It finally happened. I went way too long without getting sick. I am grateful for that, but after traveling through multiple agrestic countries through differing climates, after eating a lot of weird stuff, I was always mentally prepared for the worst. Well now, on my way to Marrakech, my faint symptoms started to intensify. My stuffed up nose blocked any breathing through my nostrils and my held felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out. On the bright side, I didn’t feel the need to vomit which always plays a huge factor of whether I will stay in bed or go out and about. Anyhow, we caught a first-class train from Casa to Marrakech. We almost missed our train because the time in Morocco is weird but fortunately we realized the time difference and were placed in a cabin on the train with a few nice people. A couple who lives in Dubai and another couple from the States. After about four or five hours, we finally arrived to Marrakech!
Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco after Rabat, Fes, and Casablanca. Most travelers who visit Morocco almost always make their way to Marrakech because it’s the epicenter of cultural Morocco! Squares and medinas filled with markets, shops, restaurants, and attractions! Marrakech’s alleyways come alive during the day and deep into the night spilling out into one of the most famous squares in the world, Jemaa el-Fnaa. I booked a riad near the main square called Riad Hannah. A riad is essentially a Morrocan home or courtyard that’s been transformed into a hotel of sorts for guests to stay in. It’s unlike any hotel or hostel you will ever stay in; it’s a lot more traditional here. You actually do feel like you are guests in someone’s home!
As we exited the train station, we instinctively passed the taxi drivers who were waiting outside the station and went further along the avenue to find a cheaper ride. We couldn’t find any other taxis until a guy in a pick-up truck pulled up and said something to us in Arabic or French. Chris and I assumed he wanted to give us a lift. We didn’t see any harm in it so we took up his offer. The only problem was that there was only room for one of us in the front seat. The other person would have to sit in the bunk where the driver usually keeps his sheep. Chris volunteered to sit in the back. On the way to the riad, the driver kept pointing at my arm, particularly my skin color and he said to me “You are Moroccan!”. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that. In Casa, locals would speak to me in Arabic or French and when they saw that I spoke English, they would shake my hand and tell me I could pass for Moroccan. Pretty cool!
The driver dropped us off at the beginning of he medina’s alleyways and he pointed us in the direction, kind of. We made our way and we immediately noticed just how complex and busy the alley streets were! It was really neat! We didn’t know exactly where we were going though. A young guy, maybe a teenager saw us and took it upon himself to show us where our riad was. Turns out, it was just a few simple turns away. I said thanks to him and we went on our way. He stopped me and told me to give him money. I assume this was his “polite” way of asking for a tip. Okay fine. I pulled out a ten dirham coin out of my pocket and tried to hand it to him but he wouldn’t take it. “No” he said. “Give me 100 dirham.”
“100 dirham??” I said. He was out of his mind asking me for that much. “That’s too much!”
“100 dirhams” he persisted.
“All I have for you is 10 dirhams” I said to him. “No, 100” he replied. I began to walk away and told him that I don’t have it and continued to the front desk. He shouted and said to me “Okay I’ll take the 10.” I told him he should of took it when I offered it to him the first time instead of trying to rip me off. Beggars can’t be choosers after all. The locals who lived at the riad showed us our room for the next couple of nights. We relaxed for a bit and immediately made our way into the alleyways to explore some more. This area was like a maze and it was ridiculously easy to get lost if you weren’t paying attention.
Every shop we passed up, the owners would shout at us telling us to buy something from them. Chris and I had the mindset that we didn’t want to buy anything just yet, but wanted to explore a bit first before we pursued anything. There were litters of stray cats anywhere and everywhere! We had to be careful taking pictures because someone nearby would ask for money for the picture. To anyone planning on traveling here, just because they say to give them money for a photo, doesn’t mean you actually have to! Unless it’s a photo of the person, then it would be polite to.
We eventually found Jemaa el-Fnaa square where all of the alleyways led to. Here there were tons of markets, shops, and orange juice stalls. Within the square were snake charmers, monkey trainers, acrobats, spice dealers, horses, donkeys, and horrible magicians. The square was outlined with dozens upon dozens of classy restaurants and hotels. This is what I always imagined Morocco to be like and it felt a little unreal!
Immediately when we were walking around, a local came and put his monkey on Chris and I without our permission. We knew that if he did this, he would expect a tip. But it was hard to deny any monkey!
Our mission was to find traditional Moroccan cuisine. We found a restaurant across the square that had a great view of the whole plaza! I ordered couscous. I love couscous…or at least the couscous I eat back in Michigan. The couscous here was a lot more grainy and just different. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t the couscous made of pasta and parmesan cheese I’ve grown used to at home. Plus, I was still feeling under the weather so my appetite wasn’t quite with me. The soup I had…I couldn’t even tell you what kind of soup it was, but it was pretty good. I know there was rice and veggies in it but it had a taste of all it’s own.
I started to feel worse than I did earlier so we went back to our riad. My nose was so blocked up, it was hard to breathe and my head felt like it was preparing to erupt. I needed to rest because Chris and I planned on dressing up like the locals the next day and getting silly out in the town!