Marrakech Travel Blog› entry 8 of 12 › view all entries
It may be cliche, but as soon as I arrived in Marrakech, I wanted to start singing Aladdin songs. "One jump--ahead of the bread line...one swing, ahead of the sword...." I was in for some major culture shock. I had never been to Africa before, so I was very excited, if a little apprehensive.
Liz, Mary, and I flew from Paris to Casablanca and then over to Marrakech. We took a cab into the Old City where we were dropped off a couple "blocks" away from our riad. The streets were so small that the cab couldn't take us to the door! The riad owner, Peter, came out to meet us and walk us to his place.
The riad (Dar Zaman) was like a little paradise, with open ceilings, a homey dining room, snuggly beds, and a sunny rooftop terrace.
It's amazing to see these little kids running around the city as though they own it...if you do "hire" one (or three! they like to travel in groups) as your guide, you'll be amazed at how knowledgeable they are about the twisting alleys and confusing streets.
Haggling and shopping in the Souks is stressful (especially for me...I'm not much of a bargainer) but definitely part of the experience. You can always get a decent price, even if it takes walking away...but it's absolutely mandatory to bargain. They expect it. I bought a pair of sunglasses on my first day and DIDN'T bargain, and the shop owner looked at me like I was a prime idiot! It's quite beautiful to walk through the alleys with the sun streaming down between the wooden slats of the homemade roofs.
Most people spoke French and Arabic, so I was doing lots of translating for our group. Only the shop owners spoke English, and sometimes not even then! Liz wanted to see the old Jewish part of the city, so we went over there to check out the old Mosque...one of the only left in Marrakech. We also paid a visit to the cemetary...extremely old and quite moving. Another day we took a ride up to the Atlas Mountains to explore a Berber village and see a Kasbah. The road was very narrow and very steep. It was all I could do not to puke. Despite it being only one lane, large trucks, motorcycles, and cars would whiz past you in their hurry up or down.
The weather was beautiful...at night, if we ate dinner in the Square, we'd be able to watch the street performers and people selling their wares. There were snake charmers, henna artists, musicians, spices for sale, and all sorts of exciting and enticing knick-knacks. During the day, there are only a few vendors, but around 4pm more and more begin to set up their stands. By 7pm, the entire square is jam packed with people..it's one big party, every night! One night we ate dinner at the riad...a delicious three course meal cooked by the housemaid Fatima (who was sweet as pie).
On our last day, we went to a hammam for spa treatment that ripped off a layer of skin and rubbed us raw...it was worth it, and fairly cheap, but.
We flew back to Paris via Casablanca again...unfortunately we had a 7 hour layover! We met a handsome, friendly Australian boy who also had a long layover and we hung out with him in the airport. He worked on oil rigs, and had been so many places that the embossing on his passport had worn completely off. He told us about places like Saudi Arabia that very few people get to visit, and it passed the time nicely. We teased him about actually being a spy...he might have thought we were a little bit nuts, but waking up at 4am to catch a plane will do that to you!
I was happy to be back in Paris...but Marrakech was amazing. I'm so glad Liz thought to go there! She and Mary had one more half day in Paris til they flew back to the U.S...it was sad to see them go, but I had to rest up for my next visitor who was arriving in a week!