Saturday morning arrived and the wakeup call came at 4:00 am. We where picked up at the hotel and driven about 45 min out into the desert, picked up the balloon and then inflated it. But we had to wait until dawn to fly, so I got to see sunrise in the depart.
We took off and had about 45 min of flight time. One thing no one ever told me was the heat from the burner was unreal, every time he lights it off you feel like your shirt is going to burst into flames, During takeoff I had my hand inside my shirt holding it away from my skin to shield me from the heat.
It was so peaceful floating along, and the land is so flat! there are hills but they are far and few between, the rest is just flat! The pilot explained that the green patches are irrigated. And if you see a big patch, that is a farmer rich enough to own a gas powered pump, and have water. The only place to find sweet water is along a dry river bed, else where the water is salt water. This is the problem out here, there is not enough water. We heard one story of how a village saved for years to buy a pump and well at the river, they managed to buy it but didn't have enough money to buy the pipe to the village. so over the next 10 years they bought a few meters of pipe and gradely ran the pipe to the village.
On landing there was a big rock and we ran into it, the basket almost tipped over but it didn't. After the basket and balloon where packed up we drove to a small village. There we had bread that we dipped in honey and olive oil, and mint tea.
The honey reminded me allot of the buckwheat honey I had as a kid, and the tea had a ton of surger in it, it was way to sweet for my tastes.
The balloon ride was a high point for me as I have wanted to do it for a long time. But this was also the low point of the trip. This village really drove home the point of Dirt Poor. The poorest bum on jasper ave. has 100 timer more than these people do. There cooking area consisted of two rocks that they built a fire between, and a frying pan and knife. The pilot rotates between the homes in the village each trip so no one house benefits more. But still he pays a couple hundred Dirhams for each group compared to the prices in town that is not allot.
Lyuba talked here way into a lady's house to look around, and afterwards they posed for some photos. We tipped them 50d and the lady almost snatched it, and then looked around to see if anyone else saw.
Some interesting things, there is a bush that has long sharp spines, it grows here naturally, and in the fall it drys out and becomes very hard. The locals take these bushes and pile/ weave them together to make fences to keep animals out, and livestock in.
After this we drove back to drop the balloon off, and then drove back into town. They also grow a variety of cactus as a food crop. There was a large patch in the village. again surrounded by bramble fence to keep animals out.
We then drove the balloon back to the starting location, and then headed back into the city, they took a long way back and we saw allot of the outskirts of marakesh.
At this point I went looking for breakfast :) And soaked in the pool until it was time for the cultural walking tour at 3:00 pm.
The cultural tour started at the Gardens outside of the biggest mosque in Marrakesh This was built several hundred years ago, and was originally built to hold 20,000 worshipers.
Over the years earthquakes, and rulers have reduced it to about half the size it was. The tower was built in two stages, the main part is up to the point it narrows, and the second part above that. They where each built by different kings at different time. The Golden balls on top where added by a third kings wife.
The story goes that the wife amassed a great collection of gold jewelry, and later in life realized that here greed for gold and jewelry was a sin, and had here jewelry melted down and forged into the golden balls for the mosque.
The gold isn't on the roof, those are brass, and no one knows what happened to the gold.
The next stop was the grad viziers palace, this was a guy that came to power int he 14th century( IIRC ) by assassinating anyone who stood in his way, his power eclipsed the kings at the time. The central courtyard always has a fountain, this is because it is a sign of wealth that you could display water for your guests.
They coted the roofs of the walls with green tiles, this is considered the color of Islam, below that they use ceder wood to line the next section down, this is because ceder wood can take very hot temperatures without cracking. Below that you can see that it is covered in sculpted plaster.
He had 4 wives, the wives each had there own room, the ceilings are painted in geometric designs as Islam doesn't allow images of animals or people. below the
Below the roof in the wives rooms there is a line of Arabic carved into the plaster, repeated all around the room, it is a spell to ward off the evil eye, as it was assumed that the other wives where plotting against the person in the room.
The ceilings where painted with a mixture of saffron and turmeric spice based paints. It takes about 2kg of saffron to paint one room. That works out to $4200 can in spice for the paint to do one roof.
The final stop was the tomb of Mohammad's descents, the story goes that there was a drought and the date trees stopped producing. After a while the king asked the descendants to come to Marrakesh and do what they cold. The date trees started producing again and the descendants where honored. When they passed on a tomb was built for them. One of the odd things is when the line of kings change they start out by obliterating all there predecessors monuments, but when the king at the time came to destroying the tomb, he couldn't do it. So he had a wall build around it. The wall is over 10 meters thick and was fairly tall. Well the tomb stayed hidden (even thought it has a open roof) for several hundred years, then in 1950's they where doing the first aerial pictures for maps of Marrakesh, that is when they rediscovered the tomb, and had to carve a passage through the wall to get in.
The Islamic religion believes that a person should be buried on his side, with his face pointing to mecca. That is why you will see all the graves aligned in one direction.
The whole tomb was all intricately sculpted plaster, and quite beautiful, and there are three tombs, there is the main family that where descendants of Mohammad, the children's tomb, and the mothers tomb. The children's tomb was originally a prayer room, but during a plague it was used to intern the children that died. The mothers tomb was the beloved mother of one of the kings before the tomb was hidden.
After that it was a quick stop at the shops outside the tomb, then back to the hotel.
That night was our gala dinner, it was held at a replica Bermiese tribal tent. The food was good and they had camel rides, and mounted cavalry demonstrations.
Of course there was snake charmers, and belly dancers, and other local craftsmen demonstrating there skill.
They would charge down the field and at the end fire there muskets into the air. It was quite something to see, but dark, and all the photos are blurry, except one. That one everything is nice and clear, but the riders are moving so fast they are a gray streak across the photo :)
After that it was back to the hotel and sleep about 1:00 am, and CCP drank another bar dry :)
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