Reflections from the Majorelle Garden
So here we sit, Kevin et moi (Sarinda) on a cool green bench in the middle of the Jardin Majorelle – a bamboo, floral, bird-filled palm oasis in Marrakech, Yves Saint Laurent's dream and creation. We'll blog a bit together.
So what do we feel about Marrakech?
KX: it's cooler, the weather is more pleasant than in Fes. The roads are more spacious even though we have to jump to the side to avoid being hit by speeding motorcycles!
SPW: Pedestrians certainly don't have the right of way. I do miss seeing donkeys (and the donkey 'trash truck' passing each day in Fes Medina.) But we learned quickly to walk in a line, listen for the quick series of beeps, whistles, honks or shouts of “balek!” which means “attention!” in French or “watch out” in English I guess.
KX: I really like the square Jamaa el Fna. Lots of cafes, petits magasins, performing artists (snake charmers, story tellers, dancers, traditional Berber musicians) Most important is the food! There must be like 100 restaurants there. And the orange juice which you can find nowhere else in the world. Oh...don't forget the gelati... I haven't had such a taste since my last summer in the Amalfi coast.
SPW: The bees like the gelati too. Each morning we share our jam and honey with them, too. Copious Moroccan breakfasts (homemade bread in our homestays, tea, a variety of crepes, honey, confitures, cafe au lait, brioches, baguette, pistachio/banana yogurt, hard-boiled eggs when we're in hotels...) start us off well. Happily, while breakfast isn't so new to us, (most of) our digestive systems are agreeing with all these vetetable and chicken or beef tagines, couscous, beef and chicken brochettes, pastillas (chicken or pigeon and almonds in a flaky pastry dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar – I admit to having ordered chicken rather than pigeon!
So we've already had one person decide he'll come back here for his honeymoon. (Christina just came by our bench and says she will, too.) It IS a romantic city in many ways: sitting inside a riad like Gita's listening to a gentle fountain, coexisting peacefully with so many other people in this city and then hearing the calls to prayer, we feel the harmony of busy activity and more spiritual introspection.
OK - Kevin's feeling left out: I'll pass back to him with a question: Kevin, what are three things that have surprised you in Marrakech?
KX: Well, it's not easy to pick up only three things... Anyway, I would say they are the well-preserved Riads, the incredible food, and the friendly people. Through the Riads, we've learned a lot about traditional Moroccan architecture as well as the Islam cultures. Personally, I've always loved eating and just one thing, you've got to try the fresh juices here. Bargaining is a kind of art here.
SPW: OUI! What's the secret, Kevin, in your mind?
KX: You need to make friends with the shopkeeper, which is actually not that difficult. You start with “Salam Alikum” (President Obama used the same way in his Cairo speech), and tell them a little bit about yourself. As Kempie told us earlier, very few things in Morocco have a fixed price. So, we must be very patient in haggling down the prices. I always tell them “Je suis un etudiant et Je n'ai pas d'argent,” hoping they will give a “special” price for me. Sometimes you even need to pretend that you can't afford the price they asked and walk out of the shop, slowly. Then they'll probably drag you back and agree to the price you've offered if they can accept it.
SPW: Time is up, and we're off to Ourika (the high Atlas mountains) so I want to just add something about waking up in Morocco. For the past two days I've wondered if the 4 am call to prayer has even happened. This morning I finally heard it, loud and crisp projecting from the minaret just next to our hotel. It's a nice snooze button – three more hours to slumber until the roosters begin to wake me. The other day I asked everyone how they were waking up each day. Genevieve's response wins the prize: “Well, I set my alarm each day for 7 but there's a donkey outside my homestay front door, so he gets me going by 6:30.”