So apparently everything in Marrakesh is closed except for the tannery.
It’s a pretty common scam in a few countries (and I covered the Thai Royal Palace scam in Bangkok before) to tell tourists that a certain thing they want to see is closed so that touts can take you where they want you to see, usually a buddy’s store. We heard it a lot yesterday, and after we stopped off at the Marrakesh Museum today. The museum was another restored palace, absolutely beautiful, with a slightly opaque white dome covering the courtyard area, giving it a nice glow on the inside. More beautiful mosaics, wood carving and marble, this time fused with various historical artifacts and contemporary art from around the world. The old hammam of the palace had actually been converted into a gallery for a variety of paintings. A bit pricier than some of the other museum stops at 50 dirham, but a nice stop when all the rest of it had been done.
Pretty much as soon as we got out of the museum, we were informed that we were near the tannery, and after doing a bit of online digging yesterday, and Daina jogging my Amazing Race memory, I remembered it was basically hides and dyes in a giant square with some equally giant smell. So I was okay without that. What was really frustrating was all the people people telling me any which way we wanted to go was “closed”. Either we couldn’t go down that way because it was closed for a mosque (untrue) or because it was a dead end (mostly untrue). Daina equated the tannery to Terminus from The Walking Dead, in that everybody tries to lead you there but, once you’re in, you’re done. That may have been a bit dramatic, but the hustling was getting there.
Now, another thing that might have helped was that we were trying to use GPS in a medina, which generally points you in the right direction, but typically doesn’t account for little streets and walls. So the directions towards our next stop, Jardin Majorelle, were okay in almost getting us there, but not quite all the way.
It was by no means a lost trip. We found a fantastic sweet shop and satisfied a cake craving, saw some more typically medina scenes where we weren’t getting hassled (because everybody was shopping and going about their day to day rituals) and we were able to direct some lost Scottish travelers in the right direction. Still, we did reach a point where we actually did reach a dead end, so we asked for help. Daina asked this little old man where the Jardin was, and he kindly led us out of the medina and pointed across the road to where we wanted to go. I tried to offer him some dirham for help (since that’s what most medina “guides” want), but he waved it off. Nice guy.
So of course, within seconds, some scammer tells us that Jardin Majorelle is closed because it is a National Berber Holiday.
Sure it was.
Long story short, it wasn’t. After a little bit more walking, we were finally there.
Jardin Majorelle was originally owned by French artist Jacques Majorelle, who was a good friend of Yves Saint Laurent, such a good friend that, when the beautiful gardens began to fall into disrepair, Saint Laurent bought them and restored them to their current state of beauty. The blue on the house in the garden actually has its own name – Majorelle Blue – and it is surrounded by beautiful palms, cacti, birds and fountains. Inside, there’s a small gallery of some of YSL’s “Love” work, as well as a Berber Museum, which features one of the most spellbinding rooms I’ve ever seen in a museum. It’s a mirrored room with about six model heads displaying Berber jewelry, and the whole thing is lit up with green “stars”, which reflect back on the mirrors and give the room an infinite desert type of look. Absolutely stunning. It’s out of the medina centre, sure, but definitely worth a look.
We wandered back to the medina through one of its lesser-used gates, which meant a lot less people tried to sell us stuff or tell us things were closed. We did a quick lunch stop at the beautiful Terrasse des Epices, a fancier medina restaurant which was run by an expat Frenchman who loved Daina’s tattoos – he had several, but was wearing long sleeves and pants to make sure they were all covered up. After I had a fantastic goat tagine (and Daina, after asking about some traditional dishes, had a cheeseburger), we chatted a bit with the Frenchman about the perception of tattoos around the world, and he seemed fascinated by the fact that most people in Canada just don’t give a damn if you have one or not at this point. Apparently, it’s not the same experience in France, according to him.
We wandered back to the riad to get clean and rest for a bit, and that’s where we are now. Soon, we’ll go out for dinner but, barring anything notable happening tonight, that’s probably it for the blogging portion of Marrakesh.
I’ve definitely enjoyed my time in this old city. It breathes history at every corner, and as much as you’re going to get hassled and hustled as you go around, it’s actually not that bad compared to other parts of the world. I think I’m “done” in terms of seeing the city, but I’m sure it could probably pull a surprise out of the hat without me knowing it.
Tomorrow, we drive!