Thursday, August 5, 2010



Located in the southern region of Morocco nestled inland, is the popular city of Marrakech. Marrakech was at one time one of the four capitals of Morocco. The main streets resemble a combination of Phoenix (because of the reddish earth tones of the original structures), Miami (because of the thick, stalky palms that line the streets), and perhaps Vegas (because of the luxurious nightlife). It seems that someone is aware of the resemblance because many nightclubs have “Miami” somewhere in the name. I even saw a “CafĂ© California” in Fes, which is a far-reaching stretch of the imagination.

The most intriguing part of Marrakech is the medina of course. We spent hours weaving through sweltering alleyways shopping and negotiating prices, walking space for scooters (pedestrians beware), and language. It was a true experience of the senses; rows of colorful fabrics, jewelry, leather products, fragrant spices, incense, and soaps. The sound of lively music, and persistent merchants, who can spot a “sucker” a mile away keep you on guard. The rancid smell of mules, fish, urine, trash, and sewage all crashed together in my nose. When you first enter the ancient red gates, you will notice the king’s (presently King Mohammed VI) Kasbah and a mosque (a famous name of which I can’t remember at the moment) with a huge minaret to call out the daily prayers. As you pass a couple of streets lined with horse-drawn carriages, you will enter an enormous square, called Djemaa el Fna that radiates the most excruciating heat known to man.

The day we explored Marrakech, it was about 114 degrees Fahrenheit. During the day, the square, or grand plaza, as it was commonly referred, is wide open. A few vendors (who I think must be nuts) bake in the unrelenting heat peddling henna art, monkey handlers looking for “victims” to swindle a few dirham by setting a monkey on your shoulder, some musicians, storytellers, and snake charmers. Nighttime is another story. The square transforms into a lively beehive of families, entertainers, and of course tourists. Carriages are converted into fresh juice stands; along with fresh nuts, fruit, sweets, and other delectables…Did I mention the snail cart?

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