Marrakech, Morocco: Day 1
I promise I will try and be faster at putting up these blog posts!
I have no idea where to start with the story that is our trip to Morocco- we went from one side of the country to the other, across desert, mountains and all the way to the sea. It was the most ambitious and adventurous thing I have ever done, and sometimes I wonder if we were crazy for attempting all of it. (I'm pretty sure we were.)
Caitlin and I took off from Barcelona mid-day on a short but eventful flight to Marrakech. There was a very emotional screaming woman that was turned away from getting on our plane. We have no clue why because she was screaming in Spanish, but we could clearly understand the FUCK YOU that she kept screaming across the terminal. Caitlin was seated next to a man that resembled a sweaty, modern day Gimli, who overflowed the seat and snored. I was next to a wealthy older couple, who looked like
Once we landed it was pretty much a non-stop adventure though. We had a driver through our riad that was waiting at the airport for us. I failed to get a picture, but he had a sign with my name on it, a first for me!
Our drive in was, for lack of a better description, terrifying. The roads are paved and marked well around Marrakech, however no one abides by any real rules that we could discern. In researching Morocco, I saw that they have poor road safety, and now I understand why. There were cars, motorcycles, bikes, huge tourist busses, pedestrians and the occasional donkey and cart all on the same major roads, and no one seemed to be following any sort of law besides stay on the road.
We were in a car for most of our transportation in Morocco and I can say it was probably the scariest part of the trip. I researched a lot about what could possibly go wrong while we were there, and was prepared for things to be potentially unnerving or go bad. But the rides we took to all of the various places, were probably the scariest moments of the trip. That being said though, we survived with only one moderate incident that I will get around to way later.
We stayed at Riad 107, which we found on Airbnb, it was small, cheap and accommodating, which suited us well. Caitlin and I checked in, complete with mint tea,a delicious and common hospitality gesture in Morocco. We were eager to explore the souks and made arrangements to have dinner back at the riad that night. Abdel, the manager offered to walk us out to the main plaza, and im glad he did. Our riad was set within the walls of the medina and was quite close to the souks, however the streets were a series of narrow, indistinguishable paths between buildings that eventually spilled you out into the market and square.
The souks are the market place of Morocco, where you barter for all kinds of exotic goods. As we started to wander our way through them, we found that as soon as we slowed down or touched any item the owner of the store would run to your side and begin asking questions or praising their goods. We were on a mission to find some flowy pants since we were advised to dress conservatively and in loose clothing. (This detail, though something I would still advise, was commonly ignored by a lot of western tourists.)
In the souks you pretty much loose all sense of direction, maps are relatively useless because most streets are not named and twist/turn/dead-end. A lot of the times you can work your way to the edges, and find a landmark or street that lets you place your location on a map. Though, I would be careful with that technique because we wandered a couple times into what felt like a very local street and were forced to turn around. But if you are in the thick of things too, follow the tourist groups—usually the higher quantity of tourists you see the closer to Jamaa El-Fna (the main square) you are. Throughout the day we could hear the call for prayers broadcasted across the square and into the souks. At sunset, Caitlin and I made our way back to the riad for dinner crossing Jamaa El-Fna as the prayers began.
I didn't really pull out my camera too much on our first excursion into the souks. I was a little bit nervous to see how people reacted to pictures being taken. I knew that I would be back the next day and could go back to get most pictures, and frankly I was overwhelmed. There is just so much to see in the souks, every space is covered with just about anything you could dream of. Half of the time I think Caitlin and I just walked in silence, with our eyes constantly scanning trying to take it all in.
We had a tasty dinner at the riad—a salad we had no clue of the contents, our first but definitely not our last tagine, and a lovely poached pear. We relaxed around the riad, reading and sipping mint tea since Morgan and Karly were set to get in that night. Both arrived safely, despite having to make the mildly unnerving journey in after nightfall.
And in Jamaa El-Fna, when we were buying orange juice I was unwillingly hennaed by Hannah. She said we were sisters and she would give me a gift, grabbed my arm and started to henna me even as I tried to pull away. She said it was a flower that would give me good sex, and asked me for 10 dirams. I reminded her she said it was a gift and I did not test to see if it did indeed give me good sex.