Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Marrakesh Day 2

The next morning I got up early like normal and went wandering around the hotel. Out at the pool area they where still cleaning and setting up, there was a guy aligning all the chairs so they where in a line. And there was massive numbers of birds out and about. Of course it was very sunny and I managed to get this shot of the hotel from across the pool.

Went at 7:00 for breakfast in the dinning room, There was eggs, turkey sausages, eggs, cereals, and a ton of buns, cress aunts, and other pastries. Also fresh squeezed orange juice and other fruits.

At 9:00am I had my first tour, this was a carriage trip through the olive groves. I figured that being in the back of a horse drawn carriage would be fine for my allergies. I was wrong, as soon as we headed into the wind I started feeling it, but I had my anti-hystimiens with me.

I found out something Hot country, and pills that dehydrate you are not a good combination. I spent the rest of the day chugging water, speaking of water they warning that we should not drink or eat the local food. So we stuck with the good restrants, and bottled water.

The first stop was a olive orchard that is owned by the king, Olive and olive oil are some of the biggest exports, and the king owns something like 60% of the olive groves.
And unlike many country's where they shake the trees to remove the fruit, in morocco they pick it by hand. This was the first time that i noticed that manual labor was used more than automation. It seems like it is cheaper to hire someone to do something than to import the machinery to do it.

In the center of the grove was this pool, it is about 5m deep, and square in shape, the water is brought from the mountains to water the trees.

The pool is about 800 years old, the green roofed building is about 100 years old according to our guide. All told it dates from the time of the romans.

That was the first stop, next up on the carriage ride was a botanical garden that was built in 1920s by French artists Jacques and Louis Majorelle. In 1924 it was opened to the public, they have a large variety of plants from all over the world.

The garden is now run by a foundation to keep it maintained. The brilliant blue building is the center building of the garden. As gardens go it seemed to be kinda overrun and poorly maintained.

After this the carriage ride took us for a tour around the outskirts of the madeena, which is the walled old city. That was interesting as wee saw allot of non tourist parts of the town, It also seemed like it was the very poor part of the city.

In the after noon it was the Souks shopping trip, I didn't take my camera with me for that part, kind of wish that I had. There was allot of interesting things to see, but i didn't want to risk it getting stolen while shopping. Turns out I would have been fine, no one on the shopping trip lost anything.

Bought a bunch of souvenirs, The most unique is I got Karen a goat skin, I figured that she could make something much more interesting than I could find for her. Her first questions where color, thickness, and how it smells wet :) Anyway the guy asked 500d for it, I countered with 50d, and eventually settled on 200d, more than I would have liked to spend, but worth it for a unique item. Have I mentioned they haggle for everything. I hope to mail it all out this coming week, or next.

Anyway one of the places the guide took us to was a wholesaler, his shop is only open in the afternoon as the morning he deals with boutiques in the new city. the shop was filled to the rafters with the most beautiful pots, boxes and chests. everything was engraved or carved. There was silver jewelry boxes with inlaid camel bone, it has a neat reddish sheen to it. And the designs where fantastic, There was also allot of jewelry. I really wish I had my camera for this, Thew owner also let us go up on the roof of his shop and look around. It was cool getting a over view of all the small alleyways and shops.

This shop by the way you would never find on your own. The guide took us down a couple of bare alleys and around a corner to a door. He knocked on the door and someone opened it up, he said something and we where let in. If you didn't know it was there you would have never found it. The sales people where good, they didn't push for you to buy like the street vender's did. One guy spent allot of time showing me stuff, and explaining the history behind some of the pieces. even after I had told him I had spent all I could.

From what I could tell of the wood work there it was all well done, and allot of it was dovetail joints and low tech fastenings, but it all seemed very sturdy.

After that it was back to the hotel for the evening, and I was tired, the heat beats down on you even int he shade, IIRC it only got to 42c and working on my 3rd 2l of water :)

Sat around the pool for a bit, and in it. That night we had a programmer dinner at a local restraunt, It was cool, again no camera :(
The food was excellent, I had a rabbit press :P and lamb curry :), and about 10:00 pm the belly dancers came out. The first two out where lady's with trays of candles on there heads, they really shook them hips and the candles barely flickered.

Then several other dancers came out and they danced around each other and the tables, and the waiters wove in and out of them while doing there jobs, I don't think any of them even touched each other.

Then they all moved to the center path, the restraunt was built as a hollow box with the center a pond with a bridge across it. The dancers moved onto the bridge and danced the final set, They shook them hips until you would think they would come off.

I headed out about 11:00 to head to bed, had to be up at 4:00 am to be ready for the hot air balloon rid the next day. I heard that they stayed till about 3:00 ish drinking, Meanwhile back at the hotel there was a bunch of CCP's working on there second bar, they had drunk the patio bar dry, so moved up to the night club and started working on it. About midnight they finished that one off, and moved to one of the suites to continue the party. About 2:00 am the police showed up to quiet things down, so they moved suites and kept going. Room service ran out of liqueur about 4:00 am so the part broke up then.

Next day someone found out that the hotel has never sold more alcohol in one night than that night. The company that organized it had told the hotel to stock up because these people like to drink. I guess the hotel didn't believe them.

The other cool thing is they number there elevators from zero, and basements are negative numbers.

So that was Day 2, the end of Friday, here is a sneak peek into the next day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Marrakesh, Morocco - Day 1

Hello all, I am back from my trip I am going to post my travel log here over the next few days, and the photos have started being uploaded, but there are 607 that I have to weed through and upload the good ones.

Day 0
Day Zero was a work day, and we got Oh so much not done, go figure. About 4:00 pm the beer came out and people started drinking. Like I have said one of the national sports... We had charter buses to take us from work to the airport in Kefalvick.

We got there and we where the only flight leaving :) so we had all the ticket counters to our selves even so it was a mad house as people where arriving by the bus load, about 400 people from Iceland alone (employees and spouses and infants...). So lots of boarding passes to be given out, and lots of bags to check.

Allot of people headed to the Duty free store and stocked up on liqueur and smokes. We flew a airline out of england called jet2.com They where very nice people but fly sardine cans. Cram allot of people in, not much room and let them stew for 5 hours. You get the idea, I was calling it a sardine simulator by the end.

Even though the flight crew asked that we not consume alcohol that we brought on board, I don't think much of what was bought in the duty free store made it to Africa :) yes there was many drunk people landing in a Muslim country. It all turned out good, we only had the police bust up one party, and no one was arrested.

Any who took off at 11:40 PM... Next stop Africa!

Day 1
We arrive at 04:55 AM the next day, we are greeted by the organizing company that was hired. They are out of england and did a spectacular job over the course of the trip.

I wish I had a good photo of them all, but only have a picture of Anna( you will see it later).

Anyway we where herded onto buses and taken to a club, it is a disco at night, but during the day it was 'CCP Breakfast in Africa' stop.

As you can see it it was a large pool and surrounding it where lounge chairs, havocs and 3 walled beds. And many people flaked out then for some sleep. Trust me it is impossible to sleep in a sardine can with wings... Allot also sunned, made use of the free wandering masseuses and the pool.

We stayed there until about noon, then the buses took us to the souks (sp?), This is in the old walled city and is a maze of narrow back alleys with hundreds of shops. The haggle for everything here, you haggle for the price of food, spices, leather goods, pots, cabs, cartage...

And the busker's and entertainers are something else also. They won't take no for a answer if you take there picture, they ask for 300d (x10 for ISK) to take a picture of 3 guys, considering the minimum wage is about 1800d a month, that is expensive. But I haggled them down to 100d, still way to much, but not bad pictures of them.

So I wandered around and looked at stuff, Bought a souvenir for my parents, but they are going to have to come and get it :)

When I was wandering around the alleys with our guide, oh that is another thing, the guides are licensed. But there are lots of unlicensed ones and they will tend to take you to places that relatives own. A couple of guys at work hired a guide to take them to a restaurant, the guy led them to a place and said here, this is better place. They saw the sign for the place they wanted, and said 'NO Go there' and pointed to the sign. The guy argued a bit and then led them there. Then he wanted a 150d for the guiding, they gave him 50, and said that he was lucky he got anything for trying to lead them astray, Anyway the had a good meal. Also pick pocket are a bought, sow e where warned to keep things concealed. Dan suggested putting a suitcase lock on your backpack. I did that and I didn't lose anything, but a couple of people lost cell phones and minor things like that.

Back to my tail, the guide took us on a short 20 min trip, and we stopped at this place, that sold all kinds of stuff. They had silver jewelry, boxes of beautiful metal work, and bronze plates. Some of the plates you could hold by the edge and shake them and they would bend... others where really good.

But the cool thing was they sold doors :) and not just any doors, everything from modern foam core, to ancient wooden panels. And bronze ones, The next two pictures are of a door I just loved!
As you can see the engraving on the door was something else.

Anyway I took a carriage to the hotel from there, and it was interesting.

I took about 10 min to get to the hotel, I thought Icelandic people where crazy when driving, but Marrakesh is INSANE!

There are cars, buses, mule carts, mopeds, bikes, and carriages all over the road. The best I can tell is that they use there horns to indicate that they are assuming that they have the right of way. And the lines, are just suggestions for where you should be. But I got to the hotel safely.
Well this hotel is Something else, It is a five star hotel that has hosted kings, queens, movie stars, and a host of other Who's who. and we stayed there. We had a lot of rooms so they gave us a couple of sweets and they raffled them off, I didn't win. But some of the guys checked out the costs and it appears the simple room I had with twin beds was $200 USD a night. The suites that they raffeled off, $2000 USD a night.

The room was cool, everything that you would expect of a good hotel, But all the bed frames, and cabinets, desk... where all hand carved local wood.

I guess I should touch on language a bit, most people in the hotel spoke French with a smattering of English. The key people spoke very good English, but most of the staff, did not.

The TV had about 50 channels, and there was a couple of BBC ones. The staff was like something I have never seen in the west. There was people at key doors whose job was to just stand there and open the door for people coming and going. The cleaning staff would stop as you approached and back up to the wall and look at the floor until you had past. All the women where in these long flowing robs, and the men in white shirt and pants, with a brown cape, and maroon fez.

About this point I was getting really tired so I flaked out in my room and slept for a few hours, Then got up and went looking for dinner. Met up with Jon-Carlos and his wife Yuko. Jon-Carlos is American, but lived in Japan for many years, and met Yuko there. She is Japanese and doesn't speak English well, or Icelandic. So we had dinner and had a conversation over dinner, stopping to help her form sentences and get the right words. Jon-Carlos would translate concepts and words if we couldn't explain them in English.

Anyway that was about the end of Day one.

Link to Google maps for the hotel :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Well off to Morocco, Africa tonight. It should be a fun filled 4 days there. It is +36c right now there and a bright shining sun, and i have my SPF 30 sun screen :)

I am now regretting not packing more shorts when i was packing up my condo, I went looking for hot weather cloths and found that i have 1, count them 1 pair of shorts here. The rest are in storage in Edmonton :)

So I am taking some baggy cargo pants, and my camel hump for water.

I have booked excursions to do a carriage ride thought the palm grove, a hot air balloon, and a cultural walking tour of the old part of the city.

The only hard one will be the balloon ride, I have to be in the lobby by 5:00 AM, OMG that is early!

I will be sure to post my photos when I get back.

Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominikgolenia/

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Here!

Have you figured out what is here yet?

I walk past this bush (I think it is a bush) every morning and noticed the willow buds starting to come out. And today I stopped and took a photo.

As you can see Spring must be here, the willow bushes are putting out buds :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008


The visa is done, I am here officially.

Got my tax card so I can be paid now.

I am so happy :)