When we disembarked from the plane, Kenny immediately remarked that we were certainly not in the Middle East. Where most of the Middle East- especially the parts he travels to for work- looks like a mash up (for all of you Gleeks out there) of the Arab World and Las Vegas, Marrakesh had none of that glitz and fakery. We checked into the hotel, had a quick bite and decided to walk around for the remainder of the day. Our hotel was just outside the Medina, for that I am very grateful, so we had a short walk to reach the Koutoubia Minaret and Jemaa el Fna.
Jemaa el Fna
I gave Kenny the camera to take a picture of the snakes, because I refused to get close enough to snap anything.
Next thing I knew, Kenny had a (small) snake around his neck... idiot! Seriously, some snake charmer walks up to you with a snake and looks like he is going to wrap it around your neck and you STAND there and LET him do it! NFW folks.
The snake guy took a pic of Kenny with the snake,
and you can see how far away I stayed from this whole scene!
Of course the snake guy then demanded a ridiculous amount of money for the pictures (about $20 when it should have been $2), but Kenny didn't have much room to negotiate when he had a serpent wrapped around him. So $20 poorer and sans snake, we left Jemaa el Fna.
We booked a tour guide to bring us around the Medina and the Souks on Saturday at the suggestion of several friends who had been seriously hassled when walking around. After booking guides they were able to have a much more enjoyable time with much less aggravation. This was by far the best investment we made during this trip.
Our guide, Abdel, was fantastic!
He brought us to the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa (Koranic school), showed us a local bakery, Bahia Palace, the museum, and on, and on, and on. The best part of hiring the guide was that people in the souks were much less aggressive towards Kenny and me when we were with Abdel. We avoided the touristy stores and bought very little, though I did return home with a beautiful embroidered black cape as well as a bright red wrap.
The women make dough in their homes and bring it to the local baker for baking
After Saturday we had had enough of Kenny and Nora Experience Marrakesh and decided to get massages on Sunday morning. Luckily one of the top spas had availability, so we were able to get a couples massage before our flight. The place was BEAUTIFUL, but let me start from the beginning. We arrive at the spa and are each shown to a changing room. It was the first time I have not had anxiety about a spa robe fitting, which made the experience much more relaxing from the start. The attendant handed us each a little pair of undies (think of something about 90% smaller than what an American spa gives you for a bikini wax), and I just smiled. There is no way that little elastic band would have stretched an extra 12" to get around Nora's Belly- 2010, but it easily handled NB- 2011. So the attendant puts us into a beautiful marble room with a gigantic jacuzzi- probably 8' by 20'- to soak before our massages.
Now onto the massages... I love massages but typically indulge only in the States. My friends have told me their very amusing stories about how massages differ when traveling abroad, and now I have my own to add to the mix. Kenny and I were shown to our room, and it became obvious that this place was not for the modest. A woman stood behind each of us and immediately took our robes- no stepping out of the room while we disrobed, no sheet to lie under so only the part of the body getting massaged is exposed, no, no, no. Hey, when in Rome.
We get on our respective beds and enjoy a wonderful massage. It was kind of odd being so exposed, but I wasn't going to let it bother me. I started ass up, an unfortunate sight for the masseuse, and at some point she grabbed this little elastic holding 2 square inches of fabric to my body and pulled it down to, well, my ass crack. At least it didn't go any lower than that. This was a very thorough massage, and my tush has never felt so relaxed! She finally had me flip over, and I assumed that this is where the sheet would come into play to cover me. Nope, nada, zilch. The only part of my body not massaged was hiding under the aforementioned two square inches of fabric. I even got a stomach massage! While I will still enjoy being covered by a high thread count sheet in the future, I was a lot more comfortable getting this massage than I would have been last year. I am big, but it isn't like this poor woman was attempting a massage through a gigantic layer of fat! My only hint of anxiety was when I thought, 'OH NO, she can probably feel my port', followed by, 'OH CRAP, could she possibly massage the area vigorously enough to flip my port?'!
I will leave you with one last nugget about Marrakesh. We constantly felt that we were being scammed, because the reality was that we were being scammed. Everything is a negotiation there, from the taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter to the person who points you in the right direction and then sticks his hand out for money. On our first night Kenny had already had enough of the taxi ripoff scheme. We paid 30 dirham (about $3.60) on the way to dinner and knew that the taxis outside the restaurant would expect us to pay more. So the first taxi said that it would be 40 dirham to get back to the hotel, and Kenny said no, we paid 20 to get there, and we would pay 20 to return (see, he learned the art of the negotiation). The driver said fine, he would take us for 30. I was good to go, but Kenny said NO. He made me WAIT ON THE STREET for a taxi who would drive us back to the hotel for 20 dirham ($2.40). I wanted to kill him. A cab finally said that he would take us for 20 dirham, and we got in the back of his car. The car wouldn't start. He kept trying to turn over the engine, but the car simply refused. At this point I was trying not to look at Kenny, because I was only barely maintaining my composure and not bursting into laughter. The driver told us to wait in the car, and he got some other drivers to help him back the car out of the spot and then run behind the car and push us down the road until the freaking car started! It was one of the funniest situations we have ever been in, and we laughed all the way from the entrance of the hotel to our room. For $1.20, my husband almost got us KILLED. Oh, and this car didn't even have working headlights. I am of the generation where we talk about things that are Soviet-era and post-Soviet era. I am pretty confident that this car drove its first mile in the rarely mentioned pre-Soviet era. Amazing!