Jephir Treks America: Bumbling Through Central America

A 6 week adventure in gastronomica, sights, and observation.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Holed up in Marrakech... (or down two)

Currently staying at Hotel Ali in the medina of Marrakesh, a backpacker's haven full of world travellers, laundry facilities, internet access and the occasional hammam. All in all it acts as a useful haven from the spectacle of the main square - imagine over 100 stalls selling everything from fried calamari to salted almonds to orange juice (only 3 dirhum, or 38 cents for a glass of fresh squeezed O.J.!). The catch is that due to the huge numbers of tourists travelling through this city everyone who lives here sees travelers as wallets on legs - one can't really blame them, but it doesn't add to the experience, to put it mildly. Flattering at first, amusing for awhile, it eventually becomes exhausting as you just wish to walk around and take in the sights without constantly fending off beggers, merchants and would be henna tattoos (Mary had one girl walk up, grab her hand and start tattooing her without any hesitation).

Right now Zephir and I are awaiting Sam's return to Marrakesh from Essouiara, a coastal town with mixed reviews - it's a party town without culture if you ask some, a sleepy port if you ask others. Once Sam returns and Idi leaves for Middletown, CT we're on the next bus out of Marrakesh in hopes of getting to Mauritanian. Peter and Mary flew out a couple days ago (hence the down two) and so Zephir and I are doing our best to kill time with our mental slingshots.

But what have we been doing? Roughly, we landed in Casablanca after our flight was delayed and barely met up with Peter and Mary, spent about 36 hours in the city in order to get our Mauritanian visas, then hopped on a train for Fez. Casablanca is not the greatest city on earth. In fact, it isn't even the greatest city in Morocco. However, it does bring to the fore the culture clash that Morocco on the whole is feeling - most people on the street speak French, drive cars, and work western style jobs while traditional Moroccan dress can be seen, people speak arabic at home, and there are plenty of donkeys pulling carts outside the center of town. The saddest part of this is the shanty towns that seem to accompany every modernizing city in the world - slums that swell the population of this rather depressing town to the largest in Morocco. Collectively, our most visceral memory is the terrible quality of the air that results from the temperature inversion (similar to that experienced in L.A.). Next up, a fes-ian account...

Now I'm off to wander the city for a bit, drink my 143rd cup of mint tea and perhaps post more later today, although we can't seem to get any more pictures up on the computer, so don't hold your breath for more images...


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