Marrakech, Morocco: Day 2
We got up bright and early, starting off the day with a traditional Moroccan breakfast— coffee, orange juice, bread, crepe like things, yogurt, honey, butter, jam and sugar. From there we pretty much dove into the souks— Karly and I bartered for some leather carpet bags. Really I just wanted to buy one of everything, but even with the extra bag, space was tight. I may have picked up some souvenirs through out the trip for some of you though that took up a little space.
A man showed me how they dye wool, right next to a rug stall in the souk. I always thought weaving was pretty cool, so I rather enjoyed seeing the dyeing up close.
We had all hoped to go see Jardin Majorelle, the gardens Yves Saint Laurent owned close to the medina. It was only a short cab ride but the entire hailing a cab routine was a little, for lack of a better word, sketchy. It consisted of us bartering, getting into a beat up car (the plastic interior on the passenger side was missing with a giant dent), our driver taking us on the no rules streets, dropping us off on the side of a major road, to cross it and enter Jardin Majorelle.
The garden was elegant and surprising—I have an intense attraction to Majorelle Blue, I was tempted to try and steal a bucket of the paint. We were lucky enough to be there when it was warm and sunny, the intermittent, splotchy shadows of bamboo, palm trees and cactus made for the perfect weather. I probably should have relished it a little more, since the weather for the rest of our trip was rather inconsistent. We grabbed lunch, and began our pattern of buying Coca-Cola, it was so tasty and familiar in a country where we could only consume bottled drinks and mint tea. I loved seeing the logo in Arabic though, I kept trying to snag one of the glass bottles we saw later, but was reluctant to haul it across the country. We also had to take a cab back, which was still just as terrifying, but in an even more beat up car with a jovial driver who tried to sell us an excursion. Fortunately, we were able to say we already had one booked for early tomorrow morning.
We were dropped off back between the plaza and the mosque Koutoubia Minaret, for one more game of frogger to cross the streets. Jamaa El-Fna, the open square plaza was on the lower edge of the souks and we passed through it to do just about anything. It was where we could find ATMs, enter the souks, buy any snacks, catch a cab or go back to our riad. In it we would pass the orange juice stalls, street food, snake charmers and of course monkeys. Karly, Morgan and Caitlin had decided to sacrifice a couple diram to get a monkey or two put on them. I opted to be the photographer, I may not be the next voice for animal rights, but seeing the monkeys on a chain just felt very wrong to me.
The four of us decided to do one last swoop through the souks, getting anything we had been eyeing on the previous passes. I came out with a pair of colorful leather sandals—so far they are surprisingly comfy, even if I have to tie them onto my foot because there aren’t enough holes for the buckle. Caitlin got not one, but two rugs. And as a grand finale, we lost Morgan—because no trip is complete with out saying ‘Where’s Momo?!’ at least once. Do yourself a favor when you come to Marrakech and set up a meeting spot for if you get separated, yes, just like you are a girl scout or something. I would recommend Café de France, its in the main square, impossible to miss and everyone knows where it is. Morgan made it back to the riad and by some miracle I had some extra cash on my SIM from topping up, so I could answer Morgan’s call saying she was okay.
We all made it back in time for our big evening plans- hammam and henna. I had come across hammams in researching Morocco and saw that it was the traditional bathing ritual, were you sit in a heated bathing room, and let someone soap and scrub you. It shot high up on my list of things I wanted to do in Morocco, and with varying levels of interest the others agreed to get one. We tried to google what to expect in a hammam and were only able to get a vague picture of what went on.
Here is how it went for us—Caitlin and I went in wearing robes over swimsuits, we were pretty sure we were supposed to keep our swimsuit bottoms on and weren’t too sure about the tops, but we were pretty sure they came off. We went in to a hot cement room with built in benches and two towels folded over as seats. I’m pretty sure we decided right before we went down into the room to just go topless, we may have taken them off once we got down, but I’m not sure. All I know is that’s what ended up happening and it was the right move. A kind, petite woman who spoke only French, dressed in a black tank top and shorts, instructed us to sit down. She had the most luminous skin I have ever seen, so that gave me some confidence in what was about to happen. The hammam begins with getting water poured all over your body, then you are soaped up with savon noir. Following, you get a light rinse off and they scrub your feet with some sort of brush. Then she puts on this black scrubby glove and pretty much sandpapers all of the dead skin off your body. Sandpaper is a little dramatic, but there is a lot of dead skin that comes off and it doesn’t always feel good. I love exfoliating, I even ended up buying a hammam glove, but those women scrub you until you are pink. After the rolls of your dead skin are washed of (she told us that this is normal) you are covered with mud head to toe and through your hair. This sits on you for quite a while, because this entire process is alternated between you and someone else. Caitlin went through the process first, was finished and sent out to get Karly, and I think I started getting scrubbed down when Karly came in.
Overall I loved it, I would be eager to have one done again and recommend anyone traveling to Morocco to give it a shot. The one thing I didn’t love was how the mud made my hair feel. It was kind of soft at first, but the next day mostly felt like straw and was weird pretty much for the rest of the trip. I might just ask them not to put any in my hair if I were to go again, or just be prepared to try and scrub it out as soon as possible. That being said, I think each hammam is a little different. There are public ones out in the souks that I would be hesitant to enter with out a recommendation or a local guide. You can also look for hammams in hotels, they may be a little more towards the spa experience, if that is what you are looking for.
As each of us finished getting scrubbed, we came back to our little nook to get henna on our arms and sip some mint tea. This henna was much nicer than my ambush tattoo from the square the day before and she was super quick at doing the front and back of a hand. We had a little difficulty settling our bill with the riad, they gave us the wrong conversion rate, which had Caitlin and I running to the ATM in the morning before out 7:30 departure for our excursion. Don’t worry though we made it out the door and into the van the next morning, for what might be the craziest adventure any of us have been on.