Saturday, November 7, 2015

Marrakesh--Days #3 and #4

One of many spice shops
By our third day in Marrakesh we felt fairly familiar with the plaza, souks and medina area.  Felt like we could find our way around with no problems.  Aziz, the manager of our riad, had warned us that if we hesitated or appeared lost or confused that someone would take charge and lead us supposedly to where we wanted to go.  Except that he more likely would lead us to a shopping area instead.  And then he might also demand a few dirham for his trouble.  If we bought anything, then he would be paid a commission by the vendors.  Ah...I think we know this trick.  Same thing happens in other places we have visited.  So Bill and I always thanked the men for their kind offers of assistance but kept on walking.

This shop wins.  He had the highest and most
pointed displays of all the spice shops.

This day we even shopped a tiny bit.  I wanted a set of dishes like the ones in our riad and we looked at several shops but never found exactly the design I wanted.  I don't know how I could have carried heavy dishes back on the train anyway, so maybe just as well that the pattern I wanted was not available in any of the shops we found.

The spice area of the souks was all it had been touted to be -- bins of vibrantly colored spices; arranged into impossibly pointed tops.  How do the vendors scoop off any of the spices when they make a sale?  Seems like those points would 'dissolve' down like falling loose sand when a scoop is inserted.  These displays were pretty.  And the smells were nice.  We did not buy any; I never buy spices in any open-air spice market.  

A more practical spice display, in my opinion
There is nothing protecting those spices from contamination from loose hairs or sneezes from passers-by.  And nothing to keep out insects.  Nope; not for me; does not matter how inexpensive the spices are or how good they smell.  I buy only spices and dried herbs which have been commercially prepared in nice sealed little containers.  I might be the only cruiser who prefers to pay a higher price.  The spice markets are an interesting experience but not for purchases for us.

Never figured out what kind of spices these are, but
there were many shops selling this type.

Waste now; want not.
Clothing, jewelry and flower vases
made from Pirelli tires.

Liked this little mirror in
our room.  

We also shopped a few stores looking for a small wall mirror similar to the one in our room in the riad, but did not find exactly what I wanted. purchases.

Saw a number of decorative items which would have been nice to have in our home someday but did not buy anything.  

Neither Bill nor I really enjoy shopping for anything.  I enjoy browsing but these Moroccan shop keepers do not understand that.  If they would have left me alone and let me look around at my own pace, there would have been a greater likelihood that I might actually purchase something.  But they kept after me: do you like this?; how much do you want to pay?; do you like this one better?; etc.  Takes only about 2 minutes of that and I am ready to flee the shop. purchases once again.

A small neighborhood open-air market

We took a different route through the souks this time and ended up in a small square where produce and odd items were being sold.  This was not like the more organized souks; this was a neighborhood small open-air market.  Cannot say much for the selection of goods or the quality of the produce available.  We did not hang around long.

Hand of Fatima door-knocker.
On a door near our riad.

We walked back through the souk following the route we knew best from the past 2 days. This time we noticed several displays of the metal hands.  Some of these metal hands are called Hamsa or khamsa and are palm-shaped amulets popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings.  
Hamsa are the flat type hand shapes at top left.
I liked the hand door-knockers.

The shops had many Hamsa but also had many of the little feminine hands which are used as door-knockers.  I wanted to buy one of these but Bill was not interested. 

Another Hand of Fatima
 These door-knocker hands are thought to symbolize the Hand of Fatima which protects the house from evil and also shows that the occupants of that house are followers of the Muslim faith. However, not all represent the Hand of Fatima.  There are different hand-shaped door-knockers, one male and one female, and these produce different sounds.  Visitors would use the knocker according to their gender.  If the male knocker were used, the woman of the home would know not to open the door because that would be inappropriate.  If the female knocker were used then the woman would know it was okay to open the door.  

Mint, mint, wonderful smelling mint
Olives, anyone?  All colors and types.
Instead of continuing straight for the final block or 2 and exiting into the Jemaa El-Fnaa plaza as we usually did, we took a hard left turn and checked out a different area of the souk where there were many displays of mint and olives and some foods which I did not recognize.  The mint smelled wonderful.  They use a great deal of mint here, both in cooking and for tea.  The favorite local drink is a hot mint tea and they drink it all day and night.  We liked this tea but did not need to buy any mint to haul back on a long train ride the following day.

Will miss all the olives from this part of the world.

These decorative plaster pieces are used by the
thousands as trim around ceilings; each hand made.

We wound back through the alleyways and found a small restaurant for lunch which had been recommended by Aziz.  This was the first lunch or dinner in Marrakesh when neither of us ate tajine.  All those tajines are very good but we were ready for simple familiar fare such as a sandwich and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

The mosque with the valuable gold
ball on top.

I was feeling a tad ill this day.  Voice getting lower and lower in tone and bronchial tubes felt irritated.  I think it was the ever-present dust in the air caused by all those motorcycles zipping so fast through the narrow alleyways.  And maybe contributed by those donkey carts too.  At any rate, whatever the cause, I was experiencing difficulty breathing and felt awful; so we did not do much this day.  After walking for about 4 hours and then the light lunch, we returned to the riad and I slept most of the afternoon while Bill read a book.  We did not even bother to go back out to eat dinner, just lazed in the room.  The next morning I felt much better so those hours of respite from the dust helped.

In center there are snakes all over the ground.  The guys in white
were snake charmers.  Pay to have your photo taken with the snakes.

Our train back to Rabat did not depart Marrakesh until mid-afternoon on day 4.  We had walked enough and seen enough of Marrakesh that we did not even leave the riad until time to head to the train station around noon.  Aziz called a cart guy to handle our luggage to the Jemaa el-Fnaa plaza where we easily found a taxi.  The taxi drove right through the plaza past the snake charmers and monkey handlers and other entertainers and vendors.  

This is a full drink.  Obviously, the machines are
calibrated to dispense the same liquid as for same
size drinks in the USA. Except here they use very
little ice.  At home you are getting mostly a cup of ice.

He dropped us off at the train station and we headed to McDonald's to wait.  Might as well enjoy Wi-Fi while waiting.  And that is when Bill discovered that he still had the riad keys in his pocket -- the keys to the riad front door and to the safe in our room.  He called the riad and Aziz came to the train station to collect the keys.  We felt bad about him having to make a trip to the station but he insisted that it was no problem because he needed to come to the station anyway to buy some tickets for other guests.  

Relaxing on comfortable train

The train trip back to Rabat took a different route than our trip down to Marrakesh, so we were treated to different scenic views on this return trip.  It felt great to get back 'home' on the boat.  

1 comment:

  1. I love to "window shop" and see the different markets ... with no intention of buying anything. If only they could understand .. LOL! Love the pictures of all the spices and olives.

    I'm not surprised to see how little soda actually goes into a cup ... I usually drink water, with no ice. It's just what I like during the day.


Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.