Eeeeeeeeeeeeepic. Three hours at Les Bains de L'Alhambra
. Hammam, rose petal bath, massage, with assorted extras sprinkled throughout. I was originally going to go to Les Bains de Marrakech
, which were strongly recommended by my coworker, but L'Alhambra was marginally closer, cheaper, and advertised at my hotel. It's very new, very small, and very awesome.( Cut to spare those of you who don't care about spa-type things. )
The spa was a huge hunk of my day, but I also did a little meandering. I tried to go to the Saadian tombs but managed to catch them right at the start of the three and a half hour lunch break. Instead, I bargained for an hour's caleche ride through the medina (and only ended up paying fifty dirhams more than I should have, sigh), and traveled much of what I walked yesterday, only this time in a horse and carriage. We briefly picked up a friend of the driver's and her two children, and later my driver stopped to buy two cigarettes, and it wasn't anything new or particularly thrilling, but it was a nice, lazy hour in the sun, soaking up a little atmosphere without diving into the melee.
But I dived into the melee afterwards. I had the caleche drop me off at the Jemaa el Fna, and I strode off with purpose into the souks. I'd missed most of it yesterday, what with my enormous tannery detour, and I was determined to wallow in it a little.
Which I did. Really, the only thing I can think to compare it to is The Labyrinth
, only with real people instead of Muppets and David Bowie. (I did see a monkey in a tutu today, though.) There is nothing
straightforward about the warren of streets - and I use that word loosely - that pack into the area north of the Jemaa. Many of them are covered, which is a relief in November and an absolute necessity in July, I imagine, and then it's just city-wall-to-city-wall shops, selling god knows what. (I swear I saw the Swiffer souk this morning. Nothing but floor wipers and little rolly-brush sweepers.) Lots of repetition - hundreds of slipper stalls, leather goods, tagines tagines and more tagines, pottery, jewelry, and more knicknacks than I ever knew existed. My guidebook calls Marrakech the "land of 1001 interior designers," and they're not far off.
Sometimes it's piles of random crap; sometimes it's something the owner swears is a unique-one-of-a-kind when you can see its twin in the stall across the way, and sometimes it's something genuinely unusual. My guidelines have been "buy it because you like it not because it's special" and "you can always walk away." So far that has led me to a silver and genuine-but-deeply-flawed turquoise necklace that I got for a third the going rate (according to the fixed price shop), a carpet at again a third of the going rate (according to my guidebook and the fixed price shop, so wow), and some small ticket items that I got completely
hosed on. Totally and completely. Like, double the fixed price shop. But that comes down to just a few dollars, and I more than made up for it on the other items. When knew I could bargain? I certainly didn't.
Tonight I'm having dinner at the riad again, since it's far cheaper and far better than most of the restaurants I've read about (and I don't really need belly dancers or fire breathers with my couscous). Tomorrow is the cooking class. Wednesday I leave! Shall try to fit in a little more culture and a little less shopping these next two days...