On the plane, I met an Australian guy who was traveling around the world for a year or two, before settling down somewhere else – which he had little idea of where that would be. He expressed his idea of importing liquors and what not back home, but he seemed at a bit of a loss. He was an interesting character – who shared the same mindset of most Australians abroad have, which is that the more alcohol and women they meet, the better their travels would be. Since I knew no one in Morocco, and had no map, and barely a plan at all, I stuck with him for the day. The Aussie was quite knowledgeable about Morocco – he must have done his homework, unlike me. We hopped off the plane on the ground and proceeded through the border patrol and the money exchange booth, and while I was haggling for a taxi, he was collecting a phone number from a local girl he met on the plane – all I could do was laugh and shake my head, as he walked back toward me, smiling like a git.
His hostel had no sign and looked tattered like all of the other buildings we had passed thus far, but upon entering, it was like a palace, decorated with Arab-chic (if there is such a thing). We met a pair of nice girls also from Australia, and a young guy who was originally from Mexico, but lived in Michigan. We talked a bit, sharing in travel stories, while smoking from a hookah.
After a bit, the Aussie and I set off to find my hostel, but once we reached the square, we sat down at a little restaurant. We watched as the square was bustling with tourists and locals, who were set up shop. A frenzy of orange juice trucks were setup in rows, one next to the other. Our waiter brought over some tea and a basket of bread, took our orders and returned immediately with our dishes. We shared in trying both the couscous and the tajine – which the tajine was my favorite by far. Our check came and we fell for another one of Morocco’s “hidden scams,” as the man charged us double what we had expected, because we partook of the tea and bread.
Oh well, another lesson learned – many lessons learned. I learned so much from the area, that I wrote this little guide to Morocco – the content mostly came from my own experiences and mishaps, while others came from purely watching people fall for the scams.
We walked around for hours upon hours, from shop to shop – they seemed to never end. Every alley went to another alley, then to another little hidden square, full of more shops. We tired quickly under the sweltering heat of 42 ºC (or 107 ºF) and decided to call it a day. My Aussie friend decided that he required copious amounts of liquor, but was astonished to find out that the Medina (the old part of town) was a dry area. So he talked the group into splitting a taxi to go into the new part of town where he could find a supermarket with a liquor store. It was about an 8 minute cab ride to the store and I had thought about purchasing some while I was there, but was surprised to see that the priced were even higher than that of Europe. I figured that everything was going to be as cheap as the souks, but I was wrong – imports are extra expensive in the country. Aussie was not deterred. I waited outside, while he went shopping. After ten minutes, he came out from the store, carrying three large bags of just liquor – he wore a triumphant grin and I knew that his time in Morocco might be a bit of a blur in retrospect for him.
The cab dropped us off at the square and the group and I split apart – me and the Aussie agreed to meet up the following day, however that never happened. He was off to meet the girl he had snagged the phone number for and I had made new friends in the hostel. It was for the best, as I met a wonderful Middle-Eastern/Indian man from England – he was a scholar and extremely knowledgeable in all facets of travel and other parts of the world. After leaving the Aussie, I planned on a cold shower and some sleep, but instead I sat on the floor of my hostel room and spoke with my roommate for hours upon hours.
Anyway, for the following days we would talk about various subjects, like the stereotypes of each other’s nations and our outlooks on life and why we travel. Sometimes we would walk through the souks and bargain hunt, or just venture out to the square for a cold glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. It was probably my favorite part and may be one of my favorite memories. In the hot, blazing sun, the orange juice was the perfect soother for me. So without alcohol in the region, I decided to go ahead and do my fruit fast for the week or so that I was in Marrakech. I could buy 1.5-2 liter bottles of fresh orange juice for less than د.م.20 MAD (€1.80 Euro / $2.35 USD). After having some bananas in the morning and then drinking the orange juice all day, I had no weakness or pings of hunger – it was perfect.
At night, we would meet up in the square to experience the hectic and fascinating scenes. There were groups and groups of musical circles, who if you walked too close and were recognized as a tourist, you will be pressured into donating money. He had spent weeks upon weeks in the city, and had made plenty of friends – this also was easier for him, as he spoke pretty fluent Arabic. His friends would give us the best prices, so haggling wasn’t needed. His friends brought me the various local foods like kebabs, lentil soup and some interesting dishes that suspiciously looked like sheep parts – needless to say, I didn’t try EVERYTHING.
The day before I was to leave, my newfound friend left to go back home to England to visit his family, which he planned to leave after one week to visit Turkey next. He grew up to strong teachings on money from his parents, so he worked hard as a teacher and saved every penny – now in his mid-30’s, he was traveling the world and learning all he could. I think it’s a great plan, but unfortunately, not one that aligns with my own lifestyle, but I wish him luck along his journeys. If he’s reading this – I wish you safe travels my friend.
I have to say, I was sad, yet a bit relieved to be moving on from Marrakech. It was a brilliant place with so many new experiences and adventures. But for me, personally, my time in Morocco was more of a paused sequence in time, where slowing down from my travels and taking the time to learn and experience each and every tiny detail was what I was supposed to do – Morocco felt like I was where I was supposed to be, at the exact moment in time.
My final thoughts of Morocco are that I must visit again, more of the country, yet at a very slow pace. I felt an initial culture shock at first, once the main square was filling up and so many people and different foreign things were all vying for my attention, but after a day in the chaos, I was at ease and I loved every moment I was there. Perhaps I sound as though I’m romanticizing Morocco – and perhaps I am, but it’s only been two weeks since, so that can’t be a bad thing. Jumping into a completely foreign land and alien culture as I did, was the best shock and learning experience I’ve had thus far. I almost feel ready to tour the rest of Africa. Sometime in the future – the near future, I do hope.