Saturday, February 27, 2010

Our Last Days

Our last full day in Marrakesh was truly one of leisure. After another yummy breakfast of fresh yogurt, Moroccan bread and fresh-squeezed OJ, we went hotel crashing. You may remember that we crashed the Sheraton when we were in Tenerife. Well, Dado decided that we should crash Le Meridien, one of the Sheraton hotels, here in Marrakesh.

We set off with our map and managed to walk almost directly to Le Meridien, which was about 20 minutes away. We didn't even need a guide!

Le Meridien is nothing at all exciting. We are even more grateful now that we chose a Riad! Here at Dar Silsila we have personal attention from Mohammed and the other employees round-the-clock, we have opulent rooms, and we have the most amazing dinners!

Our visit to Le Meridien lasted a mere few minutes: long enough to scope out the pool (not heated), see that there weren't any restaurants open for lunch, and use the bathrooms. That's it.

We walked out to the main street and caught ourselves a horse-drawn carriage ride back to the square.

Along the way, we had some great views of the minaret.

And the wall of the Medina.

At the square, we were hoping to eat shish kebab as we did our first night. However, all of the restaurant stalls were gone! Either they are not there during the day, or - this being Friday, which is a holy day - they were closed for the day.

Instead we settled for what turned out to be a completely boring lunch except for the call to prayer. There was a small mosque in front of the restaurant, and Dado loved the opportunity to see the real thing.

Josey also decided that she was going to confront her fear of snakes and snake charmers. Wow!

Here are some other strange sights we wanted to capture. Some are self-explanatory.

The square with the snowy Atlas Mountains in the background.

These are the nut vendors who populate the center of the square.

And the olive vendors at the start of the souk.

Dado and I later indulged in a local tradition: hammam baths.

Sidebar: According to Mohammed, we learned that every neighborhood in the Medina (there are many!!) has its own mosque, bakery, fountain (although most of these are no longer in operation), and hammam bath. The hammam baths are public (one for women and one for men). In the hammam, you coat your body with the Moroccan black soap, and you sit in the dry heat for several minutes. Next, you rinse the black soap off with water. Then, you use a coarse glove to scrub your skin. It is a very, very old tradition in Morocco, so the black soap is very significant.

At Dar Silsila, you can have a couple's hammam with a massage. Wow! Talk about indulgence. Sorry, though, no pictures. This was completely in the nude. Woohoo!

Our very last day was spent completely browsing . . . and it provided a last, fantastic shopping adventure for me and Josey.

Did I mention the silk vendors? I had noticed them on our first day. Apparently it is "cactus silk", which is rayon. It is in the most vivid colors imaginable. I love it!! However, I don't know what to do with it. Thus, the crafter in me wanted to go back and buy some "just in case" I ever have a need for it.

I had seen the silk vendors during our wanderings, but I had not yet seen any yarn. Imagine, a country that grows sheep but nary a yarn store to be seen! Well, luck was with me. Max stopped at a stall in the souk to admire some beads, and I happened to notice an entire wall of yarn in the background. You would think that with my love of knitting, the yarn would have been calling to me. However, the visual cacophony of the souk makes it nearly impossible for me to focus.

So, thanks, Max, for doddling!

Josey and I each bought a ball of yarn with a matching hank of silk, and I also bought some for my friend Sharlene. Sharlene, when you read this, pretend you didn't notice this part. I also bought some extra silk . . . for some future project.

Of course we also had to make a final stop at the pharmacy/spice shop to drop off our bags of clothes. They were so happy. Max stocked up on henna, so he can give us his own henna tattoos. Great idea!

At last, it was time to take the van to the airport. Sigh. The kids did not want to leave. Thus is the sign of a successful vacation!

The airport was stressful because one has to wait in the same "passport control" line to leave as you do when you arrive. Luckily it moved faster this time - only about 30 minutes. However, prior to that we had a real thrill.

In the US (and everywhere else we have traveled in the last year and a half), you are not allowed to bring more than a bit of liquid through security. Not so in Morocco! We carried through water and wine! Can you believe that?!

And even better?! Dado's 2-foot, 40 pound fossil had to go as a carry on, disguised by a jacket draped over the top of the suitcase. Well, right as we were leaving Dar Silsila, I moved the suitcase in front of the fossil suitcase, and it tipped over - breaking the tips off of the fossil! I was so terribly sad! However, Dado handled it very well . . . Until the security guard said it was too dangerous to take onboard, so we had to check it.

Well, we did not have the option to check it because we had no room in our single checked bag - plus it was well, well over the weight limit. So, Dado paused a moment, the security man walked away, and we just continued on to our gate. No one stopped us. No one made us check the fossil. Dado hauled it right onto the plane! Lucky for us, but not so safe. Wow!

Our flight was quick, the landing in Reus, Spain was uneventful, and we were checked into our hotel by 10:00ish PM.

Many, many thanks to the staff at Dar Silsila. Mohammed was the best. The food was to die for. The atmosphere was perfect. It was an amazing gem in the heart of a chaotic place.

Many, many thanks to the other wonderful people we met during the week. They were welcoming, kind, and considerate.

And so many wonderful souvenirs! Luckily, the damage to Dado's massive fossil is almost unnoticeable.

We were fortunate to have had such a perfect, wonderful vacation.

Love to all!!

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