Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A surreal experience in Club Med Marrakech

We had hammam in Club Med which is located right inside the Medina and just a stone's throw away from the Koutobia Minaret.

After the hamman we lounged a bit at the pool with our cocktail drinks in hand when we heard the minaret calling again its devotees to pray. Seriously, in Morocco there is noise pollution but people accept it as a way and part of life. It is religion. It is culture. One must respect it, even us.

Video taken in Club Med Marrakech here:


A 1-minute footage of us lazing in the pool of Club Med in the heart of Marrakech Medina with the Koutobia Minaret calling its devoted followers to pray.

It was quite a surreal experience really with all the European ladies clad in bikinis while some even went topless? Oh dear. Topless in a Muslim country. How is that? And to hear the screeching call to prayers in the background... um, if it was me I would feel awkward doing the topless thing. It just does not fit.

Well at least, all this happened inside the Club Med resort.

Here are some pictures of CLub Med:


And this is the Koutubia Minaret where the call to prayer is being aired. Pretty!


Travel Period: April 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Morocco: Camels, Argan Oil, Water Mill and a typical Moroccan lunch in Ourika

After our morning tea with the Berber family, we went camel gazing.

Yes, camel gazing indeed

Blondine was not excited to mount on the camels as she can’t separate the association of camel and sand, or the desert. There were no sand in the mountains that’s why, but the 2 Australian girls living in London temporarily on a foreign exchange program had a blast with the beautiful doe eyed animals.


The 2 Australian girls on a very short camel ride.


 Mint and Argan oil

Next on the program is a visit to a medicinal garden. The group had a quick educational tour of the small herbal garden while I took refuge inside the shop building. I was cold and my legs were trembling! The weather has gone worse, the rain showers didn’t stop and we are only seeing fog.

Nevertheless, we learned about Argan oil (from the Argan tree that is found in North Africa), how it is processed traditionally as well as its cosmetic and medicinal value. It is said that the Argan tree is now endangered and UNESCO is doing something to protect it. Well good then.


Peppermint of LBOURJ (arabic version).


This woman is traditionally grinding Argan seeds into oil.

Water mill and another Berber house

We also visited a water mill that is powered by the Ourika River and a house. Another primitive Berber house actually but with a pottery shop annexed to it. So obviously this is all commercial. We just played the game and looked around, not buying anything. I mean, what am I going to do with those pottery at home?


The primitive Berber house, kitchen, living room and bedroom, all in one place.


The pottery shop. Sorry no sale from me.

Moroccan Lunch: Lentil Soup, Tajine and Chicken Skewers

After the whirlwind little tour we are on to the next agenda... our most awaited traditional Moroccan lunch! The cafeteria restaurant was very local right on the main road in Ourika Valley. I forgot the name but I remember it being busy and we had to take the upstairs room.


We all had lentil soup and mint tea which was really good as we were all freezing from the cold weather outside. Unfortunately, we were not all properly dressed for this outing. Then our full warm lunch arrived. We are famished! Blondine ordered chicken tajine (see foto above) while I had vegetable couscous (see foto below).

The blonde Australian girl shrieked when she saw hair on her chicken skewers. It looked like pubic hair she said, lol. Oh dear lord, good thing we were done with our lunch!

See below fotos below of some of our team mate's lunch.


Next, now that we have recharged and full of energy, we are off to the Setti Fatma waterfalls trek!

Travel Period: April 2009
Destination: Ourika, Al Haouz (Marrakesh-Safi), Morocco

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Marrakech: Circumnavigating our way through the Souqs

Souqs are all over Marrakech (or spelled as Marrakesh). The biggest one is located at the back of the Djemma el Fna square. It is enormous, it’s like a universe in there and you can quickly get lost if you do not pay any attention. Our trick was to memorise our turns and to take note of easy landmarks, for example a special shop or a doorway arch.

Herbs, spices and minerals.

Blondine and I at the ceramic shop where she bought her tajine crock.

I must say though that it is quite thrilling to get lost in the souqs. That’s the adventurous me speaking there, haha. Blondine hates getting lost though, she gets terrified at the thought of it. In fact, we got lost but we have a map and it was short lived as well. We found quickly our way back to the main streets. The main streets of the souqs are easy to distinguish (and find) because they are a chaos—the rush and hush of people and vendors touting their wares and foods on the narrow streets. Although there are many quiet alleyways in the souqs, just follow the noise and it will bring you back to the main streets.

The souqs in Marrakesh are simply amazing. Items from leather goods (bags, shoes and belts) to potteries, scarves, carpets, lanterns…. one can even witness the artisans handcraft their wares. The traffic in the souqs is quite charming as well. We saw donkeys lugging a cartload of supplies with their owners seated comfortably on top, men hurrying with a pushcart, bikes and scooters suddenly coming out of nowhere. It’s like a medieval souq gone modern.

We did a bit of serious shopping as well. Blondine being Dutch was of course excellent in the bargaining department. The Dutch are known to be hard core bargain hunters who extremely take the art of negotiating to a higher level. We mortal bargain hunters do not come close. Blondine can swing an initial quoted price under 50%. Clearly this is a national sport for the Dutch, lol!

I bought a gorgeous silver teapot and Blondine a lovely green ceramic tajine crock. We also bought some leather bags. Then we discovered this mineral and herbs shop and were drawn to the smell of amber. We both bought the pure rock. Great to use at home—dash a bit on the linens, closets and cupboards and the house will be smelling nice.

It wasn’t all oohs and aahs in the souqs. We didn’t like many vendors, they were very aggressive. I think they see us having Euros and Dirhams on our foreheads. Moreover, we had a verbal sexual harassment encounter. ‘Yummy gazelle…’ ‘Do you wanna have sex?’ and more English and Arabic phrases that I didn’t bother hearing.

The problem with young Moroccan guys is when you ignore them they become more aggressive and want their presence known by shouting louder. Some have the gall to follow us. But eventually they retreat if you continue to ignore them.

It’s sad but the stereotype of non-Muslim foreign westernised women are supposed to be ‘loose morale’ women. The harassment we received was however confined to mere cat calls, pleads, and hisses of desire from the men.

More pictures here of the souqs:

Here is the Marrakesh souq at night:

Beware though of taking pictures in the souqs, and in general within the medina walls, of older men and women. They do not appreciate being photographed. And don’t bother asking because they usually would say no.

Travel Period: April 2009

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