morroco Part 2 

Marrakesh Express

well, the seema and susie train has rolled on in to marrakesh.  it's really great here and we've been having a grand old time exploring the city.  we're staying in another riad and it's very pretty - our room faces onto a walled courtyard with trees and roses and we eat breakfast three floors up on the roof terrace, complete with orange trees and jasmine.

to get here we had to negotiate a reasonably hair-raising 190 km stretch of road from the desert over a mt pass in the high atlas range.  we'd heard some pretty scary stories about the road but, happily, after the other 1400km of moroccan road we'd already driven, the most notable thing about the 4-hr drive (sloooowly on the non-stop hairpin turns!)was how stupendously gorgeous it was.  vivd red-purple cliffs dotted with villages full of buildings the same color as the earth (anasazi-esque) and patches of deep green forest.

that leg of the trip was completely uneventful, save for the moroccan speed trap i fell into as we were leaving ouarzazate.  we got pulled over for going 82kph in a 60 zone.  not, of course, that the speed limit was posted anywhere, but that didn't stop us with being threatened with a 400 dhm fine (at 8.48 dhm/dollar, that is absolutely outrageous).  fortunately, seema and i have learned from our frequent "document check incidents" (the police pull over moroccans and tourists with impunity and are always very nice) with morocco's finest that if we play really stupid happy american girls with zero french vocabulary save for merci and "bone-jour" (seema is totally fluent, having grown up in paris and i can get by pretty well) and a smattering of arabic (hello, thank you and the ubiquitous god willing), the police tend to let us go.  worked like a charm this time, too :)

prior to leaving zagora, we had an terrific experience with two moroccan hitchhikers.  let me start by saying that hitching is an accepted form of mass transit in this country.  people seem to rely on it to get to and from work, for errands etc.  for a while now, seema and i had been feeling a tad bit guilty zipping by solo women hitchhikers in the dusty towns we've been driving through.  as we were leaving zagora (from whence i last wrote), we stopped to take a photo of a big palm oasis.  at the roadside, an elderly man and his wife asked us for a ride.  at first we said no (seema's suitcase is enormous and takes up almost the entire back seat and the palio's trunk is barely large enough to contain my backpack).

but upon further reflection we realized that we could upend seema's suitcase if they were willing to hold it up during the trip.  so they hopped in, and it turns out they only needed to go about 2km.  when we dropped them at their home in the ksar (large, connected community made entirely of mud/straw bricks, again very anasazi-esque), they invited us in for tea and a look around.  it was amazing.  we got to see their goats, the well, roof terrace, living quarters, kitchen, etc.  it was like something out of an anthropological display.  they were super nice and their 16 yr old daughter insisted on henna'ing our hands (so now we look even more touristy than we do ordinarily...).

so we drank our three glasses of mint tea (the polite number to consume), took some photos which we are going to send to them (after the daughter dressed us both up in moroccan headscarves and robes) and then we said our goodbyes.  the family insisted that we take an enormous bag of dates (it must be at least 5 lbs worth) as an additional thank you.  we have yet to decide what to do with them.

today is our last in marrakesh.  we're leaving this afternoon for casablanca and then home.  sadly, our quest for sublime tagine and couscous has failed, despite having gone to yacout, which must surely be the most expensive restaurant in morocco (highly highly recommended by the nyt and people we know who have been).  

after a quick overnight in amsterdam (which i explored during my 9 hr layover on the way here), i'll be back in chicago on monday night.

happily, it's been another great trip!!


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