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The Palmeraie and to the quitet Majorelle garden

Home -> Africa -> Morocco -> Travelogue Morocco -> 10 September 2003

Wednesday 10 September, the Palmeraie and to the quitet Majorelle garden

Elisabeth should write the account of this day, since it is palmtree day, her favourite tree...
After breakfast we first walk quite some distance to the southern town into the direction of the airport since we heard we could to rent bicycles there. I think it will be ideal to take a bike to the farther parts of the town, but Elisabeth thinks differently. When we don't find any bicycle rentals, she isn't very sad about it, even when it means that she has to sit more often in a cab. We ask many people and everybody knows there should be a bicycle shop, but nobody knows the exact location. Thirsty and heated we then first walk into the luxurious Atlas hotel. This whole neighbourhood is very deluxe with wide boulevards and everywhere gardeners taking care of the trees and plants. We have also come through the street where the king has his new palace but it stays hidden behind walls.
On the terrace of the Atlas hotel we see an idealised Morocco. Like original colonialists we sit next to the swimming pool where indigenous people try to create a native ambience. There will be enough tourists who like such a clean view, so they can avoid contact with the 'dirty' reality outside. One has all the luxury and comfort of the western world and thinks one is surrounded by the real Morocco. I have been a tour guide, I know there are lots of such people! We are not (yet) such spoiled tourists, but we enjoy the nice cup of coffee. Then we go back, out on the streets, to see more of dusty streets, hear the noise of the city and smell the odors.
The PalmeraieThe first cabdriver wants 100 Dirham to take us to the Palmeraie; resentful, I shut the door of the cab and walk on. The second cabdriver is a very friendly man who takes us for 50 dirham. It is only 25 one way, he explains, but there is not much chance he gets a customer there to take back to the town. He uses his taximeter so we can see he is telling the truth. During the drive we have a very pleasant conversation and he tells us a lot about himself, his family and Marrakech.
The Palmeraie The PalmeraieThe Palmeraie is an area of 12,000 hectare, northeast of the city and it is full of palmtrees. There once was an edict that no building in Marrakech was to be higher than a palm tree and it was forbidden to cut them down. Hence one can still see growing palms in the middle of pavements.
Camels in the PalmeraieMarrakech is one big oasis between the Middle and High Atlas. These mountains are surrounded by desert, the forerunners of the Sahara. I always have loved deserts: they look so 'deserted' and empty, but in fact it a desert is teeming with life. Camels are the biggest animals that can be found here. In fact they are dromedaries, camels with only one lump.
The Palmeraie The PalmeraieIt is amazing that so many palmtrees can grow on such dry desert ground, there are hundreds of thousands here. Some are so old that several high trees come from one trunk. There is water underground, but at a very deep level, so small crops don't grow here.
We walk around for hours and we are surprised to come upon a village now and then. Along the main road there are lots of very luxurious estates, but the villages look very poor and soon we are surrounded by begging children. It is very hot, but this is still not the desert I would like to show Elisabeth. But it does bring about a lot of happy memories from the times that I spend in deserts... Then I could stay for days in the desert, now we walk back to the restaurant to find some shade and drinks after a few hours.
Relaxing at the PalmeraieWe still have plenty of time before our cab (number 121) returns. The palmtrees offer shade and we both enjoy the calmness of the place, totally different from chaotic Marrakech. We hear no scooters, no cars, no shouting and no honking. This is a real oasis.
Time stands still for a short period, but finally we have to leave and our cabdriver is exactly on time, something we hadn't expected. Elisabeth often has to arrange taxi's for elderly people in her job and they are always at least a half hour late, sometimes up to two hours. Arabs are quite flexible in their appointments (and with reason, everything can happen before an appointment, things which can be much more important), so we are pleasantly surprised. This cabdriver is the nicest we have met, so far. He is very talkative and doesn't try to cheat on us because we are tourists who are able to pay more. Again we have a vivid conversation.
We learn this about the taxi's: there are 1600 petit (small) taxi's (they drive only inside the town) in Marrakech; most of the drivers rent the car per day (about 200 dirham (€ 20) a day). Fuel and repairs have to be paid by the cabdriver. A ride from 3 kilometers between Gueliz and the Medina is a bit less about 8 dirham according to the taximeter, but a tourist pays at least 10 dirham, that is 1 Euro. Most cabdrivers start asking more, 20 for example. Most cabdrivers work at least 12 hours a day to make a profit between 200 and 400 dirham a day, six days a week. We asked other drivers the same questions and they came up with the same answers.
The jardin MajorelleOn our request he brings us to the Jardin Majorelle and there we say goodbye. But the next days we will be looking at the taxi numbers, to see if we can find him back. We see thousands of cabs, but not his. Then we enter the gardens of Majorelle and we step into a completely different world, another oasis with the Islamic art museum.
The jardin Majorelle The jardin MajorelleBetween hundreds of special species of plants, with cactusses and palmtrees prevailing, small red-coloured paths are winding. This could be the garden of Eden, a calm oasis in the middle of the chaotic city.
The jardin Majorelle The jardin MajorelleWe have never seen such a diversity of palmtrees together in one garden, but we find no seeds. We hope they sell seeds in the shop, but alas. The garden looks very well maintained, the result of the dozens of gardeners walking around.
The jardin Majorelle The jardin MajorelleThe Jardin Majorelle, also called the Bou Saf-Saf garden, was laid out between the two world wars by the French artist Louis Majorelle. He was an art-deco painter, mainly using the colours red, cobalt blue and Veronese green. We have never heard before of Veronese green, but that is what our travel guide tells us.
The jardin Majorelle The jardin MajorelleArbors and ponds turn this place into an exotic idyllic spot and we enjoy walking around and resting on the stools that are placed on several places, while birds sing their twittering concerts. This is a spot you must visit when in Marrakech!
When we come out on the streets again we notice how quiet and cool it was in the garden. Now we are surrounded again by the noise of the traffic and scorched by the sun. We walk back into the direction of our hotel, but halfway we take a break in another four-star hotel to have a drink. During the hottest hours of the day (12 to 16) we drink about a liter an hour (coffee, tea and soft drinks), to satisfy our thirst.
Scooter on the streetA scooter in the middle of the street? Yes, the driver met an aquaintance so he parked his scooter on the spot. The traffic just drives around it.
After a rest in our hotelroom we start our evening routine: we walk a bit through Gueliz, we sit down at a bar along the busy Mohammed V boulevard to watch the people and the traffic, have dinner at Charly's Cabana where we are now are received with enthousiasm the moment we enter and then we move on to the next bar and watch the nonstop disarray of the road traffic.
We solve one puzzle: all the time young men are walking to and fro, tossing coins in their hand. Our first theory is that people can chance paper money for coins, but finally we find out that they sell cigarettes. Not packages, but just one or two. They buy cartons with cigarettes, then sell them separate with a small profit. For hours we have fun watching the people and guessing where they are going, why they all are in such a hurry and what their motives could be for their behaviour. A study of another culture which is very relaxing.


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