Marrakech, Morocco!

Trip Start Jan 03, 2009
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Trip End Jun 18, 2009


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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This weekend I went to Africa! More specifically, I went to Marrakech, Morocco. It took forever to get there because we didn't plan very well and we tried to save money by going to airports that were kind of out of the way. We ended up taking a train for two hours to Marseille where we took an 8.50 euro bus to the airport. We slept in the airport because our flight was at 6:30 in the morning. Our flight to Fez was about 2 hours long but with the time change, we got into Fez at 7:05am. Then we took a rickety old bus to the train station. We bought a ticket to Marrakech. We walked around Fez for about two hours while we waited for the next train.

Fez is a larger town in Morocco, even the king was there in his palace that no one is allowed on the grounds to. None of the Moroccans even know what it looks like inside the walls. There were a bunch of guards around and they all had different uniforms because they were from all over the country. We tried to find the old town and obviously looked like lost tourists so a "false guide" led us through the streets of the old town and showed us different shops and good views of the gardens. They are called false guides because they are not sanctioned by the government to give tours but do it anyways to get tips from the tourists.

The train ride from Fez to Marrakech was 7 hours long, hot, sweaty and crowded. At this point, I was asking myself why we even bothered to come to this place. THEN, we arrived in Marrakech. We were picked up at the train station by a driver from our hotel and he brought us straight to the hotel.

It turns out there was a problem with the reservations and they had double booked our room. This was a problem because the hotel was actually a riad which is small Moroccan hotel that only hold about 15 people. Instead, the incredibly nice manager, Mustapha, arranged for us to stay in another riad just down the street for the same price for one night. It turns out this other riad was even nicer and no one else was staying there, we had the place all to ourselves! Even my friend, Niall from Scotland, who didn't have a hotel reservation got to stay with us and even got his own room with a huge bed and bathroom.

That night we wandered to the square which we were totally not ready for. We had no idea what to expect. It was a huge square with tons of people, food, stores, lights, smells and colors. It was amazing. I have never been to such a different place from where I live. We got dinner at one of the outside stalls that has picnic tables and they make the food right in front of you. We had chicken and couscous and the traditional Moroccan bread. All of the stalls look the same and have the same food for the same price so the waiters walk around and try to convince you to come to their stall. We practically got in a bidding war when they all started yelling out the number of their stall. Basically, the waiters with the most personality win and we chose Ajil, who we kept on coming back to the rest of the weekend because his dad owned the stall and they treated us very well.

After dinner we walked around all the stores called souks and bartered with the store owners for some really great souvenirs. Everyone that we met was incredibly nice, like the nicest people I have ever met. All of the store owners want you to, of course, come into their store and buy something but they always ask you where you are from and your name and then they tell the girls how many camels you are worth! I got five thousand camels a couple of times! They also commented that Niall had four wives. One jewelry store owner asked him if he could trade his jewelry store for me as his wife. It was all in good fun and I've never laughed so much.

My friend Lina is half Indian and she looks very Moroccan. All of the people there said that she looks like one of their saint's daughters, Fatima. She is famous for the hand that they have on a lot of jewelry that is good luck. Now Lina's nickname is Fatima.

Luckily, all of the Moroccan people learn French in school when they are little. They mainly speak Arabic to each other but because the town is very touristy, everyone also speaks pretty good English. The Moroccan government is trying to keep some towns like Marrakech like they used to be with all of the riads, old buildings and few modern things for tourist reasons.

We stayed in the medina, or the old part of town where a lot of poor people live, for most of the time because it is actually the safest part of town with undercover officers and lots of tourists. The only safety things I worried about was pickpockets, I felt very safe there.

Another important part of Moroccan culture is their religion. The Muslim religion does not allow its followers to drink alcohol and often the women are covered because their husbands would like them to. Morocco is the most modern and flexible Muslim country in the world, so you also see women wearing western clothing, some people drink and not everyone goes to Mosque. As for our clothing, we tried to keep our shoulders covered and wore skirts to the knee, not because we had to, but because we got less attention if we did.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast on the roof of our first riad of coffee, the sweetest fresh-squeezed orange juice I've ever had, hard-boiled eggs, bread, jam, butter, cheese. It was amazing sitting in the sun and relaxing. Then Mustapha had arranged for a driver to pick us up for the riad and take us up into the mountains where we took tons of pictures on the side of the road with the pretty mountains in the distance. We stopped at a place where women make almond oil and marmelade from scratch and a real berber (moroccan) house where people actually lived (they were eating lunch as we toured their house, weird).

Then we stopped on the side of the road to ride camels! My camels name was Fatima, like Lina and the other one was Maria. We rode around the wilderness for about 30 minutes and it was really fun! I kept petting the camel behind me and everyone thought I was weird because they are kind of gross.

Then we went to the Ourika waterfalls. We had to hike for about 30 minutes just to get to the waterfall and we had a 12 year old guide showing us the way. After we saw the first one, he asked if we wanted to see more and of course we said yes, but we didn't know we pretty much had to climb a 90 degree rock cliff to get there. We made it and it was beautiful.

That night we had dinner in the square again with our waiter friends and shopped more in the stores. I also got a henna tattoo that I probably paid too much for because she told me just give me what you want. I gave her the equivalent of 20 euros because I didn't have any change and she wouldn't give me any so she gave me a "present" by giving me another henna on my leg.

The next morning we had another wonderful breakfast and I decided to lay on the roof to get some sun. Even though I wore 50 spf and reapplied about 4 times in 2 hours, I still got burnt. I kind of asked for it because I haven't been in the sun since last summer and I am very white. I mean, its Africa, what was I thinking?!

That night we had dinner in the square and shopped even more to get rid of all the money we had so that we didn't have to exchange it. We left on a night bus that took 10 hours from Marrakech to Fez. It sounds awful but it was much better than the train because it was a coach bus and we all had our own rows. I slept most of the time even though we were pretty much on country roads (very bumpy and windy). I would have been completely comfortable if I wasn't burnt.

Basically, I loved Morocco and I might go back with Ross in a couple of weeks!
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Comments

steven.jane
steven.jane on

Great time!
What a wonderful adventure!!

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