Monday, May 18, 2009

Marrakech Medina

This day was a rest day and we visited the medina. We were showed around by a tour guide, Mohammad. He was a very nice guy and he was very open to answering any questions we had about his religion and life in Morocco.

Introducing Mohammed!

The medina definitely requires a tour guide to find your way around and not get lost. It is made up of such narrow, winding alleys. The medina is full of shops were the locals are selling all kinds of products (textiles, metal works, wood carvings, leather, carpets, etc). Random pictures from the medina...

That looks sanitary!!

We really don't know what the sign says, but we decided that it must be a public shower.

The vendors are very aggressive in Marrakech. As you walk by, they ask you to come in and look around, and they don't ask just once. Then, if you show any interest at all, it is impossible to leave without being rude. Additionally, nothing has a price. So, you have to bargain for every purchase. Which, I don't mind doing at say a yard sale, but I didn't really feel comfortable bargaining for a product that I had no clue as to the true value.

The tour guide must have a bit of a kickback thing going on with some of the vendors because we stopped at a few of the bigger shops. We stopped at a 'pharmacy'. It was a pharmacy that uses natural products. It was supposedly what the locals use to cure their ills. The 'pharmacist' told us all about the products (from spices for cooking to lotions and medical herbs). Then of course, you could purchase any of the products for a small fee.

Here are the dumb gullible tourists...they'll buy anything!!

The next major stop was to a rug shop. Before we went, Mike and I decided that our big purchase would be a rug. We get to this place and they sit you down and serve you mint tea. God, that stuff is disgusting but you feel that you have to drink it so as not to be rude. Then, this flunky starts unfolding all these rugs and displaying them while someone tells you in what area of the country the rug was made. After unfolding a zillion rugs, the flunky holds each one up again and if anyone is interested in that rug (or a similar one), speak up and you are whisked away to look at more rugs.

Mike and I were interested in a rug and this was our first experience with the bargaining process. It was a back and forth process that involved writing your offer down on a piece of paper and passing it back and forth. We did finally come to an agreement and I'm sure we got ripped off. But it's all about the memory right??

Jens, our tour guide, on the 'flying carpet'. Jens was always ready for a silly picture.

The focal point of the medina is the Place Djemaa el-Fna, a huge square in the old city. Other than the many vendor shops, this is where everything happens. We saw a snake charmer here and this was one of the things that we wanted to check off our list. One of the guys put a snake around Mike's neck (this was an unsolicited request). I took their picture and then of course the guy wanted to be paid for the picture. We respectfully declined.

Mike was a wee bit of a baby about the non-poisonous snake around his neck.

At night rows of open-air food stalls are set up in the Place Djemaa el-Fna and mouth-watering smells fill the air. As you wonder around checking everything out, all the food vendors come up to you with their menus and want you to eat at their stall.

Group dinner

Overlooking the plaza at night.

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