marrakech

Jardin Majorelle: A Moroccan Garden Oasis in Marrakech

What exactly is Majorelle Blue? What does Yves Saint Laurent have to do with the Majorelle Garden? And what’s this about a new Musée Yves Saint Laurent?

Escape the chaos of the medina for a calming visit to le Jardin Majorelle 

Escape the chaos of the medina for a calming visit to le Jardin Majorelle 

Marrakech, Morocco is famous for many things: thick, fortified ramparts of beaten red clay, the towering minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque and the vast open square Djemaa el-Fna with its network of narrow, winding market-filled alleys known as souks. Oh, and “Berber whiskey”: hot, sweet mint tea served in small glasses.

Duke and Vanessa in the Majorelle Gardens

Duke and Vanessa in the Majorelle Gardens

On our last full day in Marrakech, Wally, Vanessa and I walked from the medina to the Nouvelle Ville — French for New City. Our plan was to visit the Jardin Majorelle and to purchase a new memory card for our digital camera. We hoped to retrieve the images from our corrupted memory card, which had stopped working when we arrived in the Sahara, further proof that jinns exist.

We found a camera store, and Wally conversed with the shopkeeper in French, who took the card and inserted it into a reader. He looked up at us, shook his head and said, "C’est grillé.”

“I think that means it’s toast,” Wally said, sadly.

Towering palms seen through an archway

Towering palms seen through an archway

We went on with our day, happy to at least have a new memory card to start taking more pictures. As the three of us made our way around the walled enclosure surrounding the Jardin Majorelle, we became a bit concerned it wouldn’t be open. Our guide from our desert trek, Barack, had told us that the most important prayers of the week are those at noon on Friday, and because of this, Muslim cities essentially close from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We were in luck, though — the garden was open.

We entered the garden through a weathered wooden door, and although there were many people visiting that morning, I was struck by its serenity. The pebbled garden path led through a dense cluster of bamboo. Sadly, countless visitors have left their mark by carving their initials into the shafts of bamboo.

Visitors past have left their mark in the bamboo section of the garden

Visitors past have left their mark in the bamboo section of the garden

Wally loves the exquisite Moroccan detailing at the nearby villa 

Wally loves the exquisite Moroccan detailing at the nearby villa 

The villa houses a gift shop and Berber museum

The villa houses a gift shop and Berber museum

True Blue: The History of the Majorelle Garden

The garden’s creator was Jacques Majorelle, a French Orientalist painter, the son of furniture designer and manufacturer Louis Majorelle. On the advice of his physician, Majorelle the junior travelled to Morocco for the sake of his health, and was immediately captivated by the vibrant colors and quality of light.

He settled in Marrakech in 1917, and in 1923 purchased four acres of land bordering a palm grove outside the city’s ancient walled medina. Eventually, Majorelle purchased an adjacent plot, expanding the property to 10 acres.

In 1931, he commissioned architect Paul Sinoir to design a Cubist villa to serve as his studio. Majorelle painted the fountains, planters and atelier a specific shade of cobalt blue, now appropriately named bleu Majorelle.

This striking cobalt is known as Majorelle blue

This striking cobalt is known as Majorelle blue

Around his new dwelling, Majorelle, a passionate amateur botanist, cultivated the gardens, which he opened to the public in 1947 to help offset their costly maintenance. After Majorelle’s death in 1962, the gardens remained open but gradually fell into a state of disrepair, lacking the care necessary to maintain them.

The designer Yves Saint Laurent saved the garden from disrepair

The designer Yves Saint Laurent saved the garden from disrepair

Yves Saint Laurent to the Rescue

Couturier Yves Saint Laurent acquired a second guesthouse, Dar Es Saada, in Marrakech in 1973 with his then-boyfriend Pierre Bergé. Arabic for the House of Happiness in Serenity, it was located near one of their favorite places, the Jardin Majorelle. When they learned seven years later that the gardens were slated for demolition to make way for a pool and bungalows. Saint Laurent and Bergé decided to purchase the 12-acre garden and villa. The couple enlisted American landscape architect Madison Cox to meticulously restore the gardens. According to Cox, Saint Laurent had the vision to have the flowerpots scattered throughout the garden painted in lemon yellow, sky blue and the famous bleu Majorelle. Saint Laurent and Bergé kept the garden open for visitors to enjoy, just as Majorelle did. 

(Bergé and Cox married in a private civil ceremony shortly before Bergé’s death in 2017. Cox is  also the director of the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, an organization that operates under the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.)

YSL’s genderbending aesthetic included le smoking, a feminized take on the tux

YSL’s genderbending aesthetic included le smoking, a feminized take on the tux

Musée Yves Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent often designed his collections while in Marrakech, inspired by the city’s colors and shapes. So it’s fitting, pun intended, that a museum dedicated to the influential designer’s life and legacy was built next to the Jardin Majorelle.

Although it wasn’t open when we visited, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, abbreviated as mYSLm, was spearheaded by Bergé and conceived by Studio KO architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty. The museum contains an extensive collection of couture garments, sketches, fashion photos and assorted objects showcasing YSL’s signature genderbending style from 1962 until his retirement in 2002.

The bamboo copse at Majorelle

The bamboo copse at Majorelle

Secret Garden

We passed through a pergola covered with bougainvillea and paused to look into a reflecting pool containing water lilies and a pair of turtles resting at its edge.

The garden is mostly green with periodic bursts of pink and red

The garden is mostly green with periodic bursts of pink and red

Drought-tolerant cacti make up the majority of plants at the Majorelle Garden

Drought-tolerant cacti make up the majority of plants at the Majorelle Garden

Following the garden path, we came upon a modest memorial dedicated to Saint Laurent. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were scattered amongst the garden he and Bergé so lovingly restored.

This decaying column serves as Saint Laurent’s memorial 

This decaying column serves as Saint Laurent’s memorial 

Wally and Vanessa enjoy the serenity of this oasis

Wally and Vanessa enjoy the serenity of this oasis

Artists paint the plantlife

Artists paint the plantlife

A peek over an artist’s shoulder

A peek over an artist’s shoulder

The magnificence of this garden reminded me of the exotic Generalife gardens located beside the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The arid landscape, originally almost devoid of vegetation, like the gardens of the Alhambra, were utterly transformed by Majorelle over a span of 40 years. From what I could identify, the garden includes agave, bamboo, cacti, cypress, datura, succulents and bougainvillea.

In the Cubist villa, there’s a gift shop and a museum dedicated to artifacts from the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa, the Berbers. Just don’t try to sneak in, or you might get kicked out, like Wally did.

Birds chirping, bamboo rustling in the breeze, and the sound of trickling fountains truly turn the garden into a welcome oasis from the hustle and bustle of the medina. –Duke

We recommend adding le Jardin Majorelle to your Marrakech itinerary

We recommend adding le Jardin Majorelle to your Marrakech itinerary

Jardin Majorelle
Rue Yves Saint Laurent

Admission: 30 dirham, or around $3.25


Spinach-filled phylo puffs at the neighboring Kaowa Café

Spinach-filled phylo puffs at the neighboring Kaowa Café

Nearby

Thirsty and hungry after visiting the gardens, we dined on the terrace of Kaowa Café, a snack and juice bar situated across the way. We ate delicious puffs filled with cheese and tried some of their signature juices.

20 Best Instagram Photos of 2016

You saw, you liked. Here are our best-rated travel photos on Instagram of last year.

 

Looking back, 2016 taught me the importance of staying connected to friends near and far. Seeking new perspectives to overcome hurdles and nurturing the labor of love Wally and I call the Not So Innocents Abroad.

Our hope is to share our experiences of other cities and other cultures. Whether exploring the unusual 161-year-old Dhundiraj Ganpati Mandir wooden Hindu temple in Baroda, India or asking our friends abroad to vocalize how they felt about the polarizing effects of the American election, we’re grateful for the role you’ve played and look forward to welcoming a year filled with optimism and new adventures.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

As the old adage goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Predicting what makes one image more engaging than another can be difficult to determine and often, like art, is simply subjective.

From amazing destinations that include Cambodia, France, India and Morocco, here’s a look back at our most popular Instagrams of last year.

Follow us on Instagram — and be a part of the action! –Duke

1. If Aix-en-Provence, France doesn’t charm you with its markets, food and architecture, there is no shortage of magnificent elaborately hand-carved entry doors to look at.

2. The beautiful Italianate courtyard outside the Darbar Hall at Laxmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara, India.

3. Deco Darling. Tucked away in the Fès Medina, Morocco, is the beautiful Palais Amani. Originally owned by a prominent Fassi family of merchants, the majority of the residence was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after a landslide badly damaged the 17th century property.

4. The Café St. Regis was one of our favorite spots to enjoy breakfast when we visited Paris, France.

5. The façade of Notre Dame in Paris has many interesting details, but perhaps none as unique as the sculpture in the left portal holding his head. The statue is of St. Denis, said to have picked his head up after being decapitated and walked six miles, while preaching a sermon of repentance the entire way. If it takes me 45 minutes on the treadmill at 6 miles per hour, he would have walked an hour plus!

6. Both covered and open-air, the green metal pavilions from the 1900s form the charming flower market located on Place Louis Lépine in Paris, between the Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle chapel.

7. A view of the magnificent Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Delhi, India, built by Daulat Khan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi in 1516. Chambers located behind the arch-shaped niches once provided respite from the heat and a place for patrons to socialize.

8. One of the splendid staircases with its elegant wrought-iron railing inside the 18th century Hotel d’Albertas mansion in Aix-en-Provence, France. Embellishments such as these were a sign of family wealth intended to call out the social status of the owner.

9. Neptune wielding a trident riding on a fish by sculptor André Massoule on the Beaux-Arts Pont Alexandre III in Paris. A marvel of 19th century engineering, this bridge consists of a 20-foot-high single-span steel arch.

10. Musical Chairs. I was awestruck by the hypnotic symmetry of the rows of empty ladder-back chairs awaiting the devout at Saint Suplice in Paris. The ethereal Catholic church, located in the 6th arrondissement, is the second largest in Paris and it was in some movie called The Da Vinci Code. 😜

11. The enormous grooved stump of lime mortar and rubble masonry are all that remains of the unfinished Alai Minar in Delhi. The minaret was intended to rival the Qutb Minar in both size and scale, but was never completed.

12. Part of the Right Bank, this busy square located in Montmartre, Paris is known for its portrait artists and painters. During the Belle Époque, at the beginning of the 20th century, many artists, including Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh resided and worked here.

13. Fez was founded in 859 CE. The origin of the name is unknown. Some scholars believe it comes from the old Berber name of the Middle Atlas Mountains, Fazaz. Other stories trace the name back to a tale of a golden axe that divided the river of Fez into two halves. In Arabic, a fez is an axe.

14. Built by sculptor Jean-Claude Rambot and situated in the heart of the Mazarin district, the Fountain of the Four Dolphins in Aix supports an obelisk topped with a pineapple. We spent an afternoon here with our sketchbooks pretending we were bohemian artistes.

15. The stunning Angkor Wat temple, the largest religious monument in the world, was built by Khmer king Suryavarman II in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s a symbolic representation of Mount Meru, the Mount Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. The complex has been in continuous use since it was built.

16. Benched. There is something beautiful in the patina of these benches in Aix Cathedral combined with the well-worn brick floor that has stood the test of time.

17. A Room With a View. Our grand suite at the Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur, India looked out onto the tranquil waters of Gaibsagar Lake, where the royal family’s private island temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva floats serenely.

18. Set in Stone. A white marble cenotaph lies at the center of Safdarjung’s tomb in Delhi.

19. Kittens and cats are a common sight among the streets of the Marrakech Medina in Morocco, indifferent to the activity around them. This little guy came to visit while we were sitting having coffee.

20. Louvre is in the air at Paris’ famous museum.

The Cats of Marrakech

What to do in Marrakech? Try cat-watching! Cherchez les chats. Cats and Islam have a long history.

 

Morocco is a cat lover's delight. They're everywhere, and they're well taken care of. 

Every day we saw shopkeepers and ticket takers at monuments save bits of their meals to put out for a stray cat. 

A woman locked up a cat until the poor creature starved to death. For this, she was tortured and “had to get into Hell.”

We had tons more pics of the cats of Marrakesh, but a djinni corrupted our memory card. So these are all just from our last day and a half in the city.

Like we said, there are cats everywhere. And most of them were sweet as can be. Click through the photos above, though, and you'll see the one mean kitty in Marrakech. 

FIND OUT: Why We Believe in Genies

 

Cats and Islam

Most people trace Muslims' fondness for felines back to the Prophet Mohammed. He had a cat named Muezza, who’s the star of a well-known story.

The call to prayer sounded, and Mohammed wanted to wear a particular robe — but Muezza was curled up asleep on one of its sleeves. Instead of disturbing the cat, the prophet cut the sleeve off of the robe.

Duke and I can certainly relate. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stayed on the couch longer than we planned, just so we don’t have to budge Bowzer. So far no clothing has had to be sacrificed.

The Prophet Mohammed stroked Muezza three times  — and ever since then, all cats have nine lives and the ability to always land on their feet.

“Islam teaches Muslims to treat cats well and that the cat is a creature to be cherished and loved. Mistreating a cat is regarded as a severe sin in Islam,” according to the Islamic Information Portal.

The hadith (a story shared orally before being written down) titled The Book of Virtue, Good Manners and Joining of the Ties of Relationship explains how important it is not to mistreat a cat.

In the story, a woman locks up a cat until the poor creature starves to death. For this, she was tortured and “had to get into Hell.”

Cats are loved, not only for their beauty, cleanliness and elegance, but for their practical purposes as well. Muslim scholars wrote odes to their cats because they protected their precious books from mice, according to the website Muslim Heritage.

As an added bonus, “it is believed that you will suffer no harm if you drink from the cat’s water, provided no impurities are seen in the cat’s mouth,” the Islamic Information Portal states. Bottoms up! –Wally

Top 6 Wellness Tourism Trips

Hiking and biking the Dolomites along the Italian and Austrian border

Hiking and biking the Dolomites along the Italian and Austrian border

Yoga on the Mexican beach, hikes to Machu Picchu, Pilates in Morocco — the best health tourism adventures.

 

You know the type. Their Facebook page is full of beautiful photos of fabulous trips. You’re simultaneously insanely jealous and giddy with excitement at the opportunity to live vicariously through your friend’s adventures.

Well, that’s Nancy.

I leave with a feeling of renewal and that I can take on all of my biggest dreams.

As I battled my jealousy of and happiness for her, I noticed a trend among Nancy’s trips: They all had some sort of wellness angle. She’d be doing yoga on a beach in Mexico or hiking across Europe or doing Pilates in Morocco.

I decided to get her take on wellness travel. Here are her top trips and advice. Namaste. –Wally

 

What draws you to wellness travel?

I cannot just sit on a beach. I always feel like I need to “earn the day.”

I love combining culture, physical activity, regional food and wine, like-minded people, spirituality and mindfulness into one trip. 

 

What trends have you seen in wellness travel lately?

Adding volunteerism to the experience. For example, in Marrakech, Morocco, we delivered school supplies to a local school and spent some time in the classroom. 

 

Most surprising thing you’ve discovered on a trip?

In Tulum, Mexico, I got a massage from a Mayan healer. These healers can pick up on energy in your body. He told me that the sciatic nerve area can represent “stalled advancement” and that I was experiencing this right now. He basically summed up a few key areas of my life at the time.

This experience motivated me to go after a new career opportunity at my company, which I successfully landed.

 

Nancy’s Top Wellness Travel Destinations 

Amansala in Tulum, Mexico offers runs along the beach and candlelit yoga

Amansala in Tulum, Mexico offers runs along the beach and candlelit yoga

1. Amansala Bikini Bootcamp, Tulum, Mexico

I go to Amansala every year for the last week of the year as a way to undo all of the debauchery from the holidays and to kick-start the New Year.

The setting is boho chic huts and palapas [open-sided shelters with thatched palm roofs] on a white sand beach with Caribbean blue water.

One of her favorite annual traditions: Nancy does yoga at sunset on New Year's Eve

One of her favorite annual traditions: Nancy does yoga at sunset on New Year's Eve

Guests have the option to make the week as active or as chill as they would like. Most choose active due to the wide variety of activities and high-caliber instructors.

The daily routine at Amansala includes morning beach walks or runs, yoga with beach views, cardio class (kickboxing, circuit training, etc.), dance class and/or sunset candlelit yoga.

Experiences such as cultural excursions, massages, a Mayan clay renewal ritual and tarot card readings are all offered at Amansala. You can also sweat out all of your toxins/sins at their Temezcal (Mayan sweat lodge) ceremony, led by an elder Mayan healer.

In between all of this, you can relax on the gorgeous white sand beach. The three golden Labs, who are pets of the property, might join you or try to rally you for a game of “fetch the coconut.”

The food is also healthy and tasty — they even have their own cookbook. 

Amansala combines the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of wellness, which is why I go back every year. I leave with a feeling of renewal and that I can take on all of my biggest dreams. This special place attracts like-minded people, so I have met several friends with whom I am still in touch. 

 

Hiking through the Dolomites mountain range, which straddle Italy and Austria

Hiking through the Dolomites mountain range, which straddle Italy and Austria

2. Backroads Breakaway Walking & Hiking Tour, the Dolomites, Italy

On this tour, you hike every day (four to six hours) in the spectacular setting of the Dolomites mountain range in-between Italy and Austria.

There’s amazing Italian and Austrian food. You might have apple strudel and beer at lunch and then pasta and red wine at dinner.

Nancy and her local guide, with the Cinque Torri in the Dolomites as a backdrop

Nancy and her local guide, with the Cinque Torri in the Dolomites as a backdrop

We hiked from one resort to the next over a seven-day period. We would stop in at ski huts along the way to refuel.

It was the perfect combination of outdoor activity, breathtaking scenery, culture — Italy and Austria! — amazing food and awe-inspiring boutique hotels. 

 

The amazing pool at the Escape to Shape resort in Marrakech, Morocco

The amazing pool at the Escape to Shape resort in Marrakech, Morocco

3. Escape to Shape, Marrakech, Morocco

This yoga and Pilates retreat was hosted at our own private amazing villa in Marrakech, located outside of the medina. Lodging, meals, cultural excursions, and yoga, Pilates and circuit training classes were all included.

This was a great combination of physical activity (about two to three hours per day) and cultural immersion.

Nancy in her favorite store in Marrakech

Nancy in her favorite store in Marrakech

Escape to Shape provided a very safe, fun and invigorating way to experience Marrakech. Erica Gragg, the owner, has been doing this for years, and she curates the perfect trip. She knows Marrakech like the back of her hand and showed us all of the hidden jewels and hot spots. She would open a door in the medina that you did not even know was there, and inside you would find four floors of amazing treasures.

Shopping is a must in Marrakech, and Erica is the perfect sherpa/stylist. Our group came away with beautiful rugs, caftans and home accents that we never would have found without Erica’s expert eye and relationships.

The yoga and Pilates classes allowed us to indulge without guilt in all of the amazing Moroccan cuisine.  

 

4. Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Their tagline is “Life in Balance.” Miraval offers hiking in the Sonoran Desert and Santa Catalina Mountains, a large variety of fitness classes, meditation, healthy, delicious food, mindfulness sessions, equine therapy and other outdoor adventure activities.

Their spa is beautiful. Relax by the pool during your downtime. 

I always come away feeling amazing after four to five days here. 

 

Snow Canyon State Park in Utah

Snow Canyon State Park in Utah

5. Red Mountain Resort, Ivins, Utah, USA

Red Mountain offers hiking in a gorgeous setting — literally in red rocks in Snow Canyon State Park, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

Hikes are guided, or you can go on your own — all different levels.

Nancy in Zion National Park, Utah

Nancy in Zion National Park, Utah

The setting is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

Fitness classes and outdoor activities keep you physically active. There are also great opportunities for personal discovery and mindfulness: intuitive energy reading, guided imagery, etc., as well as artistic pursuits, such as photography and pottery classes.  

 

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

6. Mountain Travel Sobek Machu Picchu Inn-to-Inn Express Trek, Peru

This was a seven-day lodge-to-lodge trek to Machu Picchu through a variety of terrain, scenery and elevation. 

It was a great combination of scenic hiking, excellent Peruvian food and wine, cultural exposure and great lodging.

Nancy at the peak of Machu Picchu

Nancy at the peak of Machu Picchu

8 Tips to Get the Best Deals at a Moroccan Souk

The souk in Marrakesh, Morocco is just off of the large square in the media, Jemaa el-Fnaa.

The souk in Marrakesh, Morocco is just off of the large square in the media, Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Bargaining and haggling are a time-honored tradition when shopping at markets. Just make sure you don’t get taken advantage of.

 

Duke and I are unabashed consumers. When we’re on vacation, we’ll hit the markets once or even twice a day if possible. So let’s just say we’ve had plenty of practice bargaining for the best price. I also play hardball (our guide on our trip to the Sahara, Barack, saw me in action and was so impressed, he dubbed me an honorary Berber).

Haggling for everything you buy (food aside) can be exhausting. But it’s part of the culture in Morocco, and vendors look forward to a lively contest of wills. Follow these steps, and chances are you’ll get a good deal when shopping the souks.

Our guide saw me in action and was so impressed, he dubbed me an honorary Berber.

 

1. Scope out the sitch. 

Start out with a reconnaissance mission. When you see something you’re interested in, ask how much it is, as casually as possible. Then make a mental note and move on. Quickly. 

You’ll often see similar items at other stalls, so it’s good to have perspective, to see if you’re getting ripped off.

That being said, if you see something you really want, snag it. You never know if you’ll find it again. Souks are labyrinthine, and there’s no guarantee you can retrace your steps another day. 

 

2. Speak French if you know it. 

Most vendors speak French as well as an impressive amount of English and phrases from Spanish and other languages. I’m not sure that all vendors assume Americans are rich and charge more — but it sure seemed that way. I definitely scored better deals when they couldn’t quite pin down my nationality. 

And don’t worry about being fluent in French. Remember, it’s their second language, too, so you can meet in the middle, skill-wise.

 

3. Be aggressive if need be. 

It’s not uncommon to be inside a narrow stall, looking around and then, when you turn to leave, find the merchant blocking your path. He might have something he’s shoving in your face, trying to excite your interest.

I found that there were times when I literally had to grab a vendor's shoulder and push him out of the way in order to leave.

Note that we traveled with our friend Vanessa, who said the men didn’t accost her in this way. So it might (hopefully) just be a “guy thing.”

 

4. Shop on Friday — despite what you’ve been told. 

Everyone told us the souk would be closed on Friday, that everyone’s at the mosque. Well, Duke and I couldn’t resist just seeing if anyone was open — and sure enough, in the Marrakech souk, we found that about a quarter of the stalls weren't closed. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle, the passageways were relatively quiet, and we scored some great deals, as shopkeeps knew business would be slow.

 

5. Use this formula. 

OK, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. How much should you pay? Here’s what I do: Think about what you’d pay at a store back home. Then divide that in half. You won’t be ripping anyone off, and you’ll be getting a great deal — which you deserve by eliminating the middleman. 

On our last day in Marrakech, we found a fertility doll from Cameroon, covered in beads and horn and metal bangles, that we simply had to have. It wouldn’t surprise me to a see a museum-quality handicraft from Africa like this for $70 back in the States. (Indeed, a Google search revealed prices upwards of $100.) So I divided $70 in two, and decided I’d like to end up at $35. 

 

6. Ignore their opening bid. 

In most places I’ve been, the shopkeeps start with a reasonable offer and you can end up with a decent price by meeting in the middle. Not so in Morocco. They’ll try to get as much out of you as possible. So don’t even listen to the first number they throw out there.

With the fertility doll, the young man started at $200. By this point, I knew better than to even pay attention. I countered with $20. Yes, that seems ridiculous, right? But if they’re being ridiculous, you can be ridiculous right back.

 

7. Give yourself some wiggle room. 

After you’ve figured out what you want to pay, go a bit lower. After all, you need to come up a bit, act as if you’re conceding, unable to escape the vendor’s wiliness. He wants to feel as if he’s won on some level. 

Our fertility doll vendor offered the equivalent of $45 and wouldn’t budge. 

 

8. Walk away. 

This is an especially successful tactic in Morocco. (Not so much in India, btw, where we said goodbye to many an item.) Even though we were just above what I wanted to pay for the doll, I shook my head and dragged a reluctant Duke away. 

“We could pay $45!” he pleaded. 

But I can be merciless. “We’ll go halfway down the block,” I told him. “And if he doesn’t chase after us, we’ll go back and get it for $45.”

We had gotten only 20 feet away before the young man chased after us, grabbing my arm. 

“What’s your final offer?”

I pretended to think about it. “We really don’t need it… $35 is my final offer.”

“OK. OK,” he caved. “You’re getting great deal.”

Yes. Yes, I was. –Wally

Travel to Marrakech, Morocco

The modern façade of the Marrakech Menara Airport casts gorgeous lace-like shadows

The modern façade of the Marrakech Menara Airport casts gorgeous lace-like shadows

Long flights on cheap airlines can be a "plane" in the ass — but the excitement you feel upon arrival makes it all worth while.

 

Our overnight flight from Chicago to Madrid, Spain wasn't terribly long. But like our previous trip on Air Iberia, it was a sleepless one.

This time, however, the woman hopped up on medication who spoke loud enough for the entire cabin to hear her was replaced by a group of boisterous, flash photo-snapping Spanish nuns.

I couldn’t believe it — we were in Africa!

One of the nuns had a confounding method of sleeping: She knelt on the floor facing her seat, a pillow set beneath her knees with her face pushed into the bottom of the seat.

Every now and then I glanced over a few aisles ahead, where our friend Vanessa was sitting. The guy sitting next to her was watching a strange soft-core porn movie on his laptop.

The layover in Barcelona was five hours, but our connecting gate to Marrakech was revealed a mere 30 minutes prior to departure. We were informed that our gate had been moved to the opposite end of the terminal. We ran from one end of the terminal to the other — only to be told our plane was actually leaving from where we had just come.

Once aboard, Wally, Vanessa and I collapsed in exhaustion into a brief bit of fitful sleep.

We awoke to a coy wee German boy named Otto, who was playing a game of peekaboo with us. He held a deflated white balloon, which he would dangle in front of us while we feigned being unable to catch it.

Eventually Wally grew bored with this ruse and caught hold of the balloon, and as it snapped back, Otto squealed excitedly, “Nein! Nein! Nein!”

Bienvenue à Morocco!

When we arrived at the Marrakech airport and exited the plane, a warm breeze washed over us. We were surrounded by clear blue skies and sun. I couldn’t believe it — we were in Africa! (Even if it was the most northwesterly part of Africa.)

We entered the faded pink stucco terminal from the tarmac. Inside, the ceiling was low and contained columns covered with beautiful zellij, brightly colored tiles with intricate geometric patterns.

We filled out our immigration forms and waited in line to have our passports approved and stamped.

A brief walk brought us into the modern expansion to the airport, where the terminal expands into a brilliant white canopy that soars overhead. The tendrils of arabesque-etched panels pierce the ceiling, casting a mix of light and shadow across the floor.

We could feel the excitement in the air as we picked up our bags and were met by our driver.

Moments later we were passing the ancient sun-baked ramparts of the medina — the original walled city, en route to our Moroccan adventure. –Duke