This morning I woke up showered, then headed downstairs with my roommate for breakfast at the hotel. We ate lots of bread in different forms, and my roommate got an omelette which sounded so good. I’ll be checking out the omelette station tomorrow morning if it’s still there. After that, we walked back to the grocery store next to the hotel because I forgot my toothbrush in Spain. I bought a pack that came with two because it also had cases for them. However, when I went to brush my teeth with my newly-filled bottle of clean water, I instinctively ran the tap water over my toothbrush and had to throw it away. I’m glad I got the pack of two. At 10:15am everyone got on the bus with our guide to visit a famous and beautiful Moroccan garden, Jardin Majorelle. It was large and felt like a maze though I’m sure it probably wasn’t as complex as it felt. There were so many types cacti, palm trees, flowers, succulents, bamboo, and fruit trees with bananas, lemons, oranges, and pomegranates. Some were in bright blue and yellow pots, others grew wildly, and some were wrapped around terraces. There were also lots of fountains and ponds of koi, turtles, and bright orange fish. We had one hour to spend here, so I walked around with friends taking pictures and admiring how beautiful it was. I separated from the group for about ten seconds while we were walking and a man tried to talk to me in another language, so I caught up to my roommate in front of me and we circled back to get with the rest of the group. It was just weird because I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen in the garden, especially by someone who worked there, but I don’t know why I had that expectation. We didn’t have any other problems after that though. After a while we all stopped in a cafe for tea and coffee until it was time to leave. After we left the garden, we were taken to a palace that was once used by the prime minister. It was gorgeous. This prime minister had four wives, one of which was the favorite and had the most elaborate room (people now call her the name of the palace meaning “most beautiful” because she was the most beautiful of the four), and around twenty concubines. We saw where all of them lived, where the concubines drank tea and talked together, and where their children went to school and practiced writing Quran verses on slabs of wood. The floors and ceilings, mostly the ceilings, are the most beautiful parts of the palace. They’re extremely ornate, delicately carved cedar wood. The patterns in Islamic art are usually geometrical or flowers. According to our guide, people and animals are not included in their art because god is the only creator and they don’t want to make a comparison. So, to make up for the lack of people and animals in the art, they sometimes decorate with calligraphy of poetic or Quran verses. Also, we learned that when children were blind, they would often become musicians to make a living and richer people often wanted to have blind musicians in their homes. Below is a picture of the calligraphy, as well as one of the windows decorated so that women could see out, but people could not see the women inside.Above is the courtyard that connected the concubines’ rooms.
After we left the palace, we went to the souks, or the Moroccan markets. This was where I could not take pictures because they cost money, but they were so interesting! The walkways are extremely narrow, I thought my foot almost got run over by a motorbike. The tiny shops are very close together, but they are overflowing with gorgeous trinkets, food, shoes, leather products, paintings, oils and products, and metal lamps. We saw someone making a lamp by hand, with a sheet of metal under an outline on a piece of paper, using some kind of tool to hammer out tiny pieces of metal for the intricate design. The scene of the souks was stunning. But almost more striking than the colors and sights were the smells. I’ve never noticed so many smells in one city, and they change so quickly. You can be walking and smell some delicious meat or bread product cooking, then a few feet later be overwhelmed with strong Moroccan spices, then be puffed by gas from a motorbike or come across smells from some kind of animal: horse, donkey, camel. The smells are just as much a part of experiencing the culture as any of the sights, sounds, or flavors.
We went through the souks to visit an old pharmacy that uses herbs and spices for healing. We got to sit in a room and sample different products the pharmacist would explain like rose lotion, orange drops that are supposed to help with sleep, black soup for scrubbing skin, and these incredible herbs that you crush in a cloth and smell to clear sinuses and cure headaches which he called “Moroccan Vick’s.” That stuff was actually awesome and after you sniffed it you could feel it all the way in your throat. We were also given classic mint tea which was delicious, and I’ve seen several people pour it from very high in the air. I took pictures of the jars around the room that were filled with herbs and dyes for the medicines. After we tried lots of amazing products, we were allowed to buy any that we wanted. I didn’t get any, but I thought all of it was really cool. We left and wound back through the maze of souks. Then we were taken to the main square once again to see the people who casually hold monkeys and snakes. One of the monkeys jumped on my roommate’s head, which she had to pay for, and someone else took pictures with the snakes on the ground that looked like a type of cobra. There were about five snakes on the ground in one area, completely open, that two men moved around with sticks and played music for. Two looked like cobras and the other three were spotted and mostly stayed curled up. The monkeys were on chains and one of them was wearing a jersey and diaper.
After that we had free time, which we used to go get lunch, and then take a taxi back to the hotel for to rest. I’m so glad the son of the women from our program helped us get a taxi because he bargained with about three before he sent us off in one once the price was set. I’m not good at bargaining; I relate to much to the comedian, John Mulaney, who said, “you could pour soup in my lap and I’d probably apologize to you.”
When we got back, we napped and went to dinner in the hotel. It was delicious. Tomorrow we wake up very early to take a bus ride to another city, so now I’m off to bed. I am loving this country and trip so much. Until tomorrow!