Monday, July 31, 2017

Día 20- Marrakech a Gran Canaria

Maʿ al-salāmah Marrakech.
Maʿ al-salāmah Morocco.
Hola Gran Canaria.

It looks like a hop, skip and a jump from Casablanca to Gran Canaria but in actuality the flight is almost three hours, which compares to a flight from LA to Seattle.

My dear friend, Rafa, picked us up at the airport, took us to our hotel in Agüimes, and then to the capital, Las Palmas.  He assured us that he had the whole evening planned. 
I met Rafa through one of my professors. We have regularly been in contact since my class on Spanish culture two semesters ago.  He is the reason that we are here.  The Canary Islands would have never been on my radar otherwise.

Las Palmas is the fifth most populated urban area in Spain, which is difficult to believe, unless you are looking for parking.

We stopped the Las Palmas walking tour to have cappuccinos in front of the cathedral in la Plaza de Santa Ana.

Las Palmas is absolutely gorgeous, and is packed full of history.  
 Founded in 1478, Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón en español) spent time here before and after his journey to "Asia".   This became the norm for anyone traveling between the continents, which is why the Canary Islands have a mixture of Latin American and Spanish cultures.  In fact, until more recently, when flying between Spain and the Americas flights would stopover in the Canary Islands.  

We were so excited about the food (not just because we couldn't eat one more tajin in Morocco!).  It was all delicious, way better than mainland Spain!  The papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) con salsa de mojo were a favorite, and are a specialty of the Canary Islands.

The big surprise of the day was that we would be seeing the final dress rehearsal of Rafa's newest play (he is the producer).  
It is part of Gran Canaria's 21st annual Festival of Music and Dance.

The professional photographer took this one of us.

The play is about child soldiers (in Colombia, Syria, and the Republic of the Congo) that are forced to fight and die for a cause that they don't understand.  Everyone was in tears by the end (those of us, Eric, that weren't on the verge of falling asleep).

The backdrop of the play was a building in the Plaza de Santa Ana, across from the Cathedral.  They have been working on the lights and sound and practicing all day, and after Rafa drops off, he will drive back to work until the wee hours of the morning (known as la madrugada en español).  

The play started at 22:30!  It was such a long day for us but the play was magnificent.  

I cannot imagine a more perfect first day in the Canary Islands.
Thank you, Rafa!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

19 يوم - Marrakech

This is one of my favorite pictures from all of Morocco, taken just steps from our riad.

We canceled our guide in the medina today so we have another day to walk around and do a little shopping.  Since guides get commission from the shops for bringing in clients/tourists/suckers the prices are always higher, so it is better without one.  Marrakech has wider streets and some signage, so it is possible without a guide (unlike Fez).  It is still a maze so when we felt like a street wasn't going anywhere or like we wouldn't be able to easily find our way out, we would just stop and backtrack.  It worked for us!

Morocco feels like a different world. 

Jewelry shop owners prove that the objects are real silver (versus plated or another metal) with an acid test.  The real stuff is on the right, supposedly.  Sometimes you just have to have faith that what you are hearing is true. It sounded and looked good.

It has taken a lot of energy dealing with the old school ways of negotiating prices in Morocco because the prices they claim are so high that they are never reduced enough to make a purchase worth the money, but I figured out a trick.  You just have to wear them down.  You spend enough time in their shop (hours!) looking at everything, talking about all the pieces and their individual prices, that they don't want to waste their time having you leave.  You don't get mad about the prices or their learned behaviors for making sales, you just keep saying the price you are willing to pay and eventually, if you are lucky, you don't get completely ripped off and you have some pieces you like.  
And that, my friends, is the definition of democracy.  

Okay, this picture is pretty spectacular too, if I don't mind saying so myself.

We found delicious artisan ice cream for a good deal in Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech's main square.  It must be really good ice cream because in order to eat it inside you have to go through a metal detector.

At 77 meters tall, built in the 12 century, Koutoubia is the largest mosque in Marrakech.

Eric doesn't like that I can make Morocco seem so beautiful in pictures, but I can't help it.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the one who be holding the camera.

Today is our last night in Marrakech, and our last night in Morocco in general, therefore the last time that I will ever hear a call to prayer in person.  
Luckily, video does do it justice.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

18 يوم - Cascades d'Ouzoud إلى Marrakech

After a little breakfast at our riad we left the simplicity of the agricultural region and entered the craziness of Marrakech.

Being a shepherd is a career choice, which must have been boring before cell phones and the internet.

Donkey boy.

To get to our riad turn left by the man selling sticks wrapped with??

I am certain we will run into a cow in a wheelchair any moment.

Our plan today is to walk around for as long as we can withstand the heat and take in all of the bizarre sights which lead to more questions than answers.

Moroccan Johnny Depp/ date vendor.

All I can say for certain is that Morocco is stuck in time.  

Inside these Berber walls is the medina, where the above pictures were taken.
Don't worry, Eric, you've got this!