"Oh My God it's Barbie/Britney/Shakira"

Trip Start Apr 16, 2011
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Trip End Apr 23, 2011

Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wow, where to begin!

Our adventure started in Marrakesh on the 16th April. I arrived with Tasha Smith into the centre of Marrakesh at around 10pm at night. I don't think either of us were that prepared for what we encountered that night, and we especially didn't know how to react. Immediately, as two young British girls (Tasha with blonde hair to boot,) we were pretty much scared for our lives, due to the fact that the streets were becoming too small for the taxi to continue, therefore the taxi left us on the side of the road in the pitch black with just two Moroccan men who spoke no English, and a donkey kart for our luggage. Our walk towards the Riad was through the mini souqs lining the tiny streets with motorbikes constantly beeping and weaving in-between the hustle and bustle, so surprised there were no crashes! At this moment in time both of us were unaware at just how friendly the people of Morocco are, and so we pretty much blanked all of them as they tried to catch our attention with their berber scarves, cute little shoes and bags...  it wasn't until the morning that we realised just how wrong our judgements were...

As we were getting closer to our Riad, we were walking further and further away from the main street and the streets were getting narrower and narrower; I think both of us let out a sigh of relief as we finally arrived safe and sound at our Riad. Riad Eden- which was beautiful. Beyond beautiful. Traditional Riad filled with plants, rose petals lining the floor, low sofas and lit only by candle light- serene, so peaceful. As soon as the owner had finished welcoming us, we were off. Running up and down the ceramic tiled stairs to explore the Riad, and that is when we found the rooftop sun loungers where it overlooks the surroundings- outstanding beauty. 

Our first day in Marrakesh started immediately as we ventured out of our Riad, and walked the streets, again lined with mini souqs, to Djemma el Fna square, which was incredible! It was today we realised that the Moroccans, when talking to us, or as we previously thought, pestering us, actually only ever wanted to welcome us to their country, and this was done by shaking our hand then touching their heart. Friendly, and so touching. Of course they wanted to entice us into their shop, but they meant no harm and their priority was to welcome us. Unlike my first impression, that they were market sellers only wanting to pester us, I stand by the belief today, that they are some of the friendliest people I have ever come across.

As soon as we had taken our first picture of the Square, we showed some interest (obviously) in the monkeys and snakes that were situated all over the square, and then almost instantly there were two plonked onto my arms. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm not the biggest fan of touching animals, and certainly wouldn't voluntarily have wild, diseased creatures on myself. The pictures shocked my sister at least, "YOU must've hated that?!" The truth is, it all happened so quickly, the mini adrenaline from the shock took over and I think Tasha and I just started nervously laughing a) at the situation, there were two monkeys on me, one starting to eat my hair b) these monkeys came with Moroccan non-English speaking men and c) what are we supposed to do, to walk away unharmed?! Whilst nervously laughing and taking innocent pictures of each other, it was obvious, from the Moroccan hats they were shaking in front of us, that we were going to have pay for these picture rights. It was our first day and so we obviously didn't have any loose change in which we could just throw in the hat and then run, so we pretty much had to just run away. Awkward. Lesson learnt for next time, always have some change of low value in our pockets. I say lesson learnt, it actually wasn't until maybe 10 minutes later, when I took a picture of the snake charmers discreetly and then immediately a Moroccan came running over to me, so I had to show him that I was deleting it... Right, lesson actually learnt. 

We spent the first day just exploring the Medina and its surroundings, walking past the long line of horses and carraiges which stank, the Koutoubia Mosque, and then we had our first lunch. Moroccan's traditional food are Tagine and Couscous, however I only ate these on our trip to the desert halfway through our week in Morocco. The freshly squeezed Orange Juice in the Djemma el-Fna was a particular favourite of mine, and there were multiple carts completely stacked with oranges to choose from.

Other things that filled the Djemaa el-Fna square were henna tattoo artists set up under umbrellas with Moroccan women desperately coming up to us and/or pleading for business, potion purveyors, "dentists", and of course the motorbikes, donkey carts and pedestrians.

One act that we noticed whilst having lunch on the balcony of a restaurant overlooking the square, was a male group in white half with instruments and the other half acting like an all male cheerleading squad with acrobats, back flips and just general dancing- very entertaining. Again, if you were caught watching, a member of the group would be out to you with their hat asking for some dirham.

We were able to spend all day on the surrounding streets of the Medina and we made our way back to the Djemaa el-Fna for dinner and the square completely changes and is filled with night food markets, complimented by the smoke and fire of the cooking. The evening entertainment of the square also changes and the storytellers come to spellbind the crowds with cultural legends told in Arabic. Tasha and I would always have a look at what the locals were crowding around, mostly dramatic storytellers- some with instruments- clearly wowing the crowd, quite annoying we couldn't understand, but good to watch. After travelling to Madrid, Spain in December where 3 of my friends had their purses stolen on the train, I felt 100% safer in the crowded square of Morocco than I did in a European Capital.

The next day, we started it the same way we did yesterday, with a breakfast on behalf of our Riad. When I say breakfast, I'm talking boiled eggs, traditional bread, cakes, oranges, cereal, yogurt and more. Great way to start the day. Today was one of the best days as we dived into the very depths of the Souqs, in which you can completely get lost in, both literally and figuratively speaking. Everyone should visit the Souqs of Marrakesh at least once in their lives, they are completely unique and a must for any traveller. Not only was it a great day out full of spending, but it was a cultural eye opener. They say you haven't really been to Marrakesh until you've gotten lost in these covered markets, and that is completely true. The way to do it, is to completely slow down and have a proper look around at the surroundings, it was almost moving when the rays of sunlight make their way through the roof to illuminate a Moroccan wood artist making true works of art with his bare feet. The Souqs had everything for sale, instruments, necklaces, shoes, carpets, rugs, clothes- albeit questionable clothes, lanterns etc. The Moroccans will immediately give you a nickname if you stop and pause infront of their shops, we were called Barbie, Shakira or Britney on so many occasions, and its completely innocent and important to engage in the banter because, what are the chances you'll be in Marrakesh, more importantly the Souqs anytime soon? 

One of the funniest moments of our trip was when a Moroccan man saw us from all the way across the square, came out to us, grabbed my hand and dragged us into his shop, all the time "charming" us... or so he thought. I had been hunting for a Moroccan shirt the entire trip, and so thought of this as my opportunity to get it for a good deal as, without being at all big headed, he definitely had a little crush for me... his marriage proposal confirmed it!! People who haven't been to Marrakesh, and are reading this, might instantly think "What a freak" or "What a pervert" however this was not on my mind at all, and this wasn't me being naive at all, this is them, this is the people of Morocco, they are friendly and only wish you well. After Tasha kindly declined his off of 5000 camels for me, we were able to get very good deals on a football shirt for myself, and a Moroccan Teapot for Tasha. This was, after claiming the price was too high, he said "Come on now skinny, don't be like Barbie" - absolute highlight of the trip. Oh, this reminds me, amongst his marriage proposal, he felt the need to explain to Tasha his reasoning behind his preference for me "Moroccan men like the bigger ladies"- charming.

This leads me on nicely to what should have been a rather traumatic experience, but instead was, once again, just filled with both genuine and nervous laughter. With hindsight, Tasha and I realise that we were being completely mugged off and, ultimately, violated, and should have, at least, immediately run away, or you know, thrown a punch or two. It all started when we innocently walked into a standard shop on the skirts of the Souqs, where we are shown a picture of Colin Firth in the exact same shop, then the Berber men insist on dressing us as Berber women "Oh yes, Berber women, Berber women, you be Berber women" and so we really didn't have much choice in the matter as they proceeded to dress us. At first, we were just laughing at how ridiculous we were going to look, and then things turned a little sinister as I realised just how close this particular man, and a particular part of his body, was getting to me, as he continued to dress me. This became more noticeable when he began to obviously thrust, probably to the same beat as his friend dressing Tasha. Things were confirmed when he went behind me to "dress me" ... flashbacks of creepy grinders with a hard-on... sorry parents, that's the only way to put it. I cautiously looked over to Tasha and her face said it all, we were being used, abused and violated... things became even clearer when they decided to switch and this man's face came way too close, and his hands became permanently at my waist or below, this was our cue to ditch the Berber gear and leave, something we should've done a good half hour before. Creepy. Creepy, yet hilarious. The night market was hit again, too good to ignore! Then we spent the rest of the night chilling on the rooftop to the distant sounds of the Djemaa el-Fna square.

Our final day before our adventure to the desert, was spent exploring the wider surrounds of the Medina and we purchased a tourist bus ticket in order to fit everything in cheaply! We visited beautiful areas of natural and cultural beauty, where we discovered our passion for taking black and white "artsy" photos of the scenic views before us. First to the Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Minaret, Jardin Majorelle, Nouvelle Ville, Menara Gardens, Badi Palace.

Our visit to Marrakesh was outstanding, so many memories that you'll only be able to create in Marrakesh, some hilarious moments and some truly touching and eye opening culture. Now time for our adventure to the Atlas Mountain, Draa Valley, Ouarzazate, Ait Ben Haddou and Zagora desert!!!
 
 

 
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Comments

Tasha Smith on

This blog is pure genius Kim, I love it so so much, im going to save it forever...seriously reading it has brought back the smells and everything! Very impressed :):)

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