Friday, January 29, 2010

Marrakech - Strange Adventure (Day 2)

Today was more of a shopping than sight-seeing itinerary.  After listening to a deeply emotional song, I really felt like taking it easy for the day.

I started my adventure today trying to walk to the main square, Jemaa El Fna.  This is the most popular site in Marrakech.  During the day, there are street vendors selling orange juice and dried fruits, henna-painting women and fortune tellers.  Approaching sunset and evening, this square becomes filled up with outdoor food stalls (serving hot dishes), story-tellers, magicians, snake-charmers, transvestite dancers, and African street musicians.  It is a chaotic place, yet it is unique because it is as much a local Moroccan hangout as it is a tourist attraction, and it is exactly the sort of scene in Arabic tales.  Tourists are wildly fascinated by this place, but I have to admit that I felt very scared walking in the square, being Chinese + single + female + with a huge DSLR camera + one extra film camera + young-looking (to them at least).  Everything about me screams ATTENTION, while everything going on in the square is so surreal (come on, snake charmers!!) and all vendors always try to get your attention (and your money).  I walk around the city trying my best to avoid any eye contact, and ignoring anyone who try to get my attention ("konichiwa?" "speak English?"  "are you from England?"  "Japan?" "hey lady please see this"), unless they start to sound angry/ offended/ aggressive - that is when I politely say in French "non merci" (no, thank you), "pas japonaise" (not Japanese) and keep walking fast.    I didn't take too many pictures, because the whole atmostphere was so intimidating, and I really wanted to avoid attention as much as I could.  Here's a few pictures taken during the day and in early evening:

Think he was a fortune teller telling this other man's fortune... He lowered the parasol when he saw me trying to take pictures...

Dried fruit stalls selling dates, apricots, nuts, etc.  One stall owner insisted on giving me an apricot to try - I did and had very bad stomach pain from late afternoon till 10pm when I finally could eat again.

Notice the passerby dressed in the cloak?  It's a very traditional Moroccan "cloak" with a pointy hood, and it totally reminds me Harry Potter type of magician cloak. 

Jemaa El Fna during the day:

During the early evening:
Food stalls

Local men gathering around some transvestite dancing-boys (far left, the men with pony tail and colorful dresses).

In between my early afternoon and early evening visits to the square, I spent a few hours at the tourist-popular and super chic (Bali-Seminyak type of chic... think Ku De Ta but more chilled) cafe restaurant called Terrace des Epices.  I was there initially to buy some expensive necklaces at Stephanie's Jewels right below the terrace cafe, but the man who worked at the sister restaurant, Cafe des Epices, walked me to Terrace des Epices, so I decided to have a cup of espresso and a light lunch there.  It was super charming terrace cafe in the middle of some busy souks, but it was so relaxed there you could sit there for hours and think you are far away from the city.  I also stayed there for much longer than I had planned because one of the owners came over and kept me company, later joined by 2 other friends of his.  I rarely talked to complete strangers like that for hours, but they seemed to be genuinely friendly and cool.  The owner of the restaurants was a young man about my age (or perhaps even younger).  Was really lovely chilling in such a charming cafe and having a great time talking to some interesting people on various topics.  A few pictures of Terrace des Epices and views from this beautiful rooftop terrace:

 Notice the snow mountains far away in the background. Yes, Morocco is not just desert, the climate and landscape varies greatly across the country.

I also spent my day walking inside the old medina, in and out of different souks (in fact they are all mixed together, there's not really any "in" or "out" at all and I never really knew where I was) trying to haggle but not too successful - either my prices were too low and the sellers were pissed off (they refused to even negotiate and just let me leave) or the haggling process was too quick which probably meant my counter offer was not low enough.  I also learned to tell sellers that I was from China - China gave them the impression I was poorer (than if I had said Hong Kong) and I'd be in a better position to negotiate lower prices.  In fact, one show seller said,"I know you are not from Japan and do not have as much money in China.  I will give you a better price..."   Em... Sure!!

In Marrakech, there is also plenty of pharmacies selling herbal and "natural" medicines.  By natural, that includes herbs, spices as well as incense, amber and other crystal like stones used for medical reasons.  This is a culture which really believes in the magical healing power of different natural ingredients.  Many alleys are lined with pharmacies, each with jars stacked on huge shelves, containing some unknown but colorful medical ingredients.

I've also walked past stores with zebra skin hanging down the ceiling...  That really freaked me out.  I felt so sick I didn't even bother taking pictures of them.

Anyways, enjoy my pictures taken during the day:

No comments:

Post a Comment