Tourists, beware: Marrakech is an EXTREME tourist trap. I was with at least one Moroccan all weekend and I still come to this conclusion. Jamaa el-Fnaa, the main square, contained snake charmers, men holding monkeys on chains, women pulling people in to do henna, and all sorts of scams going on. Not my cup of tea. The harrassment was also at a new high, even for Morocco. I feel like I would have seen a lot more of Marrakech had I done it myself; however, I don’t think I’ll go back without reason. The taxis especially were way overpriced, and of everywhere in Morocco I’ve been, this is where as a female solo traveller I’d expect to have my bag slit or something. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the antics of the people of Marrakech and despite some frustrations I enjoyed the weekend. And nowhere else have I seen a woman in full abaya and burka riding a motorcycle. You go, girl.
Friday afternoon commenced with a, shall we say, /interesting/ train ride from Meknes to Marrakech. I want to wait until May before getting deported, so perhaps I’ll detail that on this blog later. We arrived relatively late, around 23:00, but still found that there was time to go out clubbing.
So started an interesting weekend. While some of us stood around outside a row of clubs debating what to do, my friend and I decided to try and walk into one club to see if we could get in free. Going, going, gon–oh wait, no, you girls can’t go in. We looked at him in bewilderment, and the guy pointed to my Chacos and my Ukranian socks. I found this absolutely hilarious, because I know if I were at a club, I’d totally want to hang out with a girl wearing hiking sandals and fuzzy socks than high heels. But then again, I’m not normally the clientele at clubs… the next club we went to had a 300 dirham/30USD cover fee. I wasn’t paying that, so I happily cabbed back to the hostel.
Saturday involved me doing a lot of learning that I really do prefer to travel by myself. And that other people think I walk a lot. Fast. I found myself really having to work to be patient quite often, especially in terms of monetary decisions. It can be hard when a group wants to take a taxi what you know will be a twenty minute walk, because bailing and meeting them there isn’t really an option. However, when we ended up at a mall (There is a mall in Marrakech. It is a mall. It had mally things.) I did bail on the group and walked off to find the sunset by myself and to contemplate how I was going to learn patience and to bite my sarcastic tongue.
A more interesting interaction happened around midday, when I was with a few friends waiting in line to use an ATM. A guy came along asking if we wanted a tour guide. Normally I’d ignore him, but since we were stationary and I couldn’t walk by, I simply shook my head no and smiled. Mistake number one. He pounced on me metaphorically and asked again if I wanted a tour guide. I ignored him for a bit, and then finally held up my hand in the universal “stop” symbol and said, “La, mabreetsch,” which means “No, I don’t want it.” (Yes, it does. I checked with my Moroccan friend later. -_-) A tactic I found these Marrakechi have is to take what one says to them in Arabic and turn it back on the speaker–if you say “shukran” to someone in the street, they might reply “shukran? What is shukran?” and this will make you question whether you’re saying thank you correctly and coerce you into talking to them. Oh, they’re good. So this guy says “Mabreetsch? What is this? What are you saying?” to me, and I decide that I’ve already spoken too much and turn my back on him, towards my friends, so as to ignore him. Because no. I did not want a tour guide. He then goes to my French friend and starts talking to him about how rude I am. Apparently he supports terrorism because Westerners like me are so rude to Moroccans like him and so we all deserve to die anyway. He is very lucky my friend didn’t translate until later or I might have gone off on him about harassment in Morocco and my right to not want a bloody tour guide…
The highlight of the day was walking to the Jardins de l’Agdal to find them only open on Fridays and Sundays; walking forever along the olive grove; me walking forever to the Menara Gardens to find them having closed half an hour before I arrived. Sigh.
There are a lot of horses and carriages in Marrakech, and it turns out that I am extremely allergic to those horses, so much so that just having one drive by caused me to begin breathing asthmatically. By the time we got on the bus Sunday night, I was seriously considering cashing in one of the three insurance plans currently covering me in Morocco specifically to go and get a new inhaler, because, you know, smart people don’t bring their inhalers with them. (The two inhalers I have come from times when I found myself without inhalers and needing them…) Several days later, I went looking for my second inhaler, and found that it had been in my backpack the entire time. Traveller’s tip: Putting your inhaler in your backpack is a /brilliant/ idea. Forgetting you put it there is just plain dumb.
I had the BEST MEAL OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. I don’t all caps for food like ever, but OHMYGOTH. I’ve been raving about tagines since day one, but this tagine was perfection. I normally prefer to eat quite vegetarian, but like a good kiwi I do enjoy lamb, so I decided to try a lamb tagine from the Rogue Cafe Marrakech. Best. Decision. Ever. For 40 dirham/$4USD and delivered to the hostel, it was well priced. The meat was succulent and melted in my mouth because it had been cooked with DATES. DATES! Lamb and dates! A girl I’d met in Iran had told me to try eggs and dates (still working on that one) but I’d never thought to eat lamb and dates. The dates were all gooey and sweet and delicious, with a taste of lamb that just made them flavourful. I give up on being a food writer now, but the sauce that they together made was what I want all my bread forever to be served with from now on. Ungh. I cry just thinking of how perfect it was.
The others went clubbing again, but while I didn’t want to abandon the group again, I knew I wasn’t going to have fun. Instead, I stayed back and smoked hookah with a really cool German couple. They taught me the /coolest/ smoker’s trick ever–how to make MOONS! Basically a hookah bubble, they were silvery and gorgeous and perfect and popped into smoke when they crashed into things.
I was pretty frustrated by how late we kicked off Sunday since I’d been wanting to check out the two palaces in Marrakech, but it was sunny and gorgeous and we ate local msimmon so I decided to smile, and my smile came true after wandering the souq area for a while.
Still off a kick from my tagine the previous night, I had date cheesecake–it was Valentine’s day, so I had a date. Ha. Haha. Hahaha. (Please humour me and laugh.)–and split a camel burger with a friend as it was something I had wanted to try. I don’t have much of a taste for meat, but it didn’t taste much different from beef to me.
The highlight of the day involved walking not very far along the souk, and then walking very, very, very far (like even far in Ema terms) around the Jardins de l’Agdal to find that they had closed half an hour before we got there. I was having a double case of deja vu at that point…
My friend and I went to a hammam, which I’ll write a separate post on as it was something I’d had a lot of worries about but had really wanted to do.
We decided to go to the cafe of my favourite lamb tagine for dinner before we left, and to my complete and utter horror and heartbreak, they were out of all meat except fish and eggs. (Which by many people’s terms are not, in fact, meat. But hey, at least this demonstrates how they buy their meat fresh daily!) I was entirely dismayed, but I am still alive. Somehow. Instead of eating fish and egg tagine (maybe they would have made me dates and eggs?) we made it back to the main square, where it seemed another 50 or so tents had popped up serving dinner cooked in front of us. Of course, since they all have similar fare, they all compete like crazy to get customers to come in. We heard some extremely interesting comments that just seemed to perfectly wrap up a comedic and entertaining weekend in Marrakech.
In Marrakech, we stayed at the Hostel Waka Waka. I wasn’t at all impressed by their bathrooms and I have pretty low standards. The location was also pretty hard to find, and very sketchy at night. It was, nonetheless cheap.