The Ourika Valley: a saffron farm and more argan nuts.
14.10.2014 - 14.10.2014 85 °F
As I look upon this day, there was a lot of time invested in riding up the mountain, following the Ourika River into argan and olive orchards. It was interesting riding through small villages with houses clinging to the sides of the valley. When it is scorching hot in Marrakech (120 ° in August), families escape to the mountains. There are cafes all up and down the road. Lots of foreign tourism in the hills too, as evidenced by the shops with the usual array of pottery, carvings, and leather goods. Also as evidenced by the appearance of "the Apaches". That's what Amani calls the guys on the motorcycles who follow your bus up the hill and then attack you with souvenirs for sale as you step off the bus.
Anyway, we made a few stops. We visited an argan oil shop and saw a demonstration of how the nuts are shelled, roasted and pressed to get the oil. Then we visited the home of a valley farmer and he showed us through his house and then we were shown the retail section where more of the usual stuff was for sale. Since his store is a co-op for local artists, there isn't any haggling back and forth like there would be on the streets. What I don't understand is why everything looks the same. There are some beautiful things but you see them everywhere. Although I was getting a bit tired of the day on the bus, I did enjoy the stop at the saffron farm. He has 114 acres of crocuses, from which the red stamens are plucked and voila! saffron! Very educational and a decent price (as if saffron is ever decently priced). I suppose now I'll have to drag out my risotto and paella recipes.
When we got back into town, we went by the Saadian Tombs again and we were practically the only ones there. So we saw the masters' tombs in a beautiful marble and mosaic room, and then we left. While waiting for the bus, several of us bought cookies from a street bakery. Almost every type of cookie he sells is drizzled with honey. Way sweet, but I liked 'em.
We actually returned home in the mid-afternoon today, so we had some time on our hands. Janet, Jacquie and I went to the Artist's Co-op just down the street from us. More of the same stuff, but I did finally buy my tassles. Moroccans are very good at textiles - weaving and dying. You see, I have two new ceiling fans and want something interesting for the on/off pulls. Tassles are everywhere, from tiny for clothing to huge with with metal ornamentation for wall art. I am still considering a large turquoise tassle.
Can we talk about Hassan II again? I think they DO have to post his picture in their shops after all. You see the same 20 yr old pic of him everywhere. Armani told another story of praise about H2 today. He is so brilliant that he actually suggested turning an abandoned building into a school. So my question is, in this poor country, why would you let a building stay empty if you need some place to put a school? Oh god, another opinionated mouthy woman.
Ok, I'll talk about conveniences vis-a-vis personal hygiene. I know you want to know. First, in this country, only drink bottled water. It is safe to brush your teeth with the hotel water. The salads at the good hotels and restaurants are fine, but otherwise, avoid them. In developing countries, take advantage of every opportunity to use a toilet. You need to create a long comfort zone of time between "now" and the next pit stop, cuz you never know when that will be. Always bring toilet paper and wet-wipes (or hand sanitizer) with you in your day bag. And try to keep some small change with you to tip the woman who manages the restrooms. She may not do much, but it is all the money she makes and your contribution (of 11¢ to 22¢) may help her today. And yes, I have been forced to use a squat toilet, and not all the "sit" versions have seats. OK enuf.
This is the last night in Marrakech so I WILL be social and join the group for dinner this evening. As such, i need to get ready and I need to pack. Tomorrow is another bus day. We are going to the land of "Lawrence of Arabia" tomorrow. I'm pretty sure we'll have WiFi, but you'll know when I do.