The Chaotically Amazing Marrakech, Morocco

Holy sensory overload. Arrived today in Marrakech from Madrid and had eight hours to kill before my mom met me from Seattle. Everything went incredibly smoothly, until my French-only speaking taxi driver stopped part way to my hotel (“riad”) and I wasn’t sure why. He said the road was closed and then tried to get me to rent a guy with a wheelbarrow to take me the rest of the way. 

Not being able to communicate and feeling wary of being scammed, I set off on my own instead. This meant navigating winding streets lined with shops whose wares flood out into the walkway, teeming with locals and tourists alike, and motorbikes whooshing by with a faint “l’attencion!” as they clip your elbows.

Lamps lamps lamps

It was a bit stressful to say the least, since I was carrying everything I owned on my back. I should’ve taken a cue from these two and caught a ride:

Kids hitching a ride through Marrakech

I refuted locals asking to help until the end when I wasn’t sure of my next turn. Two teenagers guided me in, down a twist and a turn and then there we were – Dar Ishanne. WHEW. A quick tip for their help and I was able to relax. Here’s the center of our hotel looking down:

Our hotel's courtyard

And a beautiful doorway around the corner from our riad:

Lovely doorway

Later I went out on the town, exploring, shopping, and eating lunch at a rooftop terrace restaurant that overlooks Djemaa El-Fna, the main square.

The main square from terrace restaurant

Looking another direction:

Beautiful architecture

Our hotel is somewhere in here:

Marrakech towards our hotel

Along the way I saw a snake charmer, a monkey in a diaper (sad), live chickens being biked to their demise, and about 300 cats.

Cobra is so charmed

Snake charmers in the square

Snake charmers in conversation

Poor chickens

It was a most interesting first day!

I sipped coffee to the afternoon chanting, was blessed with a snake first for my baby’s health (I said yes when the snake charmer asked if I was married with a baby) and then for good sex with a wink (really?), ate a plateful of couscous, chicken, onions and raisins, and drank a deliciously dark coffee “avec un peu de lait”. The waiter Najib laughed hysterically at all my French. He was great 🙂

I learned some Arabic words from my waiter, bartering techniques from the jewelry vendors, and how argan oil is made from the friendly guy that runs the beauty shop. Oh and I got a 2 Euro massage.

My mom arrived safe and sound in the evening which was the capper on the day!

Tomorrow I want to try the orange juice and dried fruit that are sold throughout the square. I also want to pull an orange from the bottom row to see what happens:

Orange juice stands everywhere!

For how chaotic this city is, I love the methodical organization of their products:

Dried fruit stands everywhere

This cat was hungry:

Cat is hungry!

So many spices:

So many spices

All this and it’s just day one, I cannot wait for tomorrow! Bon nuit…