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Trip Report Marrakech Trip Report

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Just got back from a long weekend in Marrakech.....some thoughts and a link to my blog for photos. I will be posting more tomorrow.

"That is Marrakech." It is a phrase people use there when there is nothing else to say - when you notice the contradictions, the contrasts between old and new, the idiosyncrasies that make this place what it is.
Nothing encompasses the phrase more than this photo (see blog) Taken outside the medina, it encapsulates and explains Marrakech in one image. After all, Marrakech is both the ancient walled city (the medina) and the swanky jet-setter resort destination, in one day you can hear the call to prayer throughout the medina and an elegant jazz trio at a posh hotel.
Marrakech, and I imagine this applies to the rest of Morocco as well, is not an easy place to visit. It is not a place to sit-back and relax and be a passive tourist. It requires you to actively engage with people, with your surroundings, and with things that can try your patience. It is loud, chaotic, dusty, and the people can be aggressive. You constantly have to jump out of the way of speeding motorbikes (and donkey carts), fend off people trying to sell you something you don't want, and ignore the malnourished stray cats. At the same time, the city is enchanting; the colors are bright, the smells of slow-cooked lamb tagine and piles of spices surround you, and mint tea is offered unexpectedly as a sign of friendship.

If you go to Marrakech, I recommend that you let yourself get lost in the souk, the marketplace. Just wander. Say no thank you to the shopkeepers who call to you, but don't be afraid to look when they tell you "no obligation to buy" (this seemed to be one of the few english phrases every shopkeeper knew). Be respectful about not taking photos of people without asking first, but as you'll see here, we took lots of photos of the goods for sale. Make sure, in your wandering, that you head down the dimly lit alleys, the ones where you don't see any tourists. There you will find Moroccans making what they sell - carving the wood to make the animal figurines, cutting leather for purses, hammering hot iron to form lanterns. Another thing that may strike you is the way stores selling the same items are all grouped together - ten shoe stores in a row, twenty leather stalls, etc.

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