Difficult to believe that this weekend happened.

Trip Start Jan 17, 2008
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9
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Trip End May 17, 2008


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Where I stayed
Somewhere we truly did not expect.

Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, February 4, 2008

As I sit here in my room, I am encountering trouble believing that this past weekend was a reality. We set out for Marrakech around 12:30 on Friday. The drive was gorgeous. We stopped in Casablanca to see the ocean, not a public beach but somewhere where they were doing some sort of development of homes. Coming in contact with two cows just hanging out seaside was a shock haha. The view was incredible. Marveling only a short time we got back on the road. Upon arriving in Marrakech we parked next to the mosque adjacent to the Jamal el fina and walked into the square. First and foremost we were concerned with finding sleeping quarters. This led to being rejected by two hotels who wanted too much money and refusal because of the lack of passports of our German friends. Karim and I decided we would try another and attempt to negotiate. The man behind the desk of the next place we tried did not have a huge problem with the passports but he did not have a room available to accommodate five of us. He went out on a limb and told us to follow him to a place where he believed we could stay. Karim and I began following this man to the old medina, through various alleys which had a very shady ambience, but hey, what isn't shady in Morocco? Karim and I constantly flashing glances of concern to each other. We came to a door which seemed like any other door, he called someone and knocked a few times. What could this guy have in store for us? A woman came to open the door. Stepping in we had to stifle our elatedness. A three story riad in the middle of Marrakech which belonged to a French family who was away in Europe. They showed us around, where we could sleep and what everything was in the house. We played off our intense enthusiasm of being able to stay in an authentic riad as to keep the price reasonably low because we were expecting something of an outrageous one. They originally told us six hundred Dhs per night. We thought that was per person. Nope. Cumulatively. We even went the extra step telling them we were students and all we needed was a place to sleep etc etc and got the price dropped again to five hundred per night. Now that is about ten or twelve dollars (USD) per person, per night to stay in their own private riad. This place was locked up tighter than the moroccan bank so it was assured we wouldn't get assassinated during the night. Keeping our avidity at a minimum, we struck a deal with the woman, she handed over the keys and we set out to get the others whom we left in the square while we negotiated. Mind you we told the others we would be back in about ten minutes. It took more than twenty just to show us around the riad. So of course when we returned the other guys thought we were kidnapped and all the other ridiculous notions. We were at a loss for words when we attempted to describe what we were able to snag for "sleeping quarters". Karim and I led the others through the winding streets, dodging motos every two seconds and they were just as apprehensive as we were. Once they walked in, it was the same reaction, utter speechlessness and disbelief. We are really staying...here? Oh yeah guys. We are. We got our rooms situated and Karim went down to speak with the woman. He inquired if she would be able to cook for us in the morning. Moroccan hospitality says yes of course. I think this woman truly liked us though because we were treated like first class kings while there. Apparently she stays there and does the same for the French family but we could all tell she enjoyed her new tenants exponentially more for one reason or another. After unpacking our things we set out into the Jamal to find sustenance. Walking through the dining carts in the center is not the best idea if you don't like being hassled. It seemed as soon as we stepped in, different vendors were literally tugging on our arms to go sit at their booth. After breaking their human grip we settled on the most convicted to have us sit. (They told us not to do this at orientation and to go to the ones who don't make an effort. Why? These guys are trying their hardest to show tourists how well they can make their food and such while they others sit and wait?) Our server was PUMPED that we sat at his booth. Taking pictures with us and such and making sure our every need was tended to. Everything was great and we left a nice tip. After leaving we indulged in the 3Dh glasses of some of the freshest, pulpy jus d'orange I've ever had. Amazing. We returned to our humble abode after eating and directly turned in. Cail, Patrick and I slept on the second floor and Andreas and Karim took the roof room. Waking up the first time at around six to the call to prayer I decided to take some more personal time devoted to sleep. I awoke again around nine thirty and decided to take a mini video tour of our place. We reveled in the sun rising over Marrakech while we awaited our breakfast. Looking down to the table we saw a colorful bowl of fruit and that in itself made me happy enough. After a few more moments the woman called us down. We walked down the stairs only to find the most delicious looking, later finding out tasting, traditional Moroccan breakfast I have had in this country. This woman was a phenomenal cook. We literally feasted until we could eat no more on fruit, meloui, freshly made donuts, the fluffiest pancakes ever, croissants, jus d'orange, Moroccan tayy a la menthe, coffee and I may have even left something out. Needless to say we took some time afterwards for ourselves to bask in the sun and digest. After we felt as though the blood of our bodies could reach our feet again enabling us to walk, we did just that. Before we left however, Karim asked the woman if she would mind making us dinner. She said she would be delighted. Ah, yet another thing to look forward to. We walked to the Jamal once again and during the day is when they do most of the tourist oriented activities. There were chimps on chains, drugged up cobras and snake charmers, tarot readings, music, stories being told and the like. I managed to take a video of some charmers from a distance as if you snap a single photo anywhere in close proximity they will demand money. Karim and Andreas had some snakes and chimps on them (needless to say they got shit all over their shirts) but they are some good pictures to have. After having our fill of people requesting money for putting snakes on us against our will, trying to put hats on us or merely stepping into our path clapping some iron instrument we decided to take a walk. We came upon a small garden with a plethora of orange trees and such. After seeing this we remembered that the Jardin Majorelle was here in Marrakech. A long treacherous walk was rewarded with stepping into this amazing garden, once owned by a Frenchman, for 30Dhs. The blue paint is actually a trademarked colour of which no business or anything can reproduce and use. Surrounded by bamboo, beautiful fountains and a superfluity of flora was a nice, relaxing change of atmosphere to say the least. After exploring the better half or all of the garden we decided to make our way back to the riad. The sun was becoming low in the sky so we thought it would be best to soak up the remaining rays of the day and watch the sun set behind the city. We stopped a few times along the way to buy dates and nuts to hold us over until dinner. Upon arrival she had prepared tea for us and we brought it upstairs. The sunset was nothing less than a fantasy almost, at least one of mine, come true. We all sat, sipped tea and orated on the subject of how none of us would have ever imagined, even two years ago, that we would be in this position. As the sun went down, we became surrounded in the auditory glory of another call to prayer. Since we were all conscious for this one we all listened intently as the entire city whirled with Allah hu akhbar and other prayers. It was truly a surreal moment. After the sun retired to light another side of the world, we look down to the table to find what? Candlelight, flowers surrounding the fountain and an a comportment that rivaled a thousand arabian nights. It was truly a Moroccan dream come true. We descend the stairs to find another stunning meal being brought out for us. Hot and fresh as, I believe, only this woman could procure haha. Olives, salad, couscous with vegetables and meat, kefta, frites, and boissons lined our table. We were so grateful for this woman we gave her extra money for cooking and told her in the best dareeja we could come up with that she was greatly appreciated. She honestly made our time in Marrakech extraordinary. Pat and Cail decided they would leave in the wee hours of the morning so Cail could get back to play futball. After dinner we walked around the medina looking at vendors and such. I purchased two scarves. Not seeing much else we were interested in we went back again to the riad. Apparently Karim requested ten beers for the five of us so low and behold they were waiting on a platter for us when we arrived. Taking them upstairs she helped us make a fire and left us to enjoy the Flags and conversation. After consumption of the flags we decided we were all too tired to try to stay awake any longer. With full bellies and richer minds we turned in. Cail and Pat woke up around four to catch the train to Meknes. The woman told us the previous night we should be out by ten or so, remembering that I woke Andreas and Karim. By the time we were all finished packing up we went downstairs to our last breakfast. Yet again, fantastic. In truth it has been the best Moroccan cuisine I have ingested since being in this country. The now three of us bid our goodbyes with endless shokrans which did no justice to the amount we were obliged. On the drive home we adjudicated to stop in Casablanca to see the Hassan II mosque. The second largest in the world after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, tallest minaret in the world, overlooking the ocean, lets just say that it was quite humbling standing next to. After marveling for quite some time, taking numerous pictures, we decided to top off this cultural excursion with what else but what i think is the only KFC in the country hahaha. This just cracks me up. Right next to the beach because our original intention was seeing the sun set at the sea when the colonel reared his ugly head. Dijaaj Kentuckii, how I hate you. You ruined all of the amazing, nutritious food I had been eating since leaving AUI. Oh well I guess one can only live out these dreams for so long.
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