I know. I’m very, very behind on blogging. One weekend I was in Morocco, then I had a paper due and then it was off for a two week spring break to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland and then more papers and final exams!! Now its down to my last week in Paris and I haven’t even uploaded any pictures yet.
I had been dying to go to Morocco this whole year -cross off another continent, go to another French speaking country, experience a completely different culture- the list goes on and on. My biggest problem was finding someone to go with me, because while I felt safe travelling by myself, I did not feel comfortable going to Morocco by myself. Plenty of people wanted to go to Morocco, but plenty of these people’s parents did NOT want their kids to go to Morocco for some reason? But I finally found someone to go with and we headed out on a Thursday for a quick weekend trip to Marrakech, Morocco!
We decided to stay at an Airbnb since we found a listing for a young yoga instructor lending out a spare bedroom and we felt more comfortable staying there that at a hostel. We arrived in Marrakech in the evening and we headed out to the Place Djemaa El-Fna, a giant square right next to the souks where they have street food vendors set up everywhere with picnic tables. Might not have been the most sanitary of food, but my host mom recommended it and it certainly was an experience.
It took us forever to get our check at the end because the guys didn’t want us to leave until the other tables filled up so that it wouldn’t look empty!
After dinner we took a quick look around the souks and then headed back to our apartment for an early night.
The next morning we headed off to the souks and that was an adventure in itself. Obviously in Morocco everyone knows you are a tourist simply due to the color of your skin and on the way to the souks a man started walking alongside us and talking to us. I tried to politely brush him off, but he continued to talk to us and told us that there was a shortcut to the souks if we took this side street. Since we went to the souks last night it made sense to me that there could be a shortcut in the general indication he indicated, and the man was obviously watching us to see if we would take his advice, so we headed down the street he had pointed us in and he waved us goodbye.
Then a block later he showed back up.
At this moment we were both getting slightly uncomfortable, but the man was being very polite and started to guide us through some smaller streets. Thankfully, they were all full of pedestrians and other tourists so I didn’t feel threatened, but I wasn’t quite sure what the man wanted.
So we followed him, and we followed him, and we followed forever – it was definitely not a shortcut. Then we finally made it to the souks and he led us to his shop – which was a fancy furniture shop with closed doors and he insisted that we go inside to look around. My friend and I looked at each other then quickly said “No thanks!” and bolted.
By now we were good and lost in the souks, so I politely asked some Moroccan women how to get to the big mosque with the tower. Unfortunately, I think we were both thinking of different mosques and towers because they pointed us in the wrong direction, but they meant well! After sniffing a soap vendors wares politely for a few minutes, we were pointed back in the right direction.
So then we stopped at a jewelry stand and each bought a pair of earrings after some intense haggling. Then the merchant ceremoniously told us we were all friends and told us we could each have a little bracelet for free.
A little surprised, but not one to turn down a free gift we each picked out some simple bracelets and then the man asked us to come visit his sister’s spice shop. Neither of us being mildly interested in bringing spices back, we politely turned him down and then something like this happened:
Basically he insisted on taking us, and I figured that her shop was probably just around the corner, so why not?
So then he started walking fairly quickly, far back into the heart of the souks, in the wrong direction from the exit. And since he was walking so quickly and he wasn’t turning around to see if we were following him, when a motorcycle passed in front of us, we turned around and raced back far past his shop.
That was quite enough excitement in the souks for us for one day so we left the maze of shops and headed back into the square where we ate dinner last night and we were met with this lovely sight at least five separate times:
Just dozens of snakes and cobras out in the open. No big deal.
For lunch we headed over to Henna Cafe that I had heard about on trip advisor. It’s a cute little cafe that has lunch, Moroccan mint tea, and henna!
After lunch we headed over to the Majorelle Garden:
Then we went to rest at the apartment for a little bit, before heading back into the souks for dinner at a Moroccan dinner theater complete with belly dancers.
The next morning we woke up bright and early for our camel ride. We went as a small group through an oasis and they even equipped us with our own scarves to protect our faces.
My camel was named Shakira, and she had just had a baby two months ago who traveled alongside us the whole way.
Halfway there we stopped and had tea and Moroccan crepes in a tent.
I have to admit, by the time we were back I was quite ready to get off the camel.
After this we had a leisurely lunch:
and went back to the apartment to grab our bathing suits before heading out way past the city center in a taxi to a Moroccan hammam that our host recommended.
Once there, we were told to change into our bathing suits and we were given broken instructions in French to go into the bath room and put soap on.
So we fumbled into the Moroccan baths -which looked like something straight out of a roman museum by the way: marble fountains lining the walls and in the center of the room an additional circle of fountains with stone stools next to each of them.
After debating over which container contained the supposed soap, a Moroccan woman walked in and well, started soaping us up and rinsing us with the warm water. A few minutes later she indicated that we should go into the adjacent room. It turned out to be a steam room so we relaxed in there for several minutes until the woman came to fetch us. This time there were two women and after rinsing us off with the warm water they popped off our bikini tops.
The shock lasted all of three seconds until I realized this was all just part of the “cultural experience” and they lead us to massage tables where they washed our bodies with soap, oil, water, and rubbed off an entire layer of skin with specially made gloves. After this massage, they washed our hair and gave us large fluffy bath towels and then led us outside the bath to a dark room where we received another full body massage.
Then a Moroccan man blow dried my hair and they hailed a taxi for us and we were on our way.
For our last night in Morocco we hunted down a recommended restaurant in the souks and ate dinner on the balcony as the sun went down.
Then we wandered back through the souks -spending our last dirhams on pants and scarves and then went back to our apartment to pack before heading back the next morning.
All in all Marrakech was an exotic experience complete with the stereotypical snake charmers and belly dancers. But I am not completely in love with it simply because of all the negative male attention my friend and I received as foreign females. I have never received as many cat-calls in my life -and we were both dressed conservatively. I am sincerely glad I was smart enough not to go to Morocco by myself, because we were even followed a few times through the souks.
But it was definitely a positive experience and the food and mint tea were positively amazing.
Now I’m off to go take my last two exams and eat as many pastries and crepes as I can before I head back to the US next Monday!
I’ll be talking about my trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland in the upcoming posts so stay tuned!
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