Place Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech, Morocco
It is 6:00 am on a Tuesday. I am up in bed awakened by the morning call to prayer. A cacophony of wails, chants seeming to reverberate around the chamber walls of my inner ear..........
......oh...the prayers have finished now and the plumbing of the Hotel Ali is now in full swing as the guests awakened by the same din, begin their morning rituals......was that a mans fart I just heard?.....Weeeelllllll.....he'll being doing laundry this morning if that is indeed what it was. I hope I dont get diarrhea....at least I have a Bidet if I do.
Have been seeing glimpses of last nights market in my head as I lay here. The market is right across the street from the Hotel Ali. To get there you have to run a combination of a crossing pattern, a nip and tuck, and various screens left and right through the third world ebb and flow of humanity. Taxi's, Donkeys, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians in the 100's.
made the acquaintance of a one armed Irish asshole last night in the Hotel Tisi.
we have decided to write our post Christmas letter from Morocco. Only because we are presently in a stylish french/berber/hotel/pub synthesis in the Atlas Mountains with nary a T.V., only a deck of cards and french talk radio to entertain.
~We spent the day skiing in the Atlas Mountains. This sounds very romantic and the day was beautiful but the lifts were pummel lifts and the snow conditions were marginal. These "lifts" would take you completely off your feet and it was all you could do to recover. Skiing with others who are wearing turbans is something to experience.
yes....my rented ski package consisted of a size 10 1/2 boot for right foot and a 9 boot for left foot.....a bitchin 1968 vintage wood 190 Elan ski for right foot and a 1985 Atomic 175 for left foot. the pain generated in my left foot from the size 9 boot had me skiing in circles most of the morning.
We left Oukaimeden to go to Ansi by a dirt road shortcut that appeared benign enough on the map. Soon it turned into two ruts of clay, mud, ice, and snow. perseverance was thwarted by our two door, two wheeled fiat turn-around. In a particularly nasty area we encountered the same little bastards...uuhhhh...that being the local village youngsters nicking dashboard items as you slow to pass....as well as opening your door.....
Cries of Monsieur! Monsieur!....Styli!....cigarette!...monsieur!
sometimes we are attacked by more than twenty of these Lilliputian beggars. They are desperate and ingenious enough to throw a large tree branch in our path between canyon walls to impede our route and then approach to beg
~Whoa...its more than begging. Imagine my thoughts as I drive into the Canyon type area only to find a tree branch across the road. Not a huge branch mind you, but to big for the Fiat turn-around. Two youngsters approach demanding a cigarette in french. Daryl steps out and removes the branch and we begin down the road...The young man runs alongside the car and demands another item in french using a word I do not recognize. He insists, while running alongside the car, hand on window frame. i am feeling rather smug when I decipher his french that he is talking about my hat. Smug that is until he tries to snatch it from off my head! No more Mrs. nice guy...I speed up and leave him behind.
....at one point they had their hands on the door frame at the side window and the steering wheel. we managed to close the doors they had opened. but when we beat one of the little beggars off the window frame...four more hands would take his place. We could raise the windows to force them to lose their grip but your still dragging seven or eight of them back by the boot. A dagger came through the roof at one point as one of the more aggressive ones tried to gain entry, but a sharp curve in the road had him spinning off and over an embankment. so now when we see groups of Berber children we try to maintain 60 mph through them...its just fast enough where they cant get a grip.
So as we left the mountain the sun was setting and we realized we did not want to be stuck out in the canyons with Ali Baba and his forty thieves. So we high tailed it outa there through small towns with funky Arabic names, through shadows and silhouettes of olive trees. down meandering roads, through villages and hamlets...we come upon the Mecca of all Meccas..an Amstel beer neon sign alight and aglow on a semi french villa/berber hotel. (clause: disregard any sudo french words here)
~I blew a hole from my sinus cavity into my eye 12 years ago and now when i get a sinus infection I get air coming out my eye. I could blow bubbles out of my eye underwater. Its kinda cool but mostly a bother and I spent the day trying to clear my ears
~fantastic country...the NW side of the Atlas mountains gets all the moisture. Cedar and Walnut trees and many grasses grow there. Once you pass the summit its almost barren with monument valley type mesas and red clay soil. We are headed south to the north side of the Sahara desert and got our first glimpse of the Jebel Sahro today.
....And as soon as I saw the Jebel Sahro....I knew....It was beer thirty ...so on into Agdz we went....through one way and back. dodging pedestrians in this surreal arid islamii town. When they see us pass they raise their AK-47's into the air and chant some sought of Allah this and some sought of Allah that. Some fire their machine guns into the air but most fire theirs in our general direction....we escape by hiring the services af a young boy and his chicken.
( note: disregard above paragraph...composed under influence of spirits of Scottish nature.)
Words of the day:
Kasbahs, cool, palm trees, varied, vast, gorge, crazy drivers, pink mosques, blind corners, courteous drivers, letter translation request, round-a-bout phobia, Mercedes, colorful costumes, super marche, ruins, teleboutique, nothing, eau minerale naturelle.
"Harafu ja choo", there is a smell coming from thr toilet. (swahili)
Went as far south as Zagora, some 50 klicks north of M'Hmad and the Algerian border. Now in Ouarzazate. Our little room here smells very bad like a septic problem...we are burning so much incense there is little oxygen to breathe. Weather too has turned very bad. Big sand storm, visibility low and cold cold temperatures coming down from the Atlas. hope the pass at Ait Benhaddou will be fine tomorrow. We have amenities here...Hot water, Whiskey....and...and...well...that's about it. we got closer to tombouktou in Mali but southern Morocco, its the Wild West.
GODDAMN THIS ROOM STINKS!
Words of the day:
Moroccan tile, raghead taxi drivers, sand, smoking cigars with the youth, pharmacie, tissues, earpain, Luna Eclipse, terrestrial terrain transformation, oasis, Osama Bin Laden, camels, Osama Bin Laden, the royal guard, a cows heart and Sahara poulet.
Back to Marrakech--THEY GOT POMME FRITES!
Cribbage score: Daryl 2 Mary 1, (I'm not making it up Mare, I'm not!)
Damn...Mary sound like a soda straw at the bottom of empty.
Where do I begin?.....okay, the group?.....it sucked...........i mean fuck...............it sucked.
okay..yeah, the people in the group were fine...mostly Britons on two weeks holiday....but the restrictions placed on us were too much. told when to get up, when to eat breakfast, when to march, when to stop,....can not go of alone....must stay behind guide in front and in front of guide behind....so we said bye bye after one day of this and hiked on out to the main road and caught a bus outa there to El Rachid and the Sahara desert......
The currency in morocco is the dirham....its worth about 10 or 11 dirham to one U.S. dollar....and helps us get good value for the dollar. hotel rooms cost around $10 U.S. per night, dinners can be had for a couple dollars. Unlike other countries of the third world...Morocco excepts no currency except the dirham, not even french francs.
Got Up, got sick, went for walk, got sicker, went to bed.
Fez: The corridors of the Cascade Hotel in Fez have excellent acoustical properties. Tall pillars and atriums of tiled marble, I could not help but practice my Little Richard rendition of Tutti Frutti....which I though was rather good with the natural reverb an all but was met with rude anal outbursts from the guests inherent which had amazing acoustical qualities themselves.
After a depressing start to the day we took a le petit taxi to le train station...because le cabbie did not understand "Place De La Revolution". My french accent is non to genuine I'm afraid.....but just as well as a short hike up the street finds us a budget rent-a-car where we lease a lovely little Fiat something or other and in short order we are completely lost in the medina., but after a 1/2 hour or so we find the main road to Taza.....plus we get bonused with no collisions with any of the donkeys, taxis, chickens and human rif raf.
yeah...feels good except for this damn respiratory sickness i carry with me. finished my antibiotic program but dont know what its done for me. accidentally left my cough medicine in Fez too. I find the only cure is alcohol....it depresses the cough center in ma brain...so evenings work out okay.
We drive through the Mamora forest. A forest of cork trees. Ingenious how they harvest the bark for cork products. twisty, turning road....we eventually get to the Grottes du Chikar, Africas largest cave system. we pay Mostopha 200 dirham so his boy guides us into the grotto's which were first discovered in 1935. Didn't expect so much water.....3 hours later we emerge, cold, soaked, and with some fever from my sickness. The cave is very impressive. beginning with a large sink hole that you climb down, very cavernous and from the bottom looking up at the opening you get the impression of the eye of God...okay...okay....more like a hole in the earth a few hundred metres up there. At the bottom of the Sink Hole we squeeze through a tight opening into the main horizontal part of the system and begin the journey to hell...through hell? The cave is an old one...stalactites, stalagmites, bacon rind, solid and hollow appear throughout...but much degradation has occurred over the years...broken formations, eroded travertine dams...even graffiti in places. its not completely mapped or explored but diving equipment would be needed to circumvent flooded chambers.
coming out of the Cave we met a very over bearing German traveler whom I offered a beer too....he said no but if we had any money he would accept it.....i was rather indignant at his rude comment but more indignant when Mary gave him a 50 dirham note. glad to be rid of him...just dealing with Moroccan beggars is fulltime let alone German beggars in morocco.
We leave the grotto's and drive to Taza to a hotel....a very nice place with bar and restaurant. hot water doesn't come on till 8:00pm so here we wait in blankets sipping "Speciale beer". Although Moslems are forbidden to drink alcohol its still available if one looks hard enough. Morocco produces two local beers, Stork and Speciale, they are quality lagers tasting a bit like Irelands Harp. There is also a winery in Meknes that produces a red and a white wine and I can honestly say that these wines will win no awards in the foreseeable future.
.Time for Mare to go fetch us some beers...
Chop! Chop!......damn that Mary.....she wont serve me at all!...I mean...dammit...I am the master....this is Islam after all!
tomorrow we hit the trail to Essaouira
I drove...I drove...I drove.....
Covered many kilometers today, from Taza to El Jadida. It started of fine enough although I knew when I left Taza without a cafe noir I would be experiencing headaches in the P.M. damn those addictions. Many police checks...at all road intersections and town entrances. Got a bit fun when our rental started having power problems between Fez and Meknes....jerking back and forth and slowing down to only 60 kph on the main dual carriage way. luckily an Afriqia petrol station showed up after 30 minutes of this hesitant fuel starved engines antics. A quick inspection by the mechanic fixed things up although I didn't see him do anything and duplicated his non-cure all later in the day when the engine failed again near Casablanca.
No real sites today, just road, police checks and road vendors.
Casablanca from the road was one grungy, polluted incorrigible town....and was good to get south of it and its traffic. arrived in El Jadida headache an all and stopped in a pleasant little hotel. Inshallah. end of day.
The people eat a basic diet of cous cous and vegetables. they also like sheep brains and roasted sheep heads...i kid not....sometimes that's all we can find.
All I want is a fuckin bacon cheeseburger and frites and a pint of Fosters and a T.V. with a football game...that's all I fuckin want!
As we lay here Mary just had a language translation revelation.....the meal we ordered and enjoyed so much the other night in Mezouga was horse.
In crossing a street intersection in morocco as a pedestrian you wait for the green walking man symbol to light up. when the Green symbol turns to the Red don't walk symbol there is no pause or buffer on the traffic lights to help the pedestrian complete his traverse. Many times we find ourselves in the middle of the street during the onslaught of Moroccan transport intent on running us down. we have coined the green symbol as "the living man" and the red symbol as "the dead man".
Nice breaky and cafe noir in El Jadida. walk about on the beach and through an old Portuguese fort. coming upon the entrance to an interesting cistern. This crypt like structure in gothic style was built by the Portuguese in 1514 at the same time as the castle. It was originally used as a magazine before being converted into a reservoir in 1542. Lying beneath the ruins of the old town inside the castle walls it was forgotten for 150 years until it was rediscovered, by chance, in 1916 during extension work on a local grocer's shop.
Back in the car and onto Marrakech.....
No bloody Cheb Khaled.....Hej Kaled....Ali Toure....or even Nusrat Ali Fata Kahn......we got ZZ Top on the sound system! Yeah baby!
Driving through town a man on a moped appears at my window......jeeeezzus...does it ever stop?....I wanted to hand him a lit stick of dynamite.
In the Hotel Ali now where we amuse ourselves by throwing paper airplanes and dirham's over the balcony and into the street.
Foreign languages sound like so much gibberish when you don't have a handle on em.
We are only three hours north of the Sahara desert and its pissing outside.
Damn...I'd be willing to work in the USA, Europe, Asia, The Third World, and Wisconsin.
Women strings holes of intellectual depravity in the social fabric of the world. The countries will not gain...they are self infecting from within and outside as they are cutoff and shunned by nations. decades will go by and the bastion of the nation will rely on IMF handouts and external control and regulation. In the end it will be absorbed by external-internal pressures as the 1st world grows and permeates through various multitudinal avenues and areas. While the only victims will be repressed women of the duration of absorption. Possibly two generations. (made sense while I was writing it last night)
~whoa....he's really getting going there. i was still back on the living man versus dead man symbols. I must admit I will never understand the cast system for women here. Although things are much worse in other parts of Islamic countries. todays paper reads hat Iran just voted against allowing women to go to school in other countries mostly because they would have to travel alone. Imagine that. They might get lost or worse, they could get approached by men. those dogs. I traveled alone.... once.....
Place Djemaa El Fna: jugglers, snake charmers, gymnasts, story tellers, spice merchants, herbalists, monkeys.....just when you think a fire breather is due to round the corner of this third world carnival, one does.
There is so much one can pick up in Morocco...from ceramics produced by the Berbers, to camel leather products from the Tuaregs. Fossils and crystals galore, clothing of the local variety, silver jewelry, silver teapots, etc, etc. These people in the cities of morocco are not poor as in africa poor....there is money here and no apparent hunger or malnutrition for the most part.
The minarets are the square tower of the mosque. 5 times a day they belt out the call to prayer on the loud speakers.....the 5:00 am first call is especially endearing ......I would love to replace the tape with Little Richards Long Tall Sally.....Wab Bamba Louie A Wab Bam Boom!
There is the Koutoubia mosque. The original one was built in 1147 but was later demolished because it was discovered to be incorrectly positioned in relation to Mecca. Its foundations are still visible next to the existing mosque which was built in 1199. Its seven stories symbolize Marrakesh's 7 patron saints.