Sitting in the morning sun, having breakfast on the roof with my lady by my side in a beautiful, foreign city, I can’t imagine me feeling any happier (seriously? Homemade jam made out of courgette? Super tasty! I gotta say, the breakfast is one of the best things here). We leave the hotel, pass the square making sure to avoid the horses at all cost.
Hassan, our guy from the hotel, tells us it’s a long walk to the new city and that maybe it’s better to take a taxi, but we decide to walk. We see more this way AND we save some money. Plus it’s a killer workout. See? 3 benefits!
Marrakesh is a LOT smaller than I originally anticipated. Today is only the second full day we are here and we have already seen most (I’d say 70%) of the old part. Therefore, today we go see the new city, created by ze French in 1912-1955. It’s not too far away, but with the sun burning down on our shoulders it’s a littler tougher than we expected. Past city walls we walk north and after 45 minutes we reach the gardens. Hungry, we get a bottle of water and some crisps from a supermarket in a near abandoned shopping centre just around the corner.
See! I told you the door of our hotel was super small. Even Laia can’t get in and out without bumping her head! (And she is really short)
The newly done walls of the old city.
Not the most exciting photo, but that’s the point! This is the new city called Gueliz and it’s sooo boring zzzzz.
ze Gardeuns (French pronunciation)
Twenty(!) euros (in total) gets us access to the gardens and the little Berber museum, and with the prices in Marrakesh being MUCH lower in general than in our western little world, the gardens must be truly spectacular, because twenty euros is a LOT of money in any case.
Long story short: turns out they aren’t. Somehow the gardens have been voted up to the prime position of things to do in Marrakesh and I can’t see why. Sure, they’re well maintained (something rather unique here in Morocco), there’s a couple of really nicely painted colourful flower pots and some nice cacti (cacti?cactuses?), but ten euro is a complete ripoff for a couple of plants. It’s nice and quiet here, which is welcome in this mad city, but in the end it’s nothing more than a couple of plants with some walls around it. Okay, maybe I’m a little too mean now, but the beautiful palaces from yesterday had a one (!) euro entree fee and were more special.
The Berber museum has some pots and pans on display, as well as some traditional outfits and maps in two little rooms and can’t really seem to grab my attention so I wait outside for Laia to come out. It takes a while for her to show up as she -as she explained- was looking for the rest of the exhibition, thinking she had missed it somehow. Anyway, enough about the gardens. I always try to be as positive and optimistic as possible, but I guess that doesn’t always work. Back to the happy stuff!
Laia thought I was being a ‘grumpy old man’ in the gardens.
Okay, they were kind of nice.
There was even a fountain. (can barely hide my excitement)
Travel Viking Top Tip: Don’t go to the Majorelle Gardens.
Look at us sitting there all majestic and all as if we were posing for the queen herself.
Bit of Big Mac
The new city is a funny place. Where the old part is setup as a maze -intentionally, for potential invaders to get lost- the new city is pretty straightforward, with lanes and crossing and roundabouts and everything. The new city is a big contrast to the old medina, with its clean and smooth shiny floors, western advertisements and Burger King. There’s an air conditioned Zara, a McDonalds and a market that smells INCREDIBLY horrible. It’s a funny place to see, not beautiful in any sense, but funny as it’s a western kind of world in an completely Arabic country, and 180 degrees different from what we’ve seen so far.
We find a big, beautiful park and relax for a bit. It’s a beautiful park with some dinosaurs for kids to play on and they’re very well maintained (pretty rare for this town from what we’ve seen).
Best of all, they don’t cost ten euros to get in.
We have had a sense of what the new city is like, and decide we like the old part much better, and so we leave the park and head east, past a KFC and keep walking until we bump into the old city wall, which we follow northbound for a bit, before entering the old town again via a crowded gate. I negotiate a goodish price for a honey melon at a fruit stall while honking cars and and EEH-AAH-ing donkeys pass by.
Not THE award winning photo, but look at the floors! They’re so shiny and well-polished. (- I’m posting this back home in Spain and I realise this photo seems very unspecial. But it is! It very much is. Everything we had seen so far was dusty, dirty and sandy and this is just so different and well maintained.)
Pano to give you a wider idea of what it looks like.
Lady on an empty square. With some pigeons. Some of my friends are afraid of pigeons, and I’ve never fully understood. Who’s afraid of pigeons?? Sure, they’re a bit flappy and I bet they don’t wash their paws after feasting on food, but being afraid?
The smelly market.
New hospital. Massively out of focus but I still really like the shot.
Negotiating them melons.
If you’re wondering what I’m doing here and why my left leg seems out of proportionally long: I have no clue either.
Man on a mission (to get our money!)
Reading up on Marrakesh beforehand, we were warned everywhere to not take directions from anyone or take a local guide without a license as they can become rather aggressive when the tour is over. When a short older guy comes up to us when Laia is taking some photos of doors (again.. Wait for her guestpost “Doors of Marrakesh”) we are a obviously a little careful. The guys is explaining what the doors Laia is photographing lead to (I think he said they were a school and a day care centre) and in my best French I politely thank the man for providing the information and tell him we will move on from here. The guy doesn’t take “non, merci” for an answer though and walks with us explaining more and more things. I friendly “Merci beaucoup” de man again and as we keep walking the guy keeps talking. This surely isn’t working the way I wanted.
I try in Arabic. “La, shukran.” (Not bad, eh?) but the guys doesn’t seem to care. “Pas d’argent,” (no money) I assure him but he doesn’t listen. It’s all a little uncomfortable and so as he walks past a parked van we -childishly- hide behind the van and run into a porch and hide until we can’t see him anymore. A couple of minutes later we get out of hiding and I see the guy from a young couple like us have the same conversation with him as I did. I can’t help but smile.
Through the souks (which is just a word for market) we find our way to the Jemaa el Fna square where we head up to the rooftop terrace of the Cafe de France where we drink a glass of Berber Whiskey (mint tea). The sun slowly but surely sets and we have the best seats in town. We overlook the entire square and from above we see it come alive, with its many different smells and noises and people swarming the place like ants. It’s nice to to be a part of it for a while and just be able to observe it. It’s beautiful. The tea is tasty, I’m in great company and life is great.
Here you see the little guy trying to convince me to go upstairs with him and me deciding whether that is either a very great or an incredibly terrible idea. We did get in eventually and after going up were quickly sent back by a lady who probably worked there. I don’t know.
Wondering through the souks.
A look inside one of the many shopping streets.
Wandering some more through the souks.
Café de France!
What a view!
I mean: what a view!
Come on, go ahead. Tell me you don’t want to have a cup of mint tea with the temperatures going down a little now the sun has set, overlooking this crazy market. Tell me.
Sheeps head (or maybe not)
“Allahu akbar,” sings the man from the minaret right next to the square, calling for prayer, and we go down to be a part of the madness of the square again. Today on our minds for dinner: sheep’s head. Yesterday we obviously had the snails, today we want to go for the other local delicatesse of the market. We’re being fought over massively again by the Moroccan guys, all trying to haul us into their little food stalls and we settle for a place that could have well been any other. They all look alike and they all serve the same. Or, as one of the guys shouts to tourists in front of his mom -who’s cooking- “Same shit everywhere!” I wonder if his mom understands English.
The power is down so the entire square is illuminated only by candlelight from candles in glass Coca Cola bottles, which is very romantic and also rather nice as we this way can barely see the sheep’s head that we’re being served. Maybe it should have stayed dark, because as soon as all the lights on the entire square turn on and a massive “YEEEEAAAY” emerges from the square we finally get a good look at what is on our plates.
It doesn’t look like sheepshead, I can tell you. And as Laia asks one of the ‘waiters’ what part of the sheep the meat is she is pointing at, he tells her with a straight face “Aah, that’s udder. Of the cow.” I immediately in my head go: “Cow? Which cow? We didn’t order cow. Right? No, we didn’t. We’d ordered sheep. Sheep udder? No, sheep’s head.” The fact that we had ordered an entirely different part of an entirely different animal doesn’t seem to offset him in the slightest. “That’s an extra,” he says with a big smile. I’m pretty sure that we ate some intestines tonight, too…
Mountains of olives being sold!
The electricity being down was a blessing in disguise. It was very ‘gezellig‘ though.
With the ‘sheep’s head’
This is what we ate. I gotta be honest, it tasted much better than it looks now. (which is not too hard because this looks like the neighbours cat’s sick). Sorry for the photo.
Not having been given the “No diarrhoea-guarantee” from the first night, I fear for the worst and indeed, we are not feeling incredibly well (don’t worry, we were fine) and call it an early night after a bit more of souk-ing.
Lying in bed later that night, my stomach roars and rumbles like a mad dinosaur, upset with the intensity of a Russian press officer, but I can only think of one thing:
The great breakfast that is awaiting us tomorrow morning! More adventures, too tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Standard traveling couple bonus photo.