Friday, 3 October 2014

Au Revoir, Marrakech

How do you say good-bye to a place that has captured your heart so fully and completely? A place where romantic French is the most common language after Arabic, a place where birdsong echoes in the country air, and mad chaos in the medina? A place where the most delicious chicken served in its own little cooking pot, the tajine is served in every restaurant; a place where it is warm enough to walk around almost naked at midnight (not that I do), a place where we have felt welcomed, relaxed, and fully captivated by the people and their ways.

Lovely gardens at our hotel

After spending our last two days at the night market and touring around, we agreed that some of our favourite experiences were:

haggling with persistent shop keepers who refused to take "no" for an answer, then when we walked away, would call us back, only to try to get us to accept a higher price. Once we stood our ground, they usually came down to our price, or perhaps we came up very slightly, they acted like we had just royally ripped them off. We kept our senses of humour, thanked them, shook their hands, smiling all the while, as they shook their heads in disgust.

Yes, he is very clever!

Having one of the shopkeepers wrap a scarf around my head Arab style. So much fun, how could I not buy it after this?

How do they get those spices into those lovely pyramids?

Appreciating the creative ways that things were displayed.

Hand beaded gowns fit for a princess or maybe the Queen of Sheba!


How about some olives?
In the middle of the chaos of the market, we came upon inobtrusive little doorways that led to delightful riads, or hotels that had a sweet courtyard opening to the sky in the middle. The deskeeper let us take a quick peek at this one where we could have stayed for a fraction of the price. Hmm, maybe next time!
It's hard to believe that anyone would want a warm hat in this hot climate!

And always a delicious meal!

Good-bye to beautiful buildings

Wide boulevards

And herds of camels on almost every corner. We will miss you, but we promise to come back and explore more of your glorious country!



Thursday, 2 October 2014

Atlas Mountains and Berber Villages

Leaving Marrakesh bright and early in the morning with our new friends Garry and Marie from London, we were soon out of the city heading toward the Atlas mountains. Our driver Abdullah explained as we went that the people in the small villages in the Atlas mountains were Berber rather than Arab. Driving through these villages is like stepping back in time to when people lived much more simply. While tourism has its drawbacks in these types of villages, there is also a significant economic advantage, as the locals have created cooperatives which help them to collectively benefit from selling their handcrafts.

The first village that we stopped at was in the Argun Valley. This cooperative showed us how argun oil is made from the argun nut. First it is pounded by hand between two rocks to crack the nut.

Then it is ground on a wheel to squeeze out the oil.

Argun oil is reknown for its cosmetic properties, promising beautiful skin to those who use it. We shall see! It is only available in the Argun Valley, as this is the only place in the world that it grows.

In true Morrocan tradition, we were given a cup of delicious sweet mint tea, and only after social niceties have been exchanged were the different kinds of oil explained...lemon for tired feet, lime to help you sleep, and rose to keep your skin beautiful. We wanted to buy one of every kind, but the restrictions on our luggage helped us to exercise restraint!

Climbing the stairs above the shop to the roof gave us terrific views of the village!

Driving through later Berber villages, we saw women washing rugs in the river, and hanging them out to dry.

Garden patches irrigated by hoses run from the river higher up in the mountains

And villages built on the side of the mountain.

We set off on a hike to see the waterfall. Across a very rough and rickety bridge. Don't bounce, whatever you do!

Through delightful little oasis where comfortable sitting areas had been created

and the oranges are kept cool by a hose carrying water from high in the mountains. These made me think of nomadic people coming upon an oasis as this surely was, and by placing a few carpets and cushions on the sand, creating lovely resting places.

We climbed over huge rocks, and after an hour of climbing, finally decided that the trip to the top was too dangerous to attempt wearing flip flops.

On the way down we passed village women leading their goats

and stopped for a short camel ride.

This land of mystery, magic and memories will stay with us forever!