take me to marrakech
I'd like to have a very personal conversation with the person who decided that only the beach could be paradise.
I've come to the firm conclusion that actually, paradise is in marrakech, morocco. And that's even taking into account the 5 hour train ride from Rabat, the measly "guide" that ripped me off, and the insane henna lady that attacked my hand with unwanted brown goop (for the record, go to india not morocco for hennas).
Dino, Sada and I departed the Rabat train station at 7:45 after literally running through the streets, trying to make up the extra time we thought we had in the morning. Lots of things run on morocco time in rabat. The train is not one of them. The train literally heaved to life just as the three of us passed through the cabin threshold. Talk about insane luck.
For a 5 hour bus ride, it's about as boring as you'd imagine. there's some moderately interesting rock formations, and the ground is a consistent nice brown. Also, since it's ramadan, everyone is fasting, which means no food or drink in public. I felt like my empty stomach was the reincarnation of my past baby self, throwing a tantrum because the juice was gone and the cheerio cup was empty.
By 1:00, we pulled into the Marrakech station. The three of us had been super nervous about getting off at the wrong station or not getting off at all since the train is operated in only arabic and french. apparently we're all better at language than we thought because we made it into Marrakech without a hitch. Lucky for us, the city is so perpetually dense with tourists that many restaurants remain open during ramadan.
We happened to find a little itallian eatery on the top floor of the train station, and we followed our stomachs all the way to a table on the empty patio. Maybe it's because our expectations for Italian food in morocco were undefined, but holy moly, it was literally the best italian food i've had in my life. My only knock against it was the vegetarian salad I ordered that came out with every type of fish in the Adriatic sea and probably even the majority of nemo's friends. Dino was kind enough to share his pasta, which turned more into a sydney eats all than a sharing show.
The taxi driver from the train station transported us to the heart of Marrakech, the market, where he passed us and our bags along to a kid waiting on the streets. In a total rookie move, I agreed to let him escort us to our hostel. They said it was quite far and very confusing to get to- and granted, it was- I just way miscalculated the kid's motives. It was money, not an act of kindness, in case you were wondering.
But we made it to the hostel, despite being a hefty sum of money lighter, and managed to snag a room for four. The hostel was honestly the coolest accommodation I've ever stayed in, and it was all of 8 bucks a person per night. From the lobby, the maze of connecting rooms led to the courtyard, which housed a spectacular pool and moroccan chaises. From our second floor room, the view got even better. The floor above us was the rooftop terrance, and although I only managed to see it once, I'm certain it had some of the best views in town.
Before long, the three of us hit the streets to do the thing marrakech is famous for: market shopping. Fortunately- or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it- the three of us are basically professional shoppers. We thrived bargaining our way through each stall.
I even learned that I look at least somewhat moroccan, for everyone that has ever so curiously asked me, "what nationality are you". At least 10 vendors asked me what part of morocco I was from after I refused an offer, saying "Ma'am, good price. We charge foreigners 400 dirhams more for this". Or there was the classic "You're not arabic? But eyes.. and hair... and coloring..." after they went into full speed arabic, acknowledging how I stood, mouth open and eyebrows raised. Eventually, Dino and Sada started getting me to make purchases with them because the shop owners would always strike a better deal when I was around.
Since shopping and pretending to be arabic are exhausting, we stopped for a snack in the heart of the market. Here, street vendors follow you like pesky flies, and the ones who are confined to their stands yell at you like it's a competition to see who can get your attention first. One free roaming henna lady literally grabbed my hand and started doing a design, claiming "Free! Ramadan spirit" before thrusting my ugly hand back a minute later, demanding 200 dirhams. Slimy vendors aside, the market has got to be the coolest place I've ever been.
Later that night, we met up with the 9 other volunteers who had taken the 2:00 train. We feasted like locals in the street market. It was definitely risky eating street food, as morocco is notorious for travel sickness, but it was a local ramadan feast and we would have forever regretted passing it up. Thankfully, the food was as delicious as we had expected and no one went away with anything but overstuffed stomachs.
After dinner we caravanned to the tourist store Dino, Sada and I had found earlier. The owner was a native Spanish speaker, so we wound up making more progress when I spoke with him in spanish than when he spoke to me in english. The situation actually ended up working in my favor because I managed to haggle with him and get the 900 dirham price tag down to 450 per person. My friends were certainly ecstatic about it, although I was certain my deal huntin' momma would be happier.
The 11 of us split into two groups for the remainder of the night. The majority went to scope out the moroccan beer scene, while Amalena, Katharine, Sada and I set out to finish our shopping and find a good cup of coffee. We accomplished both goals, although we managed to stay out much later than planned. The french coffee shop we dined at was at the top floor of the tallest building in the market square. The vistas by night were too beautiful to put into words.
When we finally made it back to our hostel, the 11 of us were in bed and passed out within seconds. Our alarms were set for the 6am wakeup call for the sahara trip we had booked earlier. Part of me could hardly contain my excitement to see the desert, but the other half mourned over the fact that I would have to leave marrakech to do so. There's definitely something magic about Marrakech, and I think I just might have to go back a second time to figure it out .