push it back the other way
The next morning about 4:30 we gave up trying to sleep and decided to head to see what Marrakech looks like early in the morning. After making a lot of noise trying to unbar the door to the riad and waking up the desk clerk who was sleeping on a cot we proceeded out to walk around the medina. It was nice being able to look anywhere I wanted without having money demanded from me. Nobody was outside. The Koutoubia looked great in the dark. Finally about 8:00 we headed back to the riad for breakfast, which was very good. Then we decided to head up to the north side of the medina look at the souks and try to get lost to see if we could find our way back. I definitely succeeded in doing that and in the process got Elsie very upset with me.
In the morning
But we did see some interesting souks. Near Djemaa el Fna we found the apothecary souk where a friendly man tried to sell me some ginseng to make me "very big like those" pointing to some gourds hanging there. After comment that that would actually be a decrease :-) we moved on. After a while we found the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa which we weren't looking for but it was very pretty so we had a look.
I started up a conversation with a very friendly guy and he eventually suggested we go check out the tanneries. I had no desire to see the tanneries after all I'd read about them, but decided maybe it would be interesting. So Elsie and I decided to head the direction he pointed. The friendly man said he was going that way anyway so he would come along.
In front of the mederasa.
At this I hesitated but he laughed and said not to worry. He was a friend not a guide. So we started walking and he pointed out interesting things along the way. Many turns later my sense of direction was all screwed up and we finally came to a doorway occupied my a man our new friend started conversing with in Arabic. Before I knew it we were ushered into a building and into an unbelievably smelly tannery. Our friend disappeared, and the new man started telling us about the tannery. He gave us mint leaves to hold to our noses to make the smell bearable. The vats are filled with pigeon poop as I have read and that is what causes the smell.
This new man was not nearly as friendly as our friend was and suddenly we were in a leather shop with a new very high-pressure salesman.
Feel sorry for these guys
The only way out was back through the tannery. After buying something small we tried to leave. The tannery man chased us down and demanded 200dh for his services and to give to the tannery workers. By this time I was getting a bit angry and retorted with some smart comment. Then more Moroccans crowded around us and Elsie was a bit afraid. Suddenly our friend appeared out of nowhere and offered a friendly suggestion that we give the tannery guy some money. "The workers are poor and have families," he explained. I was very mad by then but I pulled out 20dh and gave to the tannery guy and we hurried away leaving them to divided it among themselves.
We were lost now but I guessed the general direction of the riad and after winding through the maze of the medina for a while we started seeing more and more tourists so we knew we were getting close to the square.
We got back to the riad finally, and I decided to ask the manager for a suggestion on how to get to Zagora
to do a camel trek. He said he had a trustworthy friend, and I told him I would talk to him later that day. Now we were off to see the El Badi Palace. Elsie wasn't wanting to go. She was mad at me for getting her in the situation early that day. So I reenacted some scenes from "Anchorman" on the way and soon she was laughing again. On the way we bought some drinks and some kids started tagging along to "guide us." We both like kids so we didn't mind. After we arrived I gave them some change and they wanted our half-gone drinks too so we gave them those as well.
From the terrace of Jnane Mogador
They didn't speak much French so there was not much communication, but Elsie kept telling them, "You are so stinking cute!" in English.
The El Badi Palace was very cool. It was huge. There were lots of storks that willingly posed for pictures. We met some other Americans and talked for a while before heading back. On the way back I thought my bargaining skills had improved enough to buy some souveneirs for the kids and I think I did pretty well.
I met the hotel manager's friend at the riad and paid 1400dh for a 2 day/1 night "excursion" including camels, supper, van ride, & night in berber tents in Zagora with stops in Ait Benedou and Ourazazate. It was a steal compared to some websites. The rest of the day we stayed close around the Djemaa el Fna.