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First Foray into Africa

sunny 68 °F

I recently took a girl's trip with my friend Sarah to Marrakesh, Morocco. It was a weekend of eating, walking, and shopping.

The first thing we noticed was the SUNSHINE. There hasn't been too much of that in Germany for the past few weeks. I forgot how much I missed it. Here are some sunny pics of the characters in today's blog.

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I don't feel like I can make any generalizations about Morocco as a whole, being that I only traveled to one city so I will talk only of Marrakesh. Marrakesh had delicious mint tea, couscous, tagine, and fresh squeezed juice. Here are some pics of the items we consumed.

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The old city is called the "Medina" and the heart of the Medina is the main square Jemaa El-Fnaa. The main square feels like being in the middle of a circus with snake charmers, fortune tellers (only showing their eyes), henna artists, monkey handlers, wheel barrow porters, juice stands, and people selling a variety of items on blankets. I couldn't take pictures of everything in the square because it would cost me a fortune. If you take a picture of the monkeys or snakes or whatnot, the locals demand money for the picture. So I steered clear of that scene.

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From the main square you can enter the labyrinth of the souks. The souks are the shopping districts that are loosely organized by the main items sold. You can buy a variety of items such as handmade Berber rugs and pillows, lanterns, spices, natural make up, slippers, poufs, tunics, food, animals, EVERYTHING. But, in order to buy, you must negotiate. Negotiation is a way of life here. They lure you in with the promise of "just looking, looking is free" and "we smile when you come in and we smile when you leave, even if you don't buy." Then the negotiation begins. They ask for a democratic price, "good for you and good for me." If you say what your best price is and they meet your price, then you better buy! But usually they won't meet your best price. You are expected to go up a little and they come down a little. The dance continues until you agree on a fair price. The whole experience is fun and quite entertaining, as these shopkeepers are quite adept at getting you to spend your money. I figure the price of the entertainment is built into the cost of the item. That is how I justify my crappy negotiation skills. The shop owners have all kinds of stereotypes of different negotiation styles by country. The Americans are known for not wanting to insult the shopkeeper and starting with a counteroffer that is quite high. While the Spanish are known as the toughest negotiators and they do not often come to a deal. The Swiss are known for having a lot of money and the Germans are known for wanting their change at the same time as handing over their money. It is funny to hear the stories of the shop owners. I think someone should write a book about a shopkeepers in the souks. It would be an interesting read. Many of the shopkeepers spoke 5 or 6 languages, the two official languages of Morocco, Arabic and French, and then English, German, and Spanish. We were frequently greeted in French or Spanish. Not sure why we looked Spanish around to them, but it seemed to be the common theme. Here are some pics of the shops.

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Our score.

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Transporting items around the souks is tricky business being that the streets are so narrow. There were motorbikes piled to the brim and also porters with different wagons. Our luggage was transported by such a wagon on our first trip.

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Speaking of our hotel....here are some pics on the walk to our hotel and also of our room.

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As you may or may not know, Morocco is predominately Muslim. Therefore there are multiple mosques around and you can hear the call to prayer 5 times per day. You see hoards of people shuffling into doors around every corner to participate in their religious ritual. I really loved hearing the call to prayer. It sounds very calming and mesmerizing. The biggest mosque in the square. We were not able to visit any of the mosques because you must be Muslim to enter.

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There are also many Hammams in Marrakesh, which are traditional baths. Here is the entrance to one. I really wanted to go to one, but we didn't fit it into this trip.

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Medersa Ben Youssef is a former Koranic boarding school and is open to visitors. The rooms that the students stayed in were quite tiny, as were the door frames. The carvings and architectural details were very impressive.

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We also visited Jardin Majorelle which is a small garden in the "new city." When I say small, I mean it. The plants that were there were ones you typically see in Arizona. They were in pots painted in colors that you typically see in Morocco. You could walk around the whole garden in about 5 minutes but since we were taking many pictures it took about 10 minutes, okay maybe 20. It was very pretty though.

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Take time to

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and smell the roses.

Posted by trackers 04:23 Archived in Morocco

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