I don’t even know where to begin about Morocco.
I felt like I was in Raiders of the Lost Ark. No but really, you know when they’re running through all of these little alleyways and are twisting and turning and you have no idea how they could possibly know where they started from? Marrakech.
Thursday morning we left at 7:25 for Pisa, for a 10:30 flight to Girona, Spain was. After the easy 1:15 flight to Spain, we had a 6 hour layover, so we decided to go find lunch, and went and got paella and sangria. Not a bad way to kill time. Once we finally got on the plane it was about 2 and a half hours to Marrakech, and it was already night when we arrived. They have a really cool airport. Lots of typical mosaic tiling, as well as modern intricate architecture. Then we hopped in our ride and met up with our guide Yousef, who brought us through the giant and crowded main square to our Riad (hotel.) Then he took us to a restaurant in the main square which is chock full of identical restaurants with people outside trying to coerce you into their particular place. But the food was delicious; veggies, salsa, bread, chicken and beef skewers, fries, and mint tea. It was a really great way to start off the weekend. We sat and talked with Yousef about Morocco, its politics, general culture, the difference between America, Europe, and Morocco. Yousef has never left Morocco, and in my opinion is utterly brilliant. He speaks English with an Australian accent, because he has some friends from Australia who he practiced with.
Friday we got up early and had breakfast, which consisted of bread, coffee, and the most delicious orange juice I have ever had. Then we hopped in the van and we were off to the countryside. Our first stop was to a women’s argan oil cooperative, where we got to see how they take the nuts from the tree and turn it into such diverse and beautiful products such as cooking oils, makeups, creams, hair oils, etc. The funniest part about it was that we wanted to take pictures with them, but one of the women pulled out her phone and asked if she could take a picture with us! It was too funny. Our second stop was on the side of the road roughly 45 minutes form Marrakech, where we got out and went on a camel ride. Which naturally was so amazing. My camel, Fatina, was fantastic. She didn’t try to throw me off and didn’t run into any trees, unlike my friend’s camels. We were on the camels for about 20 minutes and then it was off to a Beber village up in the mountains. Then we had to hike about 45 minutes up the mountain to a house where we had a traditional lunch with a Beber family. Our host, Hussein, was very kind and was very funny since he kept trying to make jokes in English. We marveled at the Atlas Mountains, and how amazing it was that they were snowcapped, in comparison to the rest of the terrain.
After we got back from our excursion we went to the markets and shopped a bit for souvenirs and gifts and what not. Then we went for dinner and got kebabs, which are totally different than the kebabs we have here in Italy, which are apparently Turkish kebabs which have more vegetables in them, and isn’t just a giant meat wrap.
Post dinner the whole group met up and we walked about 45 minutes to a 3 story bar that was a hookah bar on the top floor which also had a belly dancing show at night. Really. Really. Cool. The whole atmosphere there was so different from the rest of Marrakech, maybe it was just because it was nighttime, but women had incredibly dark makeup on and the style was just the shorter and tighter the better. I don’t see that much cleavage when I go out in Italy or the States. Seeing it in a conservative Muslim nation was just surprising. The belly dancers were fantastic and incredibly impressive. This one lady was dancing while she had a giant platter of lit candles on her head. If only I had that sort of balance and control…
Saturday we got up and went to the Jardin Majorelle, which is filled with “exotic” plants such as palm tree, cacti and bamboo. It was a beautiful maze though, with pops of blues and yellows throughout the garden. Yves Saint Laurent purchased the land and lived there for a number of years. Then we went to a spice market where we got a run through of mostly everything in the shop, ranging from spices to natural remedies, to creams, to tea, to makeup. And the man running it showed us how everything worked, and let us smell or try most of the products he had. This one black powder, which looked like magicians used it to disappear with, was apparently used to clear out your sinuses by putting some in a piece of cloth and rubbing it once you twisted it into a pouch. Then all you had to do was smell it and WOW, did it work. It was amazing how these natural things that have been around for thousands of years still work and have no side effects, and we still go out and buy things from CVS that don’t work, cost a lot, and do not last. Most of the things we were shown last years and years. I think I’m going to start looking into things like that… We also picked up our supplies for the Hamman Bath.
Before we had free time to explore or shop or grab food, we saw a snake charmer who had at least 6 snakes, 2 of them being cobras. It was so surreal to see things like that just in the square. Oh also in the square, at night, they had people telling stories, playing carnival style games, people doing acrobatics. Oh it was magical. Anyway, snake charmers. One of them put a snake around my neck and had me kiss it. Now I wasn’t freaked out by this, but most of my friends lost their minds at it, especially when the man went and tried to get them to do the same thing.
Then it was time to say goodbye to our ever helpful Yousef and head into the Hamman bath, also known in Turkey as a Turkish bath. Basically you take you soap, scrubby brush and pumice stone and head into these giant tiled rooms in only your underwear and, in our case, have an 85 year old woman in a red head scarf flip you over and scrub you down. It was such a cultural experience. There must have been at least 30 other women in there with us, fazed only by the awkward American girls who traipsed in. I felt so terrible for some girls that we didn’t know who were in our group because in a room full of women all shapes and sizes they were so uncomfortable and shamed of their bodies. It made me sick. No one should feel that way. Ever. The other women in the bath just kind of looked at us like “What’s wrong with them?” The woman who scrubbed us down though ended up laughing at us one by one because we didn’t know which way to turn over; it put me more at ease because she was being so kind because clearly none of us knew what we were supposed to do. Also, my skin has never been this soft.
Then we got dinner at another stand restaurant in the main square and after went back to the Riad and relaxed and hung out for hours and drank loads and loads of mint tea. Have I mentioned that these are my kind of people? They drink tea at least 3 times a day daily. Perfect.
Sunday we got up and sadly ate breakfast, as none of us wanted to leave, and got ourselves to the airport and back to Italy.
It’s a peculiar feeling, being finished traveling, as that was my last trip. I do have a lot to do in the next week and a half to finish up the semester, but I guess the next thing I’m supposed to look forward to is going home?