First, the riad. That’s a home that has been transformed into a hotel. Riad Clos des Arts. Just over $100 a night and voted in the Top 25 WORLD WIDE Small Hotels on Trip Advisor. Wow. And deserved it. The place is beautiful. Run by Italians. And the food… well the cook also did my henna on both hands and an artist… it was like a 5 star restaurant every night. With delicious breakfasts on the roof top terrace. Yum. Miam.. It is in the old town. They arranged for a driver to meet me at the airport.
Airport. That was interesting. After going through customs, we didn’t exit straight to the parking. Nope. We went through a security screening, xray machines and all, to enter the Kingdom of Maroc. And leaving, security to get inside the airport then the real airplane screening to be able to get to the boarding area. You can’t have weapons in Maroc. They mean business. Except when I was there, an assassin killed two people in a coffee shop – really, a hit man. He was supposed to be killing this businessman, owner of the café I think. He was told where the guy sat. But that morning, minutes before, the guy got up and let some other people sit there. Wrong place Wrong time. I never heard the full story but everyone was shocked.
So at the airport – I was thinking, all parking lots are the same all over the world. He drove me to a parking space outside the old city and I was met there by a gal from the hotel and a guy with a hand cart – well, not what we think of as a hand cart that UPS uses. No, a more wheelbarrow-ish hand wagon – for my bag. We walked thought the mazelike streets. The plain door opened to this beautiful welcoming warm space. Who knows what rests behind those unassuming entrances?
The morning with my guide was interesting and fun. He was a Moroccan married to a Czech gal with a 10 year old daughter. Full of stories. Fascinating. Some that made him sound like he was from a very poor family and other that made him seem from a very well to do family. And he drove a Mercedes. Old. But a Mercedes. But I found that out Sunday. On Saturday we walked. To the ruins of palaces, to tombs of sultans, thorough the souks (the markets with really-crazy-you-can-get-lost-here streets). He knew everyone. And everyone knew him. When he saw the photos I was taking with my Iphone, he then led me to other particularly photogenic places. Take your picture here. Here. There. And he negotiated for me – to take some craftswomen’s pictures I paid a dollar. I was happy to. At one place I was framing my photo and a guy started to approach me to demand payment for the women. Fortunately my guide stepped up and told him I had already paid and basically back off – but I bet it was more colorful than that. We saw henna being pounded to paste. Lathes used to make guitars. Yarn drying. Fascinating. And in the Jemma square, we walked by – quickly! – the snake charmers. He didn’t like these guys. He said he had a friend he would take his clients to – but he had recently died – wait for it – his snake bit him.
The guide doesn’t like the French. He prefers to work for hotels run by other nationalities. But he spoke French well and we went back and forth between that and English.
The first evening in the hotel, a gal sat with me to give me the scoop about Marrakech. With a map she pointed out where to go and where not to go. And told me about kids offering to take you places you wanted to go… but really took you to stores to be harassed into buying things… or getting you more lost. She told me how to handle them and how to politely decline from vendors or beggars. She made me a bit nervous, I must say. But better to be forewarned. It turned out with the guide I had no problems. And that gave me the confidence to go out on my own.