I Love Morocco

Our last day in Essaouira was a depressing one (only because I didn’t want to leave). We did the usual, breakfast and beach. Mikey was bribed into buying an ugly pair of sunglasses on the beach while a henna artist attacked me. She grabbed my hand and started painting on it while I said, “no, I don’t have any money, I don’t want one.” She said for me, no charge, so I thought I was humoring her, letting her paint, but then she hassled me for 200 dh! I said no fucking way and gave her 10 to piss off. She was the worst person we’d had to deal with in morocco and my henna looked like someone has taken a shit on my hand. Idiot.

Once the beach got too windy, we did some last minute Christmas shopping and had a veggi tangine with couscous in the square. I made a new friend and mikey got angry, because he thought i’d get rabies.

My kitten friend in Essaouira

We caught the 6:45pm bus to Marrakesh and stayed there for the night since our flight to Prague was at 11am the next morning. The hotel was the least comfortable one yet, but really cheap and right in the center of everything. We bought a pirated DVD for 10 dh and called it a night.

In the morning I felt horrible knowing we had to say goodbye to such an incredible country. The way Moroccans treat each other and visitors like us is incredible and I was really inspired by it. They make eye contact with each other on the streets rather than avoid talking to each other and rush on with their day. Everything is about relaxing and being content with yourself and your surroundings. It’s a mentality that I caught on to quickly and it made my entire stay in Morocco an experience that is hard to explain. I was in the right place in the right time and in the exact head space I needed to be in. I’d never felt so relaxed before.

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Notable deaths of 2007 – The Boston globe.com

Harold Madison Jr. — “Mr. Butch”
July 11

mr. butch

Dreadlocked, homeless, and usually cheerful, Mr. Butch was an iconic presence in Kenmore Square before moving his base of operations to Harvard Avenue in Allston a decade ago. Ranting in rhyme with a beer in hand — a tall boy, preferably — he would panhandle one minute and offer to share his take with a friend the next. After his death, friends organized a city parade in his honor.

Archive 7/12/07 Street icon dies at 56

(Evan Richman for the Boston Globe)

check out the article on boston.com here

 

Best day in Essaouira (even if the locals think im a floozy)

Day 3 started with another Moroccan breakfast and another rockin’ trip to the beach (I was determined to get a tan in the 4 days i had on the beach, ha, nope). We were a little late meeting with the guys (capouira ones, you remember frenchy) because I was being a brat and didn’t want to stop lounging in the sun.
We bought some cookies from an old guy who kept hassling us to try his “wife’s home baked cookies” (there are about 10 guys with the same tray of cookies trying to make money) so we gave in and bought a few for the guys since we made them wait. They brought us on a long walk to part of the beach we hadn’t explored yet and we collected shells on the way. It was the hottest day and we had perfect weather for our mission to “jimi hendrixs house”.

All of the locals seem to think that Jimi lived in this massive castle that is now in ruins. I think it must be a rumor that they’ve some how fallen for, or they thought we were complete idiots and would believe that in his short life time, and even shorter time of fame he bought a huge castle on the beach and lived like a Moroccan king. Its true he did visit the town and it gained some fame because he was living there for a while, but this was a bit stupid. There was a huge hollowed out drop that looked like a laundry shoot could have been there hundreds of years ago and i was expected to believe that it was jimi’s kitchen. Okay boys, i was stupid enough to fall for your “hey did i see you in marakesh?” line – it got me to have tea with you the previous day, but give me some credit. I also read here that the castle “was built in the 1700 by big sultan in the area. He was the ruler of Mogador and, at the time, the River Ksab actually flowed on the Diabet side of the Palace.” and that “Jimi Hendrix was inspired by the castle to write the song Castles made of sand. I think that sounds a bit more accurate.

After exploring the castle, beautiful regardless of what it is, we walked a bit further to a cafe that seemed run down, but in actuality was the “jimi hendrix” cafe. It had photos of him on the walls, but who knows if he ever went there. Apparently they only served fish tangine, so mikey and the boys shared and i patiently sipped mint tea and took photos of goats passing by.

On the way back to the median i realized i had forgotten my bag of shells about 10 min into our walk and capouira sprinted back to get them for me. Mikey and I laughed about how neither of us would have done that for each other. All Mikey said when i announced my forgetfulness was “we’ll get more on the way back.” While we waited we splashed around in the mud and skipped stones. My shell were back in no time and we were back on track. The boys showed us some of their break dancing moves once we were on softer sand. Quite impressive i must say. Then I decided to go for a swim which brought attention from one of the boys giving horse rides on the beach and he galloped over to see if i wanted a ride. We had already turned down a few offers earlier that day because it was a little expensive, but this kid said i could try it for free. This of course made mikey and i laugh since we knew it was all thanks to the bikini (that i didnt even look nice in due to my winter spare tire). I accepted the offer, it was my first horse ride ever and it was a little scary and i screamed the whole time because we were galloping so fast. So i got the free ride and every body was happy, well except for the capouira boys. Frency had said something to the horse kid before i got on and he seemed worried, and the other kid said to mikey “I hope you will speak with her about this, we will walk ahead”. Apparently riding a horse in your bikini is considered quite whorish, but mikey didnt care, he was psyched we didnt have to pay. I figured they boys would think i was a hussy or something since it is an Arabic country, but oh well, they got over it.

We said our good byes after a quick session of football at the end of our walk and thanked the boys for being such lovely tour guides and hosts. We decided to eat dinner at our hotel that night and Abdul promised his cook could make a mean vegan tangine. That was an understatement. We had veggie soup, moroccan salads,and stuffed pepper tangine with the most delicious sauce and spices. Desert was sliced oranges covered in cinnomen and even though I thought i might explode i ate my fruit and mikey’s (fat ass).

 

tomato salad oranges tangine

We listened to Abdul play us a bunch of songs he’s written on guitar and he saranaded us with his romantic lyrics, “I want to take her, to Ven-es-whale-ah, after Essaouir-ah.” Mikey and I have been singing that song ever since we heard it, not sure if thats good or bad.

Day 3 ended in full bellies and reluctant realization that day 4 was the last day i would have to lye on the peaceful beach of ‘Sah-where-ah.”

Chefchouen to Essaouria in one night (how to do it budget style)

Mikey and I have been in Essaouira for 3 days now. We said our goodbyes to the Rif family and the mountains on Saturday dec 1st and Rachid drove us to the Tangier train station.

It would have only been 60 dirham each to take a bus to Tangier, but we weren’t organized enough and missed all of the buses heading that way. It was about a 2 hour ride to the station and cost us 500dh. We thought it would only be 400 since the 4 hours to Chouen was 800dh (just doing the math), but whatever, it’s hard to argue with a man when we don’t have any languages in common.

Also, common sense is not universal, Moroccans common sense is often times much different to what we are used to in the US, UK and Australia, so it is hard to tell when we are being screwed over or if we are just misunderstanding the culture.

Once in Tangier we took the 9pm overnight train to Marrakesh. It was a 12 hour ride, but we slept for most of it so it wasn’t too painful. We chose the cheaper seats, 2nd class, instead of the sleeper cart with beds. Since we had the whole cart to ourselves it worked out fine and we both sprawled out on the couches. Since this isn’t the season for tourists we haven’t had to book tickets ahead of time or worry about sharing our carts on the train, but I imagine that during the high season it would be a good idea to book tickets before hand and maybe choose the beds (320dh) over 2nd class seats (90dh).

We arrived in Marrakech around 9am with plans to head straight to Essaouira (we only have until dec 6th before we fly to Prague so we decided to see the beach rather than the hectic city life). We found that the Supratours buses ran right from the train station.

This is one of the two main bus companies in Morocco and the other one is CTM.  We had planned to take the 11:15 CTM bus, because I had read that Supratours is more expensive, but it was easier to buy a bus ticket right away rather than search the city for the other company. Our tickets were 65dh each and it cost us 5 dh for each bag stored under the bus. The bus didn’t leave until 10:45 so we took a taxi to the centre (a few drivers offered us rides for 50dh, but we found one for 30. On the way back it was only 20dh, so it is possible to get a cheaper one if you shop around for a second).

Ten minutes later we were in the famous Marrakech square. The shops and stalls were all   setting up and the narrow roads were packed with donkeys, bicycles, and crazy scooters whizzing by –  we were almost run over a few times. There aren’t any road rules in morocco we’ve come to learn, you just have to be quick. We had some famous, fresh squeezed, 3dh orange juice (better to have them pour it into your own water bottle since they reuse the cups and don’t always wash them well) and Mikey ordered some Moroccan pancakes, his favorite treat so far. We were sick of carrying our backpacks around the square and caught a ride back to the station (about a 10 min drive).

Almost 3 hours later we arrived in Essaouira and were attacked by vulture hotel workers trying to take us to their hotel. We could hardly get off the bus, there were so many guys crowding the doors. We had to say “no its okay we have a place, thanks” about a hundred times, often to the same guy we had just said “no” to 5 seconds before. They don’t give up and they don’t care how much they annoy you, they want to make commission by bringing in business so they don’t stop at anything. It was certainly an experience, but we were pretty used to this Moroccan mentality at this point so we humored them and were polite but eventually got away.

We decided to hop in a 20dh taxi to Riad Dar Afram, our hotel. The driver didn’t speak English but was nodding that he knew Dar Afram and would take us there. He drove us to an old abandoned building and dropped us off. Asshole. We didn’t know the area and believed him that we were at the right place, but after a minute realized he’d taken our money and peeled off so we walked to a phone and called the riadto get directions. It turns out it was about a 3 minute walk from the bus stop and since its inside the medina we couldn’t take a cab, but had to walk. We decided to walk the whole way instead of cab it back – its a small town.

Tim, a nice Aussie guy working at the riad, met us at a café and brought us back to the hotel. Dar Afram is owned by a Australian/Moroccan guy, Abdul. His place is a beautifully decorated 3-story house with a roof terrace that over looks the ocean and rest of the media. We were instantly comfortable in our gigantic room and after a short walk around the beach and a horrendous dinner at a tourist trap cafe, and finally took a nap that turned into an early night sleep.

Chouen

Its Friday now, we’ve spent 3 nights here in Chef and I don’t ever want to leave. We slept in again today, until noon and spent a few hours on the roof terrace basking in the sun. around 3:30 Mikey and I decided to head off on our own into town. We had hardly made it to the end of the rocky trail when a man who spoke a tiny bit of English told us to follow him, he wanted to show us his shop. I wanted to say no, we had plans, but he took us by surprise and we were swept into the windy roads and into his shop before we could say anything. He introduced us to another guy who spoke better English and he instantly began selling us rugs. FUCK THESE STUPID MOROCCAN RUGS! It’s the most obnoxious sales pitch ever and we already sat through it on Wednesday at fucking Abdul’s shop. So we listened patiently as this smartass told us that rugs are the best gift, they are a gift that lasts forever so your family will never forget you. If you buy your mother a rug she will always remember you. I wanted to say, “Are you fucking serious? My mom put up with me while I was 15, terrorizing the shit out of her. Not to mention she gave birth to me, I don’t think she could forget either of those two experience if she tried, she’s not going to forget about my presence on this earth if she has one of your original bullshit rugs or not,” but instead I politely listened to him tell me everything Abdul told me 2 days ago. That the women who make the rugs only spend 1-3 hours a day working and it takes them about 5-6 months to make a whole rug on their crazy rug spinning machine. You can burn the rug with a lighter, a cigarette, it won’t light on fire, it wont even leave a mark. The rugs are the most durable of any rug ever, made with all natural materials; cactus and wool. Okay, okay, okay, I still didn’t want one, mainly because I thought these people were so damn obnoxious, but Mikey thought they would make good Christmas gifts and decided to buy 2 of them. So this guy wants 2,200 Dh for 2 rugs. We said 500 maximum. He seemed offended, but they are even more offended if you don’t bargain at all so we kept going. We said 800 dh is the most we would spend and the guy said, no no no, give me another price, higher. I said fine 820 dh (that’s about 1 GBP more than 800 dh) and he said no and we said fine, that’s it, were leaving. So he sold it at 820. We had to walk to the ATM with the original asshole who sucked us into the whole deal and we paid him the cash. Thank Allah that was over and done with, it’s the most annoying experience ever. I felt like a bit of a sucker only because I really didn’t intend on buying rugs and I thought we could find more portable less expensive gifts while we’re here. When we first sat down I said no, we don’t want to buy a rug, and he said okay not to buy, just to look, and that’s how it all starts, by looking and he says do you like this one? Yes or no? If you say no he has another he wants to show you. I guess I just wish he didn’t get the best of us and sell one because these rug guys, they are terrible people I’ve decided. Of course not everyone who sells rugs in morocco are leaches, but many of them are quite abrasive. Leaches.

For the rest of the day we just wondered around town, Christmas shopping and grabbing snacks along the way, the bread here is delicious and we’ve been eating way too much of it. We had dinner on a roof terrace at a nice restaurant and took photos of the sunset over the mountains. Two cats watched us closely as we ate, and since we know the stray cats might have rabies, it was a bit unnerving to have them in their pouncing position right beside out table. Mikey kept getting up to stab them with his fork, but I would just move the chairs loudly so they’d run off, but they were always back with in a few seconds. They were pretty cute and if I wants skeptical of their health I’m sure I would have shared my meal, but it was impossible to tell so we just assumed they were rabid and shoo-ed them away. Mikey had 2 entrees and I had veggie soup. Every meal comes with bread and fresh olives so what would have been an expensive dinner in London, ended up being 55 dh, about 4 gbp. Pretty cheap.

Anyways, now we are back in the house and it’s time to go socialize with the family. Mikey has been making them listen to guided by voices for the past hour so I should go save them from his musical rants.

chefchouen

Our 2nd day in Chaouen we didn’t wake up as early as planned. We finally crept up to the roof terrace for breakfast around noon.   Suzanne and Danielle made cheese omelets and Scottish porridge. We dipped bread in strawberry jam, ate fresh olives and drank OJ until we could explode.

roof terrace

It was sports day for the kids in town and a few of us walked down to the race track to watch some of the local student run and cheer for their classmates. The view is mesmerizing from every angle of the mountain and we spent a lot of time just staring down at the village and up at the clouds.

sl370391.jpg

Liam, the younger son, made it his responsibility to show Mikey and I around the town and took us for a walk to the Medina. We stopped to look into a rug shop without realizing that we would have to spend an hour listening to the shop owner explain to us how strong and well crafted his rugs are. He poured the 3 of us mint tea and mainly spoke to Mikey about all the people from around the world who buy his rugs and give them as gifts or later sell them for more money. Mikey really didn’t want to barter with him and by the end of it was pretty annoyed. He refused to pay for or buy anything and the shop owner, Abdul (who the Scots call Mel Gibson), seemed insulted, but we couldn’t afford anything he had to sell. We finally got out of there and Liam apologized to us for not warning us of Mel Gibson’s intent sooner and explained that he brings a lot of guests to that shop to buy things so he though Mel might have been mistaken.

 

We needed a beer after that experience and we stopped in a small pub for a drink. We roamed the town for a few more hours, bought some vegetables and gifts for family and friends at one of Liam’s friend’s shops. Mohamad, the shop owner, gave us a few free souvenirs too. We paid 15dh for a cab back to the house (less than 1 pound) and made our way back onto the roof terrace.

Mikey found the music room and was happy to mess around with the acoustic for a while and Liam joined him and played drums. We made our own dinner and the Czech guys finally woke up (its about 9pm at this point) and we all hung out in the living room again. Eventually everyone was too high move so we had to call it an early night and now its 2pm on day three and we haven’t left the roof terrace yet! We are going on a hike up the mountains now, should be interesting considering its not quite my thing, hikes. My dad would be very proud.

(check out my photos from the hike on my flicker link)