The workshop was great. It was really nice to see some of my other FMO orientation colleagues. In addition, I met FMOs and local staff from neighboring countries, DC, and Charleston. I even got to meet my replacement (my position is bid on a year early for language training). I learned a lot and made some great contacts.
It's a quite nice city. Busy and hectic; historic and beautiful in many different ways. And, yes, the shopping. Not just in the souks and artist shops, but also in the gorgeous Carrefour supermarket. Oh the choices! A bag of snickers minis in Bamako is nearly $12; in Marrakesh, about $3. Oh yes, we'll take several bags, please.
My humble tips for Marrakesh: comfy shoes - you'll walk a lot. If you don't stay in a riad in the Medina (old town), then at least visit one or two for dinner. They're gorgeous. The Maison de la Photographie is very good and has a cafe on the roof. Visit the Ensemble Artisinale before you visit the souks - it's a good warm up if you're not used to non-stop hawking and bargaining. Palais de la Bahia and Saadian Tombs - yes. Musee Dar Si Said - maybe not (there were no exhibitions in the house when we visited but they failed to tell anyone that fact before taking the entrance fee). Jardin Majorelle and Yves Saint Laurent Museum, yes and yes.
If you buy in the souks, here's my advice on that. Before you go, know what you want and know what you're willing to pay. Remember, the first one to mention a number in a negotiation loses. I waited for the seller to give a first price and then usually countered my first price at 1/3 of that. Then the games began. "Oh, my friend, how could I feed my family on that", or "no, no, this is first quality, not like the other vendors", to "you must be Berber to propose that figure" (yes, that happened). Back and forth until you hear "what's your final final"? State it, then be prepared to walk. Worked nearly every time (I did walk once). Do you sometimes overpay? Sure. But it's the game and in the end you're getting something from Marrakesh that hopefully you'll enjoy for a while: a rug or carpet, lamp, blanket, etc. However, beware: most of the pashminas for sale looked exactly like those for sale in Istanbul, which makes me think they're actually made somewhere else.
Anyway, here are some photos from Marrakesh.
Food and Colors
Tiles and Patterns