It all started with an hour and a half wait in customs, and went steadily downhill from there onward.
Now if you happen to be fond of lying, in your face, aggressive shopkeepers, heat, dust, filth and an endless variety of beggars and hustlers in a wok-tossed, clusterf**k format then Marrakech may just be the place for you. Also if you find feeling that you miss being lied to by Trump, you won’t miss a beat here in Marrakech. Personally I have little tolerance for this sort of thing, and because our so called president has already managed to use up my tolerance for this behavior for the next four years, I’m going to have to avoid countries whose stock in trade is to lie shamelessly to their visitors. Seriously people, I feel like someone with a peanut allergy working in a Skippy factory.
You can’t go a half hour here without being confronted with some sort of deception. Also, it’s almost impossible to find your way around, and when you do find a sign it is usually designed to get you lost in the endless shopping rat’s maze in the souks and bazaars rather than actually get you to your destination. It’s not unlike how U.S. department stores purposefully get you lost to keep you shopping but far, far worse.
Think walking in a crowd while maniacs speeding by on motorcycles weave in an out, barely missing you as they blaze past. If you want directions you’re going to have to pay for them since there’s no such thing as common courtesy here, and more than likely you’ll be detoured to a bunch of shops you didn’t want to visit in order to get to your destination. The best thing to do at this point is give him a dollar, and tell him to buzz off.
The map I received from my hostel was useless, and after a few frustrating hours of being endlessly accosted by shopkeepers and panhandlers, I was finally accused of being with the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. Enough was enough, I was punch drunk to the point of seeking refuge in a restaurant, and subsequently returned to my Riad to nap it off.
It was an inauspicious beginning, but I will give it another try tomorrow since it seems that though I can’t access my TripAdvisor mapping. Sometimes it takes a day to warm up to a place, but I have doubts that the fading romantic notions I had for this locale will be likely to return. To each his own I say, but then again I’m not planning to move here any time soon. I would just as soon gargle my own urine as do that.
Of course I may just be in a bad mood, especially after having left a cushy scene with good company in awesome Gozo. Back on my own again in a strange culture without enough sleep can have these effects. I will do my best to get back on track tomorrow armed with google maps.
CASABLANCA AIRPORT – A bit of a mess except for this inspired space.
RIAD LAYLA ROUGE – My home in Marrakech for six nights.
My $22 a night accommodations. No need for a dorm room here to save money. In retrospect I would have been better off staying in the hostel, and only going out for food. I could have just caught up on writing, taken care of other projects, and avoided a whole lot of intense aggravation.
FIRST DAY JUST BEFORE RUSH HOUR
ONE OF THE NICER SHOPS IN TOWN
JEMAA EL FNA SQUARE – In the evening it turns into a carnival of sounds with groups of musicians helter-skelter, and makeshift restaurants are set up offering a variety of local fare devoid of health regulations. Proceed at your own risk. They are basically tourist traps anyway. In fact the Medina is basically one big tourist trap that even traps the heat making the experience even more unbearable. There are a variety of exploited and abused snakes and monkeys with which to have your selfie indulgence slaked if you’re into humiliating monkeys in costumes. I saw one with a diaper on, presumably to prevent it from hurling its feces at its tormentors.
These guys basically force you into buying $12-$16 worth of any given item whether you want that much or not. No concept of customer service.
MOSQUE IN THE DISTANCE
KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE AND MINARET
BEHIND THE MOSQUE
JEMAA EL FNA SQUARE – Sparsely populated by day, it becomes a crowded insane asylum at night.
You’re lucky if you can take your picture before one of them photobombs you with the tambourine trying to collect your money.
I paid the tab before I took this picture. The sourpuss on the right shows his contempt for tourists. “The feeling is mutual pal”. First they ruin shopping. Now they ruin music. God, I hate this place.
It’s official, I am completely over Marrakech. I truly despise it, and can’t wait to get the hell out of here. We’ll see about the rest of Morocco, but I hold a considerable portion the people in the Old City of Marrakech in serious contempt.
A few years ago, Nomadic Matt, who has the number one travel blog in the world, declared he would never set foot in Vietnam ever again. The incessant overcharging and disrespect is what brought him to that point. I received a good deal of the same treatment there, but I had enough good experiences to balance things out. I’ll admit it was touch and go in Vietnam at times, but here there will be no such redemption here since I find few redeeming features in the culture, the climate or the environment. Just call it a perfect storm of shit I don’t like. I wouldn’t return here if you bought my ticket, put me up in a five star hotel, and set me up with a chauffeur driven Mercedes Benz. We’ll see about the rest of Morocco at the end of my trip.
My first mistake was booking accommodation in the Medina Old City which is the belly of the beast in terms of aggressive shopkeepers, hustlers, and beggars. Just imagine being one lone Joe Buck in a place full of hundreds of aggressive Ratso Rizzos. Wackos all wackos. I can’t tell you how many times I had to use the “I’m walkin’ here!” line from “Midnight Cowboy” with so many of those lunatic moped drivers. In fact, for those who may be unaware, that memorable quote was add libbed by Dustin Hoffman. For those of you unfamiliar with this Best Picture oscar winning film. Perhaps you will appreciate this Star War reference which I believe pertains to my least favorite city in the world.
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” –Obi–Wan Kenobi, to Luke Skywalker in Mos Eisley-
Had I done better research, I would have booked a place in the New City and bypassed the lion’s share of the unpleasantness. So do yourself a favor if you absolutely insist on coming to Marrakech, stay in the New City if you value your sanity, and make your stay as brief as possible.
I set out this morning, trying to make up for yesterday’s lost time. I was looking for someone to just show me around the old city for a few hours since it is a nightmare to navigate. I met a guy who spoke good English who said he had a shop with some good quality art and jewelry, and not the usual Chinese crap. I figured I’d take a quick look at that and then get on with my sightseeing since he said that he could help me out with that as well. Big mistake.
I was delighted to get a shot of this butcher shop with the no photo sign on the right, after having been rebuked for trying to get a shot the day before. Due to the lack of respect I have been shown, I thought I’d return the favor.
Another “No Photo” sign that I was unaware of. This is the sort of nightmare I had to navigate to get to this guy’s supposed shop. It is so funny that tourists risk their life, cash, and sanity to buy shitty Chinese knock offs of Moroccan crafts throughout these sleazy souks. How can you tell if one of these shopkeepers is lying? Answer: His lips are moving.
“I’M WALKIN’ HERE” – Yet another moped poised to run me over.
THE NOISE SUBSIDED – A pleasant break in the insanity.
We eventually arrived at his alleged place of business, and I was handed to a salesman. The merchandise was high quality, but I was suffering from such a bad case of information overload that everything was a blur. The visual noise was deafening. There was just so much stuff on three floors. I was done. I think I found the cure for a lifetime of impulse shopping. Just being here for two days of revulsion therapy, and it seems I’m cured. I will certainly buy nothing in this city and perhaps in all of Morocco.
I guess that’s the silver lining in all of this. I told him I had to get out of there, and he just couldn’t seem to get message that I didn’t want any more stuff. I was happy to pay him to show me around since I just wanted to see the sights and take pictures. He made a few more obnoxious attempts at taking me to shops, and I finally lost my patience and told him to take me to a palace. I finally made it to a palace, and tried to find out how much it would be per hour to take me from place to place. When he started to jerk me around on the price, I sent him packing, but not before the meshuganah had run me ragged careening around the souks and bazaars for an hour. What a putz.
Museé Dar Si Saïd
PALACE NUMBER ONE
WALL ELEMENT – Painted Wood
FERRIS WHEEL – These are enclosures for a type of miniature ferris wheel for four children. They were set up on a pivoting axis just like large modern ferris wheels.
I think the clincher for the day was when I was fed a familiar line from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. One sleaze bag said that he knew me from my hotel. I told him I had already heard that lie in Mexico, and that I wasn’t even staying in a hotel.
I’m done with Mexico as well. I have no use for countries where lying to and cheating the tourists is a national sport, and is held up as a source of national pride, rather than the disgrace that it really is.
Fortunately, I also found the Bahia Palace so my day was not a complete loss.
THE BAHIA PALACE
THIS WAS THE BEST THE CITY HAD TO OFFER
THE LOO – Very stylish.
Girls just want to have fun. A prelude to a selfie extravaganza featuring Japan and Morocco chapters.
DISCO FLOOR – It’s reflected stained glass on a mosaic floor.
No, three was not the charm. More like three strikes you’re out! This time I fired up my internet free navigation system so I was fully independent again, and not subject to the whims of some unscrupulous Berber bastard. I was however exposed to one more local deception which was the “this is the last day of the thus and such” scam. Supposedly finishing up with the tanning of the hides season, this was the thing on the menu. I was hoping for some pictures which I did end up getting.
However, I specifically informed the guy that I had absolutely no plans to ever buy anything in Marrakech. I just wanted to be brought to the location and handed him a dollar. Unfortunately it really doesn’t matter what you say to these guys. It never sinks in, and they have no respect for your wishes only their own agenda which none of them ever achieved during my stay.
I absolutely will not buy from someone who does not respect my wishes. Five minutes later we were there and I was handed over to some other guy who after showing me some antiquated foul smelling tanning facilities, took me to the supposed market which was just another tourist shop where they sold inferior goods at top prices. I tried a jacket on, and once informed of the price I told the proprietor I could get a better jacket in Istanbul for half the price and walked out.
The guy who made the introduction waited outside. I flipped him a 10 dirham coin (one dollar) to which he demanded ten dollars for his putrid five minute tanning tour. I told him to discuss it with the guy I’d very clearly informed of my intention to buy absolutely nothing in Marrakech, and went on my way to the next destination which took me out of the Medina, refusing to bow to their intimidation.
Before I could step outside, a kid ran up to me trying to direct me back to the main square. Everybody but everybody is on the make here 24/7. The little rat eater followed me outside trying to direct me to the taxis for money. I was even walking in the ninety degree heat just to avoid the crush of people, and the constant badgering from all of the jackals and parasites that make up the Old City of Marrakech. Every taxi I’ve flagged here has tried to overcharge me so I even chose to walk to avoid them as well. On my journey I still encountered the odd beggar or hustler.
I finally arrived at the Gardens and was less than impressed having just been treated to one of the finest succulent collections in the world in the Canary Islands. This garden was anemic at best and was not worth the $7.00 entry fee. The only saving grace was Yves Saint-Laurent’s memorial. The additional fee for the Berber museum was a bust since they prohibited photography. It’s not like they were housing the crown jewels. Complete rip-off.
BEN YOUSSEF MADRASSA – 1565 – Supposedly a place for those who had a thirst for the various sciences and in particular, theology!? WTF? No wonder the Islam has been such a source of scientific advancement in the past few centuries. What a shame that a vast culture has been hamstrung by the indoctrination into a set of beliefs that has left them helpless in a technological era that will leave them completely behind once their black gold becomes worthless. I feel very sorry for all of those sore knees and wasted prayers.
They collect $3.00 a head. You would think they’d have a little more respect for the place and get this sorted out.
ANOTHER NEGLECTED ITEM
MORE NEGLECTED DAMAGE – WHAT A DUMP
GIANT WASHING MACHING – This is used to wash the hides after tanning to remove nasty chemical filth.
TANNING YARD – See the poor bugger in the vat with the hides – The stench!
HIDES DRYING IN THE SUN – That really made me want to buy a leather jacket – It was right after this that I was herded into the leather shop from which I made a hasty escape into the ninety degree heat.
These are the ramparts that surround the Medina and trap the heat inside.
MORE RAMPARTS AND A FLEA MARKET FOR THE LOCALS
MARJORELLE GARDENS – An enormous disappointment compared with the magnificent Jardin des Cactus on Tenerife in the Canary Islands which was created by the Islands’ most famous artist, César Manrique. It can be found on Costa Cruise: Part II and features 1000 different varieties of succulents, obviously not all pictured.
YVES SAINT LAURENT MEMORIAL – The one saving grace for the overpriced entry fee.
My enthusiasm for the gardens is reflected in the quantity of the photos.
THE APPROPRIATE ENTRY FEE WOULD HAVE BEEN FREE
INTERIOR BERBER HOUSE – We all sat and had mint tea, bread, fresh butter and honey.
OUR GRACIOUS HOSTESS – Quite a contrast to the nightmare that is Marrakech – See warm, sincere smile.
CAMELS FOR HIRE
ARGAN PRODUCTION – Grinding the almonds in a circular grindstone and adding honey.
RIVERSIDE RESTAURANT WHERE WE WILL DINE AFTER CLIMBING TO THE WATERFALL
Rocky terrain awaits interspersed with souvenir shops. Yes there is no escape from the onslaught of material goods even in the countryside. Thankfully the higher we got the fewer the shops.
OVERALL IT WAS A PRETTY ROCKY AFFAIR…..
…..WITH SOME RICKETY BRIDGES AND SLIPPERY STONES.
AND FINALLY, THE OASIS APPEARS.
We sit, relax and enjoy a cool drink as the sounds of the waterfall cleanses us of the stressful stench of Marrakech.
Hunger overtakes us as we trundle back down the mountain.
A makeshift whirligig cooling system keep the drinks cold, and prepares the oranges for squeezing.
The day was capped of by a Moroccan lunch in the shade by a babbling brook.
MORE CAMELS WITH A BERBER VILLAGE IN THE BACKGROUND