John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Monday 24 March 2014

[Sunday 23 March 2014]

Opera Plaza, Marrakesh

Day 83 Numbers 32; John 14
Today we will see Marrakesh from another angle, visiting one of its beautiful gardens: the Majorelle Garden, now run by the estate of Yves Saint-Laurent. We will also pass through the Palmery Oasis, just outside the city gates. The afternoon is at leisure.

Janet got up ca.7.20am.… I used the bathroom after she vacated it. We went down for breakfast ca.8.15am, which gave us sufficient time to be ready to assemble on the coach for 9.00am departure. It was hot and sunny.

08:59:00 Our hotel, seen from the coach

09:07:58 Much traffic at the junction of Avenue Mohammed VI and Avenue Hassan II

First stop was the “the Majorelle Garden, now run by the estate of Yves Saint-Laurent”.

09:23:08 Majorelle Garden: Tall, green bamboos

09:23:56 Majorelle Garden: Plan of the estate

09:25:04 Majorelle Garden: Mr. Blackbird helping himself to the abundant nesting material

09:27:00 Majorelle Garden: “The special shade of bold cobalt blue which [Louis Majorelle (b.1859–d.1926)] used extensively in the garden and its buildings is named after him, bleu Majorelle — Majorelle Blue” (Wikipedia).

09:29:10 Majorelle Garden

09:30:14 Majorelle Garden: Green bamboo (left of path); white bamboo (right of path)

09:33:04 Majorelle Garden: Memorial to Ives Saint Laurent

09:34:06 Majorelle Garden

09:35:10 Majorelle Garden

09:39:54 Majorelle Garden

09:40:44 Majorelle Garden

09:41:06 Majorelle Garden

09:42:14 Majorelle Garden

09:43:14 Majorelle Garden

09:47:52 Majorelle Garden

09:48:30 Majorelle Garden

09:48:30 — detail

09:49:50 Majorelle Garden: cactus collection

09:50:10 Majorelle Garden: cactus collection

09:50:36 Majorelle Garden: cactus collection

09:51:18 Majorelle Garden

Then we went through the extensive palm groves, the “Palmeraie”, passing one of the three Marrakesh golf courses. Described as an “oasis”, this was vastly more than my concept of a pool or small lake surrounded by a ring of palm trees; it was a huge 130,000 hectares (over 300,000 acres). We stopped at a place that gave camel rides (a couple of the camels had suckling calves) and a few of our party availed themselves of the opportunity.

10:47:52 Camel rides in the Palmeraie

10:53:52 Camel rides in the Palmeraie

11:07:48 Camel rides in the Palmeraie


Finally, we visited the Bahia Palace, with the now-familiar ornate cedar ceilings, carved plasterwork and mosaics much in evidence.

11:51:52 Entering the Bahia Palace

11:55:36 Bahia Palace

11:55:46 Bahia Palace

12:00:16 Bahia Palace

12:01:30 Bahia Palace

12:02:30 Bahia Palace

12:03:40 Bahia Palace

12:03:54 Bahia Palace

12:04:48 Bahia Palace

12:11:34 Bahia Palace

12:13:14 Bahia Palace

12:20:06 Bahia Palace

12:20:50 Bahia Palace

12:21:22 Bahia Palace

12:22:40 Bahia Palace

12:27:36 Bahia Palace

12:32:24 Bahia Palace


Then we were taken back to the hotel. Christine told us that although we should vacate our room by midday tomorrow, we could pay 300 dirhams to keep it till 5pm; we should ask at reception this afternoon or evening. We had enough dirhams left to give Abdul the driver a tip as we left the coach, but ascertained that El Hassani would stay long enough in the hotel lobby for us to go to an ATM and get a further 1000 dirhams, out of which we gave him (I can’t remember how much). Christine wasn’t a problem because we could pay her in sterling. Before we went to the ATM Janet went to reception about keeping our room, but was told to ask again tomorrow. Copied photos from the camera to the WD Elements HDD (13:19–13:21) and started editing them (13:23–13:44). We set out and found a place a little way down Avenue Hassan II where there were some people standing around, and figured they might be waiting for a bus. When a bus came, they did indeed get on it, and so did we. We didn’t recognise where we were, exactly — we passed medina walls forgotten from previous trips into town — but resisted the temptation to get off the bus before it stopped at the small park near Jemaa El Fna.

14:27:02 On the №10 bus to near Jemaa El Fna

14:37:42 The bus

Just round the corner were the calèches lined up; we thought first to go to the head of the queue, but one of the drivers nearby offered his services. He said 400 dirhams, so it looked as though we’d be disappointed. “I’ve only got 300,” I said — true: because that was the split of the notes that I was carrying in my wallet — and he agreed to take us for that. Janet asked for the canopy to be drawn over us because of the fierce sun: wise, but it restricted my view for photos. I took a few photos, but mostly I had the camera set to “video”: I made 70 movie-clips in all. “It lasted an hour,” Janet wrote, “and was worth every penny. We were taken to places we didn’t know about and wouldn’t have seen… We also saw ‘Mamounia’, a very posh hotel — so now we know what the word means, so to speak [in the Paul and Linda McCartney song ‘Mamunia’], and where Macca got it from. The sights were extremely diverse: from the very humble to the very opulent. At one point the driver stopped, picked some orange blossom, and gave that to me. When it was over we paid and thanked the driver, and I told him it was ‘Magnifique!’”

14:42:56 Calèche ride

14:43:26 Calèche ride

14:44:48 Calèche ride

14:46:00 Calèche ride: Koutoubia Mosque

14:50:46 Calèche ride: movie

15:17:22 Calèche ride: Koutoubia Mosque

I fancied a beer, but none of the cafés around Jemaa El Fna nor on the street off there sold alcohol. We chose one of the latter and I had a Fanta and Janet a diet cola. On the way back for the bus Janet bought more water and Coke Light from the shop we visited yesterday. There were small tagines being sold at a small stall near there for 10 dirhams so we selected one as a souvenir. There was some confusion on the bus we boarded; the driver seemed to say that he wasn’t going via our destination, and pointed to the inspector under the bus shelter. So we got off and asked him, and he sent us back onto the same bus.[i]

[i] Cf. yesterday, footnote. Perhaps I was still asking for “Opéra” not “Théâtre Royal”.

17:05:56 On the №14 bus back to the hotel

On the outward journey there’d only been Avenue Mohammed VI to cross; now we had to brave extremely busy traffic to cross both Avenue Hassan II and Avenue Mohammed VI. We just stuck close to the local people crossing and moved when they moved.… Transferred photos and video-clips (all 70 of them!) from the camera to the WD Elements HDD (17:46–18:03) and started assembling the latter using Windows Movie Maker (from 18:06). Broke off when, as Janet wrote, “at 7.20pm we went down for dinner. It was a good spread (the food has been good at this hotel, unlike the one in Fez).[ii] I had a few nibbles before my main, and [John] had a good plateful, thank goodness (he’d had no lunch), with [a] half bottle [of] Moroccan red wine. Just after we’d started our main, Christine came and told us there was a problem with rooms after 12 noon. [The rooms were needed for a new booking tomorrow, and there were] only four available.[iii] So I went straight to reception (leaving my meal) to see what I could do. After all, we must have been the first ones to request a room so we should get one. I was asked to return in 10 minutes, so went back to the restaurant to finish my meal. I finished (at my leisure — I enjoyed the food) then went back to reception. Eventually, I was told we could have one but to pay tomorrow. [I] didn’t care for that. [I] wanted to do it now so it was a done deal. I returned to the restaurant to tell [John] it was sorted and we decided to keep quiet about it,[iv] although I didn’t feel bad about it. We must have been the first to ask. We finished our meal then went to reception and I insisted we pay now. [John] went to our room for my [debit] card[v] and I paid 300 dirhams. Sorted!… We returned to our room…” — where I resumed adding movie clips. The saving of the resultant movie (to 23:36) was taking a very long time, so I continued editing the still photos from this afternoon and from this morning (21:22–23:55). Transferred files to the tablet computer. When I watched bits of the movie on that, it started off OK — e.g. it started it with still photos with the sound from a couple of the movie clips — but when I came to a still photo later and then at the end, the sound I’d inserted from movie clips disappeared. Janet had gone to bed ca.10pm.

[ii] This is in contrast to my opinion, yesterday.
[iii] I don’t recall anything about there being even four available; the impression that I had was that late check-out rooms had been thought yesterday to be available, but now were being declared not to be because they were needed for new guests; there would now be only a couple of “courtesy” rooms for people to “wash and brush up” in.
[iv] We decided to keep quiet about it: We didn’t tell Christine lest she think we “went behind her back”. We didn’t tell any others, because we didn’t want to be the cause of a riot of people also wanting extended-stay rooms.
[v] I got Janet’s card because I couldn’t remember the PIN for mine without looking it up in a password-protected document on the computer.

[Tuesday 25 March 2014]

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