Intensive Marrakech

Arriving at the airport, I was to have someone come meet me from the riad I was staying at. After customs is a group of people just waiting and holding signs of people they’re waiting for. My name nor the name of the road ever showed up and I went to information to call and see what happened. Apparently there had been a mixup on my flight number and they thought I was coming later.

The guy showed up quickly after and during my wait I continued talking to the young girl at the desk. She was really good in English and had even been to Chicago.

Finally a tall skinny Moroccan man showed up and took me to a really nice SUV where we started our drive into town.

The desert nation of morocco has a red tinge to everything it seems. The sun was starting to set which heightened the coloring of the sand and dirt if the sides of the road. Palm trees stood still in the background as cars and people on motos filled the streets as we came closer to the old town.

This town too had a wall that surrounded it’s perimeter and as we drove through the Arab style gate, the type that curves to a point, we were in the medina.

Finally I was let out at a dead end where another tall skinny Moroccan man greeted me and introduced himself as youssef. Youssef had big features and a gaunt face, but very kind and welcoming

I followed him down and alley that literally was two people wide, and lined by tall buildings. It made a corridor of what you would see in the movies where after every turn, you’d see a door shut or a scurry of a foot just passing the next corner. While it was very safe, the whole prejudice of these environments did have me a little on edge–more so just heightened awareness of surroundings rather.

After about 9 turns we arrived at Riad Chalymar which as riads go, they had a nice open foyer all the way to the top with a foot pool in the middle. It was blue and tiled and offered a fresh coolness to the air after having walked just for a few minutes in the piercing sun earlier.

They showed me to my room and I had a beautiful big bed, nice private shower and toilet and no windows which made the room peacefully dark. I was excited for a good nights sleep to go exploring the next day, but first up was getting dinner.

After a quick refreshing shower I was out to explore the square and surrounding souks. I found an easy dinner of rotisserie chicken that was so so, and then continued on to the main square that opens to the grab souk behind.

Immediately the sea of people, the flutelike snake charming music, clam morning of bangles, drums, hawkers selling their goods , conversations in French Arabic Spanish English all around. It was intense. Then enter into the souks where you found store after store of crafts from all over morrocco. Masks, tanjines, jewelry, paintings, lanterns, silver work and almost anything imagine able was available.

After a couple hours exploring here I made my way back to the riad to recoup.

The next morning. I went down to the palaces Bahia and X. Things aren’t so well labeled in English so while I saw some fascinating places wasn’t entirely too sure as to what I was seeing.

I then had a magnificent lunch at kasbeh cafe and had a great brochette with chicken and meat with hummus. During lunch, I met a great English couple that we enjoyed conversation together so much that we continued the afternoon together to see the tombs saddiens. After this we went home to nap and recoup from the exhausting heat.

That evening I went back to the square to check out the souks again. I ate at a restaurant overlooking the marketplace and had another decent meal with a stunning view. Facing one of the mosques, a call to prayer happened which instantly reminds you as to what part of the world you’re in.

After dinner I then explored the souks more to get an idea of the things that I would be ready to buy at the end of the trip.

The next day I went out to the spice market and then met the English couple again for lunch. We went back to the main square and had lunch at a different terrace. Afterwards they left to go to essiueria, and I continued to stay another day in Marrakech. That afternoon I went to madersa Ben youssef which was a university for studying the Koran. It was interesting to see the prison like cells that would be used for prayer and studying and the architecture was absolutely incredible.

After the university I looked at some rug shops and then made my way back to make my plan for the next few days. I decided to stay with my easier plan rather than venture into the dessert as it’s August and if Marrakech is hot, I wasn’t too stoked about being in the desert. I also arranged for the excursion to the Atlas Mountains the next day.

The tour to the mountains was a bit touristy and cheesy but was refreshing to get out of the heat if the city. We took a van with about 15 of us and stopped at the obligatory spice market where a ‘spice technician’ as I call him (because he wore a lab coat when yelling us about all the different spices) let us smell and taste all these different things. We then went to the mountain where we spent the next few hours climbing what was supposed to be an easy hike, quite a treacherous climb up the hill. While the mountain itself didn’t prove to be too intimidating, the sea of people kids and tourists all trying to funnel through is what was scary.

Women in their full Muslim clothing were trying to climb up this thing–was quite funny to see.

The mountains were really beautiful and the waterfalls were nice too. We then finished our descent down back to the valley where we had a tourist lunch. Everything is quite similar with the restaurants so it does get old.

What made the trip so fun is meeting the pair of Canadians from the first minute if being dropped off at the meeting point and we quickly became friends. We spent the whole afternoon together and enjoyed each other’s stories.

After getting back to Marrakech I hurried to get dinner quickly so I could find a share taxi to my next destination: Safi.

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