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Morocco

Cruise Day 23 Agadir


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Day 82 Monday 6 December - “Cruise Day 23 – Agadir”

I'm not sure if yesterday's blog entry finally made it onto the web site, there were a number of hiccups when I was trying to publish it.

Agadir is a much smaller port than Casablanca and we were tied up at the grain terminal from where the shuttle took us into the town. At 9 am the city was still getting started and the streets were very quiet. Taxis and their drivers swarmed all over us offering all kinds of deals which we politely but firmly rejected.

With no clear idea of what there was to see and an almost total lack of street signs to guide us we wandered back and forth along some of the main streets. There were many up-market hotels as Agadir is a popular beach resort for Europeans. At one stage an older gent asked us if we wanted to visit the market, we said yes and he pointed us back in the direction we'd just travelled.

As we headed off we were 'picked up' by a local who declared that he wasn't a guide but would show us where the market was because he worked there. Only 5 minutes, very close, show you many spices, have mint tea.

The 5 minutes were more like 15 or 29 and we finally arrived at a small hole in the wall shop with most of the goods on display in the alley way. He pointed out the various herbs and spices and explained the therapeutic benefits of them. We were invited to sit and he brewed us some mint tea, very refreshing.

The ingredient for which the area is famous is “Argane” oil which is extracted from the kernel of a nut which grows on trees only found in Morocco – at least that's how the story goes. We felt obliged to buy at least something so paid 30 € for a pot of moisturising cream and four bars of soap. At the conclusion of the transaction he insisted in taking us to another shop where they sold traditional 'Berber' products – fine jewellery, leather goods and Berber carpets.

Spent some time examining some exquisite silver items with delicate filigree and many pieces incorporating various shades of amber. We wandered down the stairs to where the leather goods were on display. Jenny had almost bought a jacket in Casablanca and under the influence of some serious sales pressure she tried one or two on.

Despite repeated requests for the price we were fobbed off and told that the important thing was to find a garment that she liked. It so happened that she found one in the colour she wanted and more importantly that fit. Some mint tea and the price is announced in the local currency – Dirham. Some seriously big number which was eventually discounted and translated to about 200 € - I've been using US$ 1.50 per 1 €, so we're talking US$ 300.

We reject the price and Jenny starts to get very embarrassed because the salesman has spent so much time finding the right jacket and she can't justify spending that much money. By now, I'm the target of the sales pitch, doesn't it look good on her – yes it did, isn't she a good wife and deserve a nice souvenir from Morocco – yes she does. I can put the US$300 on Visa at no extra cost. I tell him we're sorry for wasting his time but the price is too high. So what is Sir prepared to pay ? I tell him US$ 100. This brings forth a long lament, describing the many children that will starve not to mention that he'll be sacked from his job.

He brings his price down to US$250 in cash, I match his adjustment and agree to pay US$150. He can't authorise this and takes us to meet the 'manager' who claims that the best he can do is US$225. At this point I pull out three $50 bills and place them on the counter, he looks at them and asks where's the other one? I tell him that's all I have and he can take it or leave it. He starts wrapping the jacket and after some discussion about giving him good publicity in return for a very special deal we walk out with the jacket. I've no idea if we got a good deal or if we still were ripped off but it was an experience and Jenny is happy.

We're heading back to the shuttle pick-up when we're both in need of a comfort stop. So we find a cafe with a WC and order a long black for me and a Coke for Jenny. When it comes time to pay all I have is a 20 € note and after some rapid calculations I'm handed 170 in local currency which I figure would be about 15 € or thereabout. No idea what to spend it on, it is useless outside Morocco.

Along the way we see a sign for a hairdresser. Jenny's been wanting a trim and I'm well overdue for a tidy up. So we go inside and find that Jenny can have her hair cut for 50 local currency. They offer to do a job on me for only 70 local. So we spend the next half hour being pampered as two men give us the works. Shampoo for Jenny and a scalp massage for me, trim, shave and hot towel to finish me off. I handed over the whole 170 and invited them to share whatever was left over. Now THAT was a good deal !!

Found our way to the bus stop and were told by the taxi drivers that we'd just missed the bus and the next one would be over an hour because the driver had gone to lunch. They'll try anything, within 10 minutes there was another bus. Back to the ship, a late lunch and before we know it time for dinner. Watched the magic show again, every bit as mystifying as the last time. On return to the cabin we found that the VIP fairy had left a plate of goodies again – very nice.

Posted by greynomadm 14:20 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Cruise Day 22 Casablanca


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Day 81 Sunday 5 December - “Cruise Day 22 – Casablanca”

With customary efficiency the Jade arrived in the busy post of Casablanca right on schedule. The crew performed another miracle of manoeuvring and 'parked' the ship in a very constricted space. There appeared to be only inches to spare bow and stern as she swung through about 120 degrees.

We’re still subject to 'disease control protocols' and the extra effort is having an effect on the serving staff, especially in the garden cafe where the majority of meals are served. It is designed to be 'self service' and it stretches the facilities when only staff can serve the food and handle the utensils. I think they are well and truly 'over it'.

The shuttle bus took us into one of the main squares in the city and we set off to explore the 'Médina' where there are wall to wall little shops and stalls selling everything from fresh fish, eggs, vegetables, spices, dates and bread to fine leather coats, shoes and traditional clothing items. All business being conducted in narrow alleys crowded with locals and tourists.

We found our way out onto a main boulevard right near 'Rick's Place' of the movie Casablanca fame. It transpires that there wasn't ever a Rick's Place until an enterprising American established it after the release of the movie. We're told it features a piano player named Sam.

A lengthy walk brought us to the Mosque Hassan II, a magnificent 'temple' built out over the Atlantic Ocean. It is reputed to be the largest Mosque in the world and has the tallest minaret at 574 feet. The surrounding paved area could easily rival the world famous Tienanmen Square in Beijing for size. It is entirely paved in marble.

The decorations on all parts of the mosque are both colourful and intricate. The area of the mosque gives way to some impressive government offices with arched walkways and beautifully maintained gardens.

On our way back to the shuttle pick-up we again experienced the crowded lane ways of the 'Médina' where the increasing numbers of shoppers vied for space with taxis, scooters, push carts and in one case a shopping trolley being used to 'move' a sizable cupboard. In one of the wider streets, kids played soccer almost oblivious to the vehicles demanding a share of the roadway.

One of the 'streets' was lined on one side by dozens of jewellery shops selling exquisite works of art in gold, silver and precious stones. Many of them were just opening for business despite it being past noon. We'd remarked on how relaxed the place was when we first arrived at 9:30, it had certainly come alive while we enjoyed the tranquillity of the Mosque.

Back at the ship we had a quiet lunch and then rested our weary feet. Despite a valiant attempt to read a book we both dozed off and next thing it was time for dinner and the show in the Stardust. Four Spanish male vocalists with quite different voices which harmonised well to take us through a repertoire of songs in both Spanish and English. Watch out for the group “Fourever”, they've recently released their first album in London.

Back at the 'stateroom' there is a plate of tit-bits in recognition of our newly acquired VIP status.

Oh, must tell you of a little incident on deck. We started talking to two ladies very obviously from the USA. One of them asked the number one question: “Where are you from?”. Quick as a flash and with a dead-pan face Jenny replied “Texas!”. The look on their faces was priceless as they tried to process that bit of information.

The ship is a bit lively at the moment, we are experiencing moderate seas and gale force winds. Out to the West there's a spectacular light show from some thunder storms over the horizon. I expect the sick-bags will be out again in the morning.

Posted by greynomadm 14:02 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

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