Back in Reims and my back hurts

So! I got back to Reims yesterday! I really liked Morocco, I think it did me good, but I was ready to be back in my own bed. I needed to shave and stuff.

So where did I leave off?

Mala and I did find the thuja artisans’ cooperative, which seemed mostly to just be their shop in Essaouira. It was beautiful. Mala took some pictures and as soon as she has time to post them I’ll put some up here. There were a million things I wanted to buy–trays and boxes, but I just bought a jewelry box and it is BEAUTIFUL.

We ate lunch and then went and got massages. They were good but weird in the almost-nudity aspect. Then we took baths in the huge, awesome bathtub in our hotel and went out for dinner. The next day we got up and walked on the beach where we were accosted (okay, maybe too strong of a word) by a jewelry salesman who showed us beautiful things we couldn’t afford and then just chatted. The nice thing about the vendors in Essaouira was even if you didn’t buy anything, they accepted your answer, and then still wanted to chat. Everyone in Essaouira, as opposed to Fes, recognized immediately that Malavika was Indian and would yell out “Hey India!” as we walked by. Although she was a bit deaf and I had to point it out before she started hearing it.

We also stopped to buy pottery soap dishes made in Safi, and the vendors asked us to have tea with them so we did. It was two young guys, one of whom is studying English so we sat with them for about half an hour and then went to the car to start the drive to Marrkech.

So we arrived in Marrakech and our host met us at the airport where we dropped off the car, since he lives a 10-minute walk away. We waited for the sun to go down and the temperature dropped 20 degrees and then he took us in a petit taxi to Djemaa El Fna, which was insane. Mala took a video so I’ll post it. It’s too hard to describe so I won’t even try. We drank the best orange juice ever from the orange juice vendors on the square (which wasn’t really square at all). We wandered around the souqs and found Mala a fes to give to a friend. Then we walked to the ville nouvelle which was really different from the ville nouvelle in Fes–it was very modern and polished as opposed to Fes where the sides of the roads were still kind of ripped up.

The next morning we slept in and then headed into town. I hate catching the petits taxis. I don’t know why we found it so difficult. I think we had trouble identifying which side of the street we should be on. Anyway it worked out eventually and we walked through the souqs to a cafe that I am amazed we found. We took photos of the square down below. Then we walked back through the souqs to the Palais El Badi, which is huge and ruined. They were setting it up for a big festival. Mala bought some earrings nearby and I looked at rings but they were all too big. Then we walked to the old Jewish cemetery which was mostly ancient unmarked white stones right next to each other. The guardian met us and talked to us in English and showed us the grave of a rabbi from a few hundred years ago.

The next day we left for the desert. We had to be at the offices of the tour group at 7 am so we got up at 5:15. We were the first ones there and there was a bum sleeping in front of the door so we waited downstairs which is where everyone else arrived anyway. We were in a van with 8 other people who were mostly cool: 2 French, 2 Swiss (a mother and her 7-year-old son), 2 Brazilians, and 2 American guys.

As we drove it got hotter and hotter. By the time we stopped in Ouarzazate for lunch it was sweltering and the ride from there to Zagora, everyone pretty much just tried to sleep. We found out later it was 110 degrees (no AC). It wasn’t miserable though. When we got to Zagora people tied scarves on our heads and we were put on camels. My camel that day was actually really comfortable. We rode them for about an hour and then we dropped right on the edge of the desert where the dunes begin, about a 5-hour drive from the Algerian border. Berber nomads then took over and acted as our hosts for the night. They fed us and sat and talked with us and then later played music for us after the sunset (when it dropped 20 degrees again and then kept dropping through the night). We had really nice tents but everyone slept under the stars anyway because it was nicer. They woke us up to see the sunrise and then eat, and take camels back. My camel in the morning was too big and really uncomfortable–my back is incredibly sore and I think it must be from that. Then we started the 10-hour drive back to Marrakech. Actually I think we made it back in under 10 hours.

So in between all these things we hung out a bit with our host and his roommate who were pretty cool people who work at the airport so know lots of things about airlines. But when we got back from the desert trip we were mostly gross and tired so we just bathed and watched tv and crashed. I left the next morning.

I think that’s it… I’ll try to post videos and pictures etc. when I get Mala’s though.


2 thoughts on “Back in Reims and my back hurts

  1. Casseeeeeeeeeeee says:

    I just caught up with your blog (I’ve been really busy, and I just got back to America the day before yesterday), and Morocco sounds awesome. The problems I find with traveling is that so often you’re trapped into being a tourist, and you don’t really get to know the people or the culture, just what the locals have determined was acceptable/palatable for visitors. That’s why I like that I can speak Japanese in Japan, because it adds so much more depth to the experience. Reading your posts, it seemed like Morocco was the type of place where the locals were friendly and down-to-earth enough that you could feel like you were getting to know the people/culture, but then I remembered that they speak French in Morocco, and you’re fluent. Do you think it would have been different for you if you could only speak English?

  2. A little bit, but not much. The French was most useful with talking to the taxi drivers and I think it may have discouraged people from messing with us. Otherwise, everyone we talked to for much time spoke English to us. The Berber hosts in the desert spoke English (well, a few of them did), and the vendors we talked to knew a bit of English. Often conversations were a mix of French and English but mostly because I wanted to speak French, not because they didn’t know English.

    Moroccans are a notoriously hospitable and open people, too. I’d read and been told before going that it’s common that someone you just met will offer you their friendship and invite you home for tea with their family, and that it’s a sincere invitation and sometimes rude (and you’d be missing out) to say no. We had a lot of conversations with random people, often because they wanted to talk about India, and because Mala doesn’t really speak French (though she understands a lot I think) it was in English 90% of the time.

    Anyway, I think with just English in Morocco you’d have no trouble having conversations with real people. There are just as many people who only speak Arabic because they never really went to school (making French useless anyway) as there are who know enough English to have a good conversation with you. If that makes sense.

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