Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I have returned!

I was away in Marrakech Morocco for the last week, and boy was it a culture shock! Took a bit of getting used to, but once I did, it was a doddle and a wonder. There was so much to take in! In the Medina (the central square of the city centre within the walls) is where all the stall owners set up and try sell their wares. 

Transvestite Moroccan Dancer!

This ranges from story telling, snake charming, transvestite dancers, traditional dancers, musicians, henna tattoo artists, food, drink (mostly delicious sugary mint tea and orange juice), herbs, spices, animals, etc.It was especially exciting at night with the wonderful smell of food and spices being cooked and the wonderful sight of seeing the smoke rise into the skyline from the fires.

My chameleon friend and I!
I didn't get a picture of the monkey that was put on me by a crazy man, as I had only just gotten off the bus and was petrified! But once I relaxed, I wasn't quite as jumpy, so I was happy enough to pose with my new chameleon buddy here.

Medina at night
And then "The Souks" are even more specialised again. These are the merchants that occupy the tiny winding busy streets in the Souk area, were they sell jewelery, lamps, ceramics, rugs,  clothes, food, shoes, everything really! Haggling is a massive part of their culture so accepting the first offer is a rookie mistake. 

The culture is fascinating and I genuinely found myself envying it. There is no drink culture, (which I thought I'd dread, but ended up loving!) and there is a massive sense of community and family togetherness apparent from everyone. There were groups of people everywhere socialising, drinking Moroccan tea, talking and laughing. This continued well into the night (as it was often still very warm through the night) with these groups sprinkled across many of the beautiful gardens, streets and even along the stretches of roads leading out of the city. One such garden has the remains of Yves Saint Laurent, because he loved it so much there. The vibrant colours and mix of plants was beuatiful. it was also so near the city, yet a totally peaceful haven from the madness. Well worth a visit.

The Majorelle Gardens
The main Mosque in Marrakech.
The architecture is beautiful. The King insisted that newer buildings etc., must be built outside the city walls, keeping the Medina, the local shops, the Souks and side streets preserved culturally and historically. Outside the city walls (Gueliz) is like a second city. It is more westernised but it is still hugely influenced by the traditional moroccan architecture. I couldn't help but feel ashamed of how they  committed so much to their history, while we in Ireland we built apartments over the remains of the original Viking built Dublin and built a monstrous modern building right in front of Dublin Castle. Even their modern hotels fit seamlessly into the cityscape.

We then ventured dangerously up the atlas mountains to see the 7 waterfalls of the Ourika valley. The locals were quite blaise about the dangers of the climb, which was frightening. They even had young children with them! Though I witnessed a few falls, no one ever seemed seriously hurt and they mostly seemed to laugh it off (even though it scared the bejaysus out of me!). I wish I could have gotten some photos of the treacherous climb up, but i was too scared to get my camera out in case I lost my balance! It was worth it to see the beautiful waterfall though.

Ourika Valley Waterfall.

Our camel for a bit!

Brian and I on a camel!

The camel ride was an experience too! My god they are big animals! And when they're teetering near the edge of a sharp decline on the Atlas mountains, its not the most reassuring thing in the world! But it was fun all the same! They're lovely creatures. Not angry and spitty like I thought they'd be. 

Another thing I found quite interesting as well is that everyone is completely equal, in the sense they're all wearing comfortable robes. Men, women and children! While I was rambling around sweaty and uncomfortable, all the locals were comfy in their attire, protected from the sun and happy as can be. I can completely see the benefit of their clothes, and would love if I could head out on the town even a fraction as comfortable as they all were. Though I was a westerner myself, I even found myself gawking at westerners in disgust. I tried to remain respectful (covering my legs, shoulders etc., as the guidebooks say) but I felt ashamed of the westerners so blatantly ignoring the culture. Why visit such an exotic place without first learning about it? This made me think more about our society at home. How nice it must be to be were women aren't objectified for their bodies, pressurised to remain thin etc. (well, that is the way it is in Marrakech! I realise some other Arab countries have different laws with regards forced marriages etc).  

What I found refreshing too were the children. They play and laugh exactly as kids in Ireland do! I wish I could round up every racist there is and show them the light-hearted fun I saw and show them that all cultures races and creeds are the exactly the same. I also noticed that all the kids under 7-ish, wore western clothes, even though their parents wore traditional attire. I couldn't help but think that the kids had chosen to wear the clothes, favouring the bright colours etc., but then as the grew older, they probably realised that their own cultures attire was much more sensible, comfortable and simply better! (All of the traditional clothes were extremely soft, made with beautiful cotton... I bought one and I love it! I'd have worn it if I had been sure I wouldn't have offended anyone.)   

Okey Dokey! That's enough waffle for now! I'm sure I've bored your eyes to tears!
It mightn't be the end of my Morocco babling, but it'll be all for today! 



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