Saturday, April 07, 2007

Travelogue: March 27, 2007

The Pride of America

Went to the Koutoubia Mosque today, the biggest mosque and minaret in Marrakesh. Outside, we came across this glass installation out front, which showcases an excavation of the original mosque on the site. Turns out that the first building wasn't properly oriented toward Mecca, so they scrapped the whole thing and rebuilt on the same plot of land. That is pretty cool.

What is not, in fact, at all cool, was the observation of a pair of American tourists from Minnesota, something along the lines of, "Oh, look, this must be, like, a really old greenhouse." When I contemplate that level of vapidity, my brain hurts. But when I step back and compare that level of vapidity from these "worldly" (they were traveling), "educated" (one of them had a University of Minnesota college sweatshirt) Americans to the general thoughtfulness and erudition of Ali, the Berber walking guide from the Atlas Mountains, my soul hurts.

Major Zoos in the World: San Diego, Bronx, Ken's Shoulders

The central square in Marrakesh has had this carnival-like atmosphere all along, and we discovered today that it's an interactive carnival. Obviously, the people who bring exotic creatures into the square are doing it for profit, and they sort of sign you up for that profit whether you really like it or not. So, lesson #1 learned: if you look with interest at a man with a snake, he will put a snake around your shoulders, sit you down, and have a cobra dance before you. Note, I do have a pretty substantial phobia about snakes (up there with spiders and heights as my big 3), so the look of terror on my face there is real (also note, I would never put such an unflattering photo of myself on the Internet if I didn't feel it served a very vivid illustrative purpose). Equally real was the look of indignation on my face when the snake charmers demanded 200 dirhems (about $25) for the privilege of foisting their serpents upon me. I gave them 20 dirhems, and they should have felt fortunate to get it.

And of course, let us not forget lesson #2: if a man with a monkey asks to shake your hand, and you agree to shake said hand, that monkey will climb onto your shoulder and not let go. He will hold onto your hand and nuzzle your face (perhaps inspiring you to apply Purell to your cheeks when he is finally done). He will clutch at you in a way that says, "Please, take me away from my Moroccan taskmaster and his evil chain! Take me with you to freedom!" The best I could offer was to give his handler 15 dirhems (about $2) and hope that the monkey would be spared an unpleasant yank of the chain for a few precious minutes.

Final Scores

Since we left Morocco today, I thought it right to take some final scores for the trip:

- Six (6) times our Asian travellers, who were Malaysian and Korean by descent, had "konnichiwa!" shouted at them by local Moroccans in the marketplaces.
- Five (5) times I was offered hashish, at various times of day and locations throughout the city.
- Four (4) times that Adam, our resident Scotsman, had "lovely jubblies!" shouted at him to get his attention in the marketplaces.
- Three (3) times our group was offered Berber wives (Matt accounted for 2 of these on his own).
- Two (2) times Matt was called a liar and/or a bad Muslim (he's not Muslim) by spurned Moroccans in the marketplaces.
- One (1) partridge in a pear tree.

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