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6 December 2012

time travel - morocco day two

*this is very wordy*

that first night, i had an amazing sleep. like, a sleep i had not had in a long time. it was worth flying all the way to marrakech for - absolutely. we had an early morning meeting with our rep, and wanted to grab some breakkie before that. rebekah was first to up and shower, and while i waited i flipped through the channels, stopping on a random channel that seemed to be streaming live from a radio show, in spain. (the title tune was really catchy too, and became the theme of the holiday; (sung in a bad spanish accent) "RTL 102.5 - Very Normal People! Very NORmal PEOPLE!") the song choices were split between current charts, retro, foreign and bizzarre, so we never really knew where we stood. what we did know, was that they played gangnam style like it was going out of fashion (dance move of the holiday).

once bex was done in the bathroom, she came out looking all apologetic and explained that for some reason the bathtub wasn't draining. we tried pushing and pulling all available bits that we thought might help the plumbing, and occaisionally heard the slight bubble from the pipes that something was draining, but... the water was going nowehere fast. i opted for a pikey shower instead, washing with a flannel in the basin and ensuring to not get any water in my mouth when brushing my teeth. dressed in skirts and tees, we were ready for a day in the sun! except... it was really still very cold and windy... we were determined it would warm up with the day, stayed dressed as we were - added a cardigan, and headed off to breakfast...

well. the crazy love of eggs from the night before seemed to carry into the day, with not one but two egg options in the breakfast buffet. also on offer was a variety of beige pastries, some beige cereals, tea and coffee, freshly squeezed tangerine juice (national fruit), and the left over slices of tomato and cucumber from the night before. oh, and plenty of slices of cheese, for good measure. it would appear that this was disappointing meal number 2 of the vay-cay. we didn't spend too much time in the restaurant during our stay, that's for sure.

we all met in the lounge with our rep zaid (i think), to go over some basic "dos and don'ts" of the trip, a rough guide on how much a taxi should cost, where to find the best markets, etc, and then went through a couple of the tours offered through the rep company. there were a few that we were tossing up between, but eventually settled on a half day tour of the ourika valley, in to the berber villages and up to the atlas mountains. the trip was only 300dh (about £22), and had lunch included. we prayed it wouldn't be beige! we booked the trip in for the day after next, as we wanted to get out and explore the medina that day, and knew the following day would be raining, and were happy to stay indoors. on the last day of the trip we had a free city tour from 9am to keep us busy until we checked out, so it was really our only 'free' day.

once we had finished up with the rep, we went and waited for the shuttle to take us to the medina for a day of sightseeing. it was while we were waiting for the driver in the sun that we noticed the most bizarre thing (up until that point, anyway)... a random camel herd was feeding on the grass in the middle of the intersection in front of the hotel. not on private land, not in the care of their owners... in the middle of a busy and main road in to marrakech. hence the hash tag #camelsofinstagram was born.

not a second after we had arrived at the medina, the driver was gone, and rebekah and i were swarmed. the mums and dave had managed to avoid the onslaught somehow, and made their way through the throng of cabbies and beggars and whatnot with minimal fuss. rebekah and i on the other hand, did not. with our eyes down, we tried to note the drop off zone for later that day, and navigate our way out of the chaos. with arms linked, we stormed off up the road, amid shouts of "very nice", "very cheap", "looking is free", til we finally found ourselves in the centre of the square.

in the background we could see a large tower looming over the palm trees and a few people hanging about. we went to investigate, and calm our nerves. what a mistake! there are no road rules in marrakech that we could easily determine, and what we thought was a walk way was indeed a road, and we had a right time trying to cross that road. eventually, we tried to follow another man's attempt to cross the road, forgetting to look both ways and nearly getting hit by a passing motorcycle. not a good start! when we finally made it across the road, we wandered around the grounds and worked out we were actually hanging about a mosque. the second biggest mosque in morocco, to be precise. while we were taking pictures, 'timothy from the tourism office' came on over on his bike, telling us aaaall about some amazing tours they're offering at the moment. uhhm... i'm not sure. i mean, i know boris johnson occasionally rides a bike to prove a point, but i can't see the mp for tourism actually getting out there in his suit (yes, timothy was wearing a suit) to rustle up customers. forgive me for being pessimistic. we basically told timothy to rack off that we'd find our own way around. but, thank you for your kind offer.
once inside the medina, the compliments and sales pitches were everywhere. we couldn't pass one stall without hearing "hallo""very nice""very cheap""cheaper than primark""fish and chips""sexxxxy""nice boobies" hallo""cheaper than asda""ohmygaaaad""kim kardashian""shake it, shake it" etc. rather unnerving! after about an hour and a half, we had basically resolved to buy nothing, and go home empty handed. it was about this time we decided we were hungry, and should seek non-beige food for basic human sustinence. it was also about the time we were bamboozled into following some random girl who was 'on her way home', to an unofficial tour of the tanneries (with free 'beber gas mask' [read: bunch of mint]) and subsequently trapped in a leather shop by probably her father or uncle and very politely forced into buying something or if not, to pay the unoffical tour guide a large sum of money for his unofficial services. well. were we not warned about this earlier in the day by our rep? "nothing in marrakech is free" he said. well no, i suspect that's fair, except... we didn't ask or KNOW that we were being taken on a tour. about 10 minutes in to the 20 minute walk to the tanneries is when rebekah and i suspected something was not quite right. it was about that time we tried really hard to quote liam neeson's line in 'taken' about having a very particular set of skills. it was about that time, that i was really scared.

i guess the moral of the story here, is 'trust no-one'. and maybe also, 'angry arab men are scary'. and possibly even, 'don't follow people you don't know, in a country you're not familiar with, who are obviously talking about how their going to skin you alive in a language you cannot understand '.

once we finally made our way back from the plot of 'taken 3', we felt aliiiiive and ready to take on the market once more. after some lunch. we stalked the restaurants, trying to read menus as best we could until we came across a trip advisor rated one, that was showing a 3 course lunch menu for 65dh (about £5?). uhhm.. yes, we will. the first course was 'moroccan salad' which.. there was no salad. it was 3 dishes; one olive paste type thing, one boiled carrot and mint thing, one... unidentifiable thing. pass. for main, we had a tagine each. rebekah had the beef, which was served with actual veggies, and i had the chicken, which wasn't. it was so good though! yum. the final course was... slices of oranges, with icing sugar and cinnamon. it.. wasn't quite the desert i had in mind, was a nice refreshing end to the meal! happy and full, we decided that we were strong independent woman, who are in charge of their own bodies, who cannot be spoken to like muck, and who haggle like the gods!  we went shopping! 

we were haggling left, right and centre. i mean, the markets are mostly full of tat, it's about as good as it gets. occasionally we would come across some really, genuinely lovely things, and it turned out that the people working in those particular stalls weren't weird or creepy men - a nice change! one lovely man in a jewellery shop was chatting to us about his wife who lives in london and how did we like living there etc, while i was shopping for items for my mum. when it came time to pay, and i tried haggling him down on some earrings, he flat out refused to sell me them because he thought i had undervalued them. i was happy to leave it at that, not sure that i really wanted to spend what he had in mind, when i mentioned they were for my mum for her birthday. well, with that being said, he completely changed his tune, and we came to a compromise. he gave me some line about how if it were for me he wouldn't have cared but because it was for a mother, he was happy to let something go, because mothers are the apple of life, or something. to make him happier, i bought a few pairs, i'm not gonna lie. i just thought it was quite nice the way he was so prepared to not let me buy something that he didn't think would be valued. hrrrmm.. maybe that's just me. anyway, we liked this guy, and so we asked him for some advice on bag shopping.

with his advice in mind, we were determined to not spend more than 500dh on two bags. we found a small shop that seemed to have the bags we had been looking at from afar, just not in the colours we wanted. the man was very attentive, and went and borrowed some colours from another stall (i presume they do this a lot) to let us choose from. we dwindled down the two we wanted, and were prepared to haggle. "how much for the two" i asked. he looked at us, smiled and said "for you, 350 for both". we were dumbfounded. our whole haggling education was moot. but, we were stoked. "sold!" we cried, with no further thought. elated, and with our purchases in hand, we made our way back out of the market into the square, to see it had started to rain quite heavily. it was close to 5 when we had planned to grab the shuttle back to the hotel, but it seemed about 14 other guests had the same thought. having been left out in the cold - literally, we negotiated our way through the throng of cabbies and jumped in one for 25dh... about £1.86. yeah. i aint mad at that. somewhere in that 10 minute journey we managed to stop by the side of the road and pick up the cabby's mate (we assume?) and also stop at the wrong hotel. we made it back eventually. we were knackered, cold and mentally exhausted, and dinner still wasn't for over an hour.

what else was there to do, but to rape the internet for a while in preparation of yet another beige meal. aaah beige, how i will come to rely on you as a constant in my diet in the not too distant future.

life is unfair.