walked from there back toward downtown, stopping at a cafe for lunch. JR and I each had the kefta, Zoe had a fruit salad, and Tristan had the fruit salad and a chicken sandwich. All the meats were grilled on a small charcoal hibachi-like grill out on the street, probably to 1) keep a little bit of the additional heat out of the non-air conditioned establishment, and 2) to tempt hungry passers-by with the smell of grilled chicken and beef.

Speaking of grilling, everybody uses natural lump charcoal here for cooking. There is propane, but that's used for boiling water and occasional lighting. Marrakesh smells great, and most of that is from the charcoal and things right above the charcoal.

Back to lunch. We each got a soda (Fanta Orange for the kids and me) and Coke Light for JR. Soda is the one allowable American food item during foreign travel, due mainly to the fact that it's usually more common and widely available than any other local soft drink.

We continued our walk downtown because I had seen a supermarket that I wanted to visit. Like I've said before, supermarkets are one of my favorite things to check out in any foreign country. It's like one giant "ethnic foods" section. This one did not disappoint. They're really big on yogurt here. Every other TV commercial is for yogurt, and the yogurt section in the supermarket was huge. We bought some ice cream novelties in frozen foods since they were much cheaper here than from a street vendor or bodega. We also got two cans of soda of a brand called Fayrouz that we discovered at a patisserie the day before. We got one pêche (peach) and poire (pear), my personal favorite. We ate the ice cream on the steps outside the store

We walked back to the main train stop and boarded a red line train that would take us back to Djemaa el Fna. We passed a bank sign that said it was now 38°C, over 100°F. Once again it wasn't too awful if you stayed in the shade and managed to find a breeze.

We rode to the Saadian Tombs, and toured them. It wasn't very exciting, and the kids were reaching the end of their rope anyway.

We went back to the hotel and turned on the A/C. We were lucky to have it. Like most non-US countries, you turn off the A/C when you're not there. You also unplug the fridge. Lights in elevators, hallways, and stairwells turn off automatically, and nearly bulb you see is a compact fluorescent. Our A/C worked great. We set it to 21°C (70°F) which people here would probably consider decadent and frigid. Regardless, it felt good.

After a while, we headed out to the shararma street, and picked up a few sandwiches to go at a restaurant, and some pastries at a patisserie. We took them back to the riad, and ate them on the rooftop terrace.

Once again, it had cooled down significantly, so it was pretty comfortable. So far, it seems the weather's pretty much the same every day, other than the temperature, which varies a bit from day to day. Evidently, it doesn't rain in the summer, and supposedly snows in the winter. I'd like to see that.


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