February 16, 2007

Marrakech Day 1

We woke up to a terrific view from our hotel balcony. The winter weather in Marrakech is perfect – sunny and warm during the day (70 DegF) and cool at night (50 DegF). We stayed in the touristy Hotel Andalous which is equidistant from Old Town (walled Medina), Menara Gardens, and New Town (Gueliz). Although the old town is a maze of tiny alleyways, our hotel was situated in an area of broad boulevards and gardens. Marrakech caters to the French and the grand boulevards reminded us of Paris.

After breakfast, we set off in the direction of the old City to visit the Cyber Park. The Cyber Park is a large garden of olive trees, orange trees and palms. This park was created about 300 years ago but is called Cyber Park because most of the major high-tech firms (e.g., Sony, Nokia) are current sponsors. Maroc Telecom provides wi-fi access in the modern building at the park entrance.

After visiting Cyber Park, we crossed the street to see the Ensemble Artisanal. This area was filled with a variety of Moroccan crafts shops with people actually working on their crafts. It was very interesting to see how many of the items were made.

In the afternoon, we hired a guide to show us the Old City. We started at the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa which was founded as a centre of Quaranic learning in the 14th century. By the 16th century, hundreds of students lived in 130 dorm rooms. The school closed for a variety of reasons in 1962. The architecture is ornate and incredibly beautiful. We then were taken to the Mnebhi Palace and Musee de Marrakech.

After a refreshing mint tea, we visited a variety of shops in the souqs – a maze of streets and shops in the medina. Our guide gave tips on what to look for when buying while the shop owners demonstrated their wares – wood boxes, leather shoes, fabrics and dyes, herbs, oils, wrought iron, etc.

We ended the tour at the Djemaa El-Fna or main square. After admiring the cobras, dancers, and other entertainment – we ate dinner high up on a terraced restaurant. We enjoyed our omelette (Kris) and lamb couscous (Carrie) and the sights below. We tossed scraps of egg and lamb to a begging cat waiting on the ledge. A beautiful end to a great day.

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