Thursday, August 28, 2008

Marrakech and Cascade D'ozued

So i lost my guide book a ways back, and the names may be spelled wrong, but sitting now in the wonderful hotel Ibis in Rabat, I think its time to add these to posts. And for those who are religious viewers, this will be the last random long one and now i'll be more on a schedule!!!

Marrakech

So Marrakech is worked up to be the largest, most touristy, and crazy city in Morocco, and well, I think it was pretty close to living up to its title.

My guide book disappeared in Essaouira, so as I hopped on the bus to Marrakech, I knew absolutely nothing, about what to see, where to go, and most importantly where to stay...but as we know, traveling has a way of figuring it self out for you. On the bus I met a girl from the UK, and decided I would follow her to her hostel in hopes of a place to stay. When I arrived, lost in the maze of the medina, to my dismay, the hostel was full. This actually ended up being great, and with a 25d tour through the medina to the square, I found the hotel Afriquia. It was located right outside the square, and for 130D a night (a little bit under twenty) I got a double bed and a hot shower. Also, this is a popular place for tourists, so some interesting conversations as well.

As expected, the square was crazy. During the day, there where a few people walking around with Monkeys on leashes, and some snake charmers, but at night, the place went wild. It reminded me of Pearl street on culturally-laced crack. The street around it was pitch black, but in the middle where 60 plus portable stands grilling fresh meat and fish, singers, story tellers, snack charmers, orange juice stands, acrobats; anything the mind could imagine, they where there performing and pedaling in the little light produced from the food stands. I was like a moth, just drawn towards the light, not really knowing why, but just floating towards it. 

As I chose a food stand to sit in, packed into long picnic benches with people I had never met, I heard English to my left, and as I eavesdropped, I heard a kid talking about an exchange program...in Rabat...starting on Wednesday. There where probably 2,000 people eating in those food stands, with at least 10,000 people walking around the square, and as the kid finished his sentence, I realized that fate had led me to someone on my program. His name is Zach, and as we ate and figured out our nights plans, I laughed a little bit to myself thinking about how these twists life throws our way.

Zach had been on an exchange program for the 10 weeks in Yemen, and neither of us had been out in Morocco, so we decided to take advantage of the best club scene in North Africa. The guide books used the words posh to describe it, and as we reached the massive casino, lined with Mercedes and BMW's, our eyes grew a little bit wider. The line was filled with the high society of Morocco, and although we where undedressed and in the back, Zach's ability to speak a little arabic got us to the front, and into the club.

When the doors pushed open, we saw a massive old theater turned night club, lined with lights, one main bar in the center, a DJ booth, and to our dismay, no dance floor and people just sitting. We had paid about 250D for entry, but it came with a drink, so we went to the bar, ordered, and rested against the cool steel taking in the environment.  

When we finished our drinks, we went out into the waiting area to look for an atm. As Zach fiddled with the machine, I accidently bumped into a girl at the coat check. It turns out she is from France, but likes to speak English, and the coat check not only takes your unwanted items, but sells 200 dollar bottles of vodka and champagne. She told me her family is loaded, and that her and her friend where alone and weren't going to drink this all themselves. This is where the night got interesting.

Zach and I played it cool for about ten minutes, walked around, and then met up with the girls. I don't actually remember either of their names, but the girl who had interest in Zach, as I was told by the French girl, was Moroccan, and her Dad was very well known and respected in the Moroccan government. As we sipped champagne and watched the club begin to get wild, the French girl began to get very drunk. At about 3 a.m, the club was packed, and though there was no floor, most of the passerbys began to stand up and dance. We followed the lead, and mingled with those next to us until the French sugar mama got a little drunk, and decided to interrogate me. Though I told her very early I had a girl friend, she decided to tell me "i'm French, and  I'm rich, you can't resist me!" I laughed to myself and whispered to Zach what she said, and we all continued dancing. As the night went on, and Zach and his lady began to get a bit closer, the French girl's passes became a lot less subtle (yes its possible) and as I repeatedly declined her offer, she would leave, go dance with someone real close, and as I would talk to our neighbors next to us, she would get frustrated, come back and try again. When she finally got to the black out stage, and Zach's fear of his mate's Dad set in, we decided to call it a night. 

I returned to my hotel at about 5:30 in the morning by taxi to be greated by a not so happy night guard. But between all the dramatics, the club had fire dancers on the bar, a live violin show accompanied by house beats, and a lot of upper class Moroccans. Not a bad start to the program huh?
 
The next day I actually woke up at a reasonable hour (for college kids) I felt pretty good, so i decided after some lunch and water, I would be productive. At lunch I saw I the Canadian couple who sat near Zach and I at our random meeting. They were the typical semi-closed minded people that travel to a country, but talk about the things tha thtey consider bad there. I was told to watch out for htis and that, and that every person is a hustler, and all the typical thoughts, but the other conversation topics were quite enjoyable.

After lunch I decided i would buy my train ticket to Rabat for school, as well as my bust ticket to Azilal to see Cascade D'Ozued (very large waterfall). I guess the couple had a little more influence on me then i thought and as someone immediately tired to help me find the right kiosque at the bus station, I tried to find it on my own because I didn't want to pay him the "commision," many hustlersask for. He ended up being an employee and very helpful, so that made me feel quite bad. But i do give myself a little credit for actually acknowleding the slip.

Marrakech as a city is pretty much dead during the day, so as the clock hit three, and I had no plans till 9, I decided to actually open my French book and study in the park. Marrakech is a massive cement jungle, with dirt red buildings that match the horizon but if you travel out of the medinas, there are tons of beautiful parks with trees and grass to sit in. I studied for a good fifteen minutes, then people watched for about an hour, then gave into the sun, and went back to my hotel to take a nap.

Zach and I had decided to meet at 9 the night before, but as 9:15 arrived, and I had not yet found him, I decided to go get some dinner. On the way to the square, I met a man, whom i thought worked at my hotel. Turns out he is from Algeria, but moved to Canada, and is in MOrocco with his family on vacation. I had never seen him and his brother leave the hotel, and they tended to spend a lot of time behind the front desk, so the fact they didn't work at the hotel surprised me. He talked about how much he didn't like the people in MOrocco, and I guess that would explain why he didn't leave the hotel, but not why he was in the country. He took me to a special stand he liked for soup and cake, and continued to talk about how everyone here is only out to get your money. I wish he would have been at lunch that morning, I could have introduced him to the Canadian couple with the same mindset. Zach, once again, found me randomly while walking around the square. We all ate, and as Zach and I discussed tonight's plan, the Algerian man voiced his thoughts about how the club scene here is bad, and all the girls are prostitutes. I thought about making a joke here about the beauty of having prostitutes at a club, but I thought there maybe something lost in translation.

We heard that everyone goes to the international club Pascha on Saturday nights, so Zach and I decided to head over there. We arrived around midnight, only to find the club doors don't open before 12:30. Pascha isn't only a club, but also a classy hotel, pool, restaurant, and open-air bar, so we found a few ways to entertain ourselves while waiting to dance. We checked out the restaurant near the pool, and though we were clothed in our nicest outfits, the calm untouched pool looked very welcoming in the warm summer night. We fought the urge though, and decided to check out the open-air bar. There were two rooms in the bar, one patio, and one under cover, both having knee high tables surrounded by couches instead of chairs, and sporting hookah's and mostly non-alcoholic drinks. There was a DJ under the cover playing American songs, and a Moroccan singer, belting out the words to a Celion Dion song in perfect American accent (even though Celion Dion herself is Canadian). She had a wireless mic and no stage, and walked around the tables, seductively looking at the bar patrons.

Its funny what six months of legal drinking can do, because as Zach eyed the menu looking for the cocktail with the most booze in it, I ordered un verre de rosé, content with its alcoholic form. The nights before that i went out in Morocco, no one drank, and good times where had, so coming to the international club where many people were more interested in booze then dancing took me by surprise. We sat for about an hour in the bar, listening to live music, sharing stories, and taking in the sights. ONce we had our fix, we made our way to the place we had come to see.

The room was smoke filled and white, with blaring music and hundreds of people.  In the center was a square dance floor, filled to the brim with pumping fists and swinging hips. Up a few stairs was square walkway that surrounded the floor, and two bars on either side for optimal drink dispense. Tonight there was a European DJ, who sat high above the dance floor on a booth near the entrance. In the middle of the set, him and his entourage stopped the beat and did a drum set, but besides this, stuck to  mainstream western rap, that only Zach and I seemed to know. The feel of the club was very different from the night before, as men and women danced in separate groups, to mediocre music, squished in a small place. The romance and mystic of the last club wasn't there, and come three in the morning, I was ready to head home.
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