In the cab on the way to the riad, it became apparent that there is no rhyme or reason to the laws of the road in Morocco. The road had no markings, just a large slab of pavement with cars weaving all over the place, horns a blazing. Good thing we wouldn't be driving here.
The cab took us as far as it could go before dropping us off at the edge of Jemaa el-Fnaa, which is the main square in Marrakech. From here, a man with a wheelbarrow pushed our suitcase through the square, then down narrow streets lined with Souks, to our riad - Dar Jaguar. Unassuming from the outside, once inside we were greeted by the sound of a fountain in the courtyard as well as birds singing. If that's not relaxing enough, a staff member served us some delicious Moroccan tea. Once we finished our tea we were guided to our room (the Damascan Blush room) as well as the roof terrace. The whole riad was unique and unlike any place we've stayed at before and it puts all previous boutique hotels to shame.
After getting settled into our room, we decided to venture back to the main square to explore a bit. We weaved our way back through the crowded streets to finally reach the town square. When walking down the narrow roads here you are constantly dodging people, bikes, scooters, horse drawn carriages and the occasional car. To say it's hectic is a understatement. Because of this I took the lead and R followed closely behind.
Halfway across the square, R said something behind me. When I turned around, I saw a lady covered from head to toe in traditional Islamic clothing, holding R's hand and hastily applying a henna tattoo to it. R looked as surprised as I was at this development. Right when I saw this, I explained that we didn't have any money. She told us not to worry and explained it would be free... We should have known better.
|After the Henna was scrubbed off by an old Moroccan lady in a cafe bathroom.|
After she finished, she asked for an absurd amount of money. We once again explained to her that we didn't have any money, so she offered to take us to an ATM - how thoughtful! An ATM was what we were looking for initially, so her taking us to one made things a bit easier. Once at the ATM I took out a small amount of money, and R found a 5 pound note in her purse. We decided to give the lady that instead of local currency. Although this wasn't remotely close to the amount she demanded after she finished the sloppy tattoo, she reluctantly accepted it. Little did she know the joke was on her because that was a Scottish 5 pound note. Not even the English like accepting those.
Lining the square are many restaurants with balconies 2 to 3 stories above street level. We figured that one of these would be a good place to have dinner and experience the sights and smells of the square. We both took the safe route and ordered dishes that featured chicken in them, not looking to get too adventurous for our first meal. We ate while the sun set on the city, taking our time before descending back to the chaos below.
Since our first trip to the ATM was a bit rushed I didn't take out nearly enough money and when we got the bill for dinner, we were actually 5 Dh short. Luckily the waiter accepted 40 pence instead. He said he wanted the coins for a souvenir.
After we got more money out of the ATM we ventured back through the middle of the square. Yep, we didn't learn our lesson the first time. Within 30 seconds, a local with a monkey on a chain tried to throw the monkey on R's shoulder. The monkey was briefly there before R screamed and ran away from it and the owner. Once we thought we were a safe distance away, we stopped to make sure they weren't following us. Another mistake. This time two men with monkeys appeared out of nowhere. One grabbed my arm and placed a monkey on it. At this point, I was only thinking about one thing. Rabies. Before leaving for Morocco, R's mom told her no matter what we do, stay away from the monkeys. When R mentioned this to me prior to the trip I didn't think that would be a problem, since I'm not the type of person to go up to strange animals and attempt to interact with them. What I didn't take into account was the ninja esque skills the owners of these monkeys possessed, because not only was one monkey on my arm, another was on my head in a matter of seconds. Perfect. At least R was able to get some good pictures of me as I awkwardly stood there, hoping the monkeys wouldn't claw, bite or do something else that would transmit the nasty disease to me.
|If I don't move they can't hurt me...right?|