Saturday, November 15, 2014

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharal Nehru

This past weekend was spent in the gorgeous city of Marrakesh! Since we had Thursday off because of Green March, Dakota, Kelsey, and I wanted to make our way down to Marrakesh since it is a 9-hour bus ride away. Unfortunately, Kelsey ended up staying behind because she had three papers to write, so Dakota and I went with an international student who is fluent in both French and Darija named Martin. We left early Thursday morning on the CTM (the popular bus system in Morocco that is actually very nice!). The bus ride was extremely uneventful, but we were able to catch up on some much needed sleep. We arrived at about 5 to the city, where we walked an hour to the iconic square and historical souk. After navigating through the sketchy alleys and many twist and turns of the souk, we found the hostel we were staying at. We stayed at the Kif Kif Hostel, which was overall a good experience, but I am almost positive they never have ever changed the sheets, and I would never take a shower there. This was the first time we stayed at a hostel during our travels, and I really wish we stayed in them earlier! Almost everyone there was around our age, and we met really great people from Australia, Britain, Estonia, and the Netherlands. We traveled the next two days with a British guy named Matt.

We checked in to the hostel, and headed off to go see a sandwich maker Martin knew from his previous weekend in Marrakesh. The sandwich maker was so hospitable and made us tea and egg sandwiches as Martin practiced his Arabic. Dakota and I learned a few new words and practiced the little we knew as well. We then headed off to the square and grabbed 5 dirham hrira soup (my favorite) and then were off to bed. The next day we woke up to go explore the souk! The souk was so crowded and larger than the ones we visited in Rabat and Fes, so we got lost multiple times. We went to an old palace and walked around the grounds before entering the labyrinth of the souk once again. One of the skills that came out of our time in Marrakesh was my ability to barter improved significantly. I bought gifts for my family and friends this past weekend and I tried to get each item for 40-60% of the price the vendor told me it was. At first, that did not happen, but gradually, I was able to convince the vendors to go down in price more and more. We spent most of the day walking around, so we decided to grab some eggs, avocado, cheese, potatoes, and carrots to make omelets and mashed potatoes in the hostel. With the help of two Australians, a Canadian, and a Brit, we made a delicious dinner!

The next morning Dakota and I woke up and headed off to grab some m'semn and cheese at a nearby street vendor. We then decided to go walk around the Old Medina for a couple hours. We then went back to the hostel and watched "The Princess Diaries 2." What's nice is that we don't feel the need to be on the move constantly seeing new sights and exploring everywhere because we live in Morocco. We are not tourists, and because of that, travel is so much more laid back and fun. We spend more time learning about people and hearing stories, rather than seeing all the monuments and snapping photos. After watching the movie, we went out to dinner in the square again with Matt, Martin, and Matt's friend, Nate, who just flew in from England that day! At the square, dozens of guys who were promoters for restaurants swarmed us and grabbed us pulling us in every direction trying to get us to eat at their restaurant. It was so obnoxious and made me a little nervous when they started touching us. Eventually we just sat down somewhere and they went away. We ordered hrira soup... again, and then walked around the square. We tried these delicious coconut cookies for 1 dirham each (about 12 cents in USD) and then went up to a woman selling them with her young children close-by and bought all of her cookies she had for sale. It was really awesome seeing her face light up because since we bought all her cookies, she was able to go home for the night with her kids and I do not know if she would have sold all the cookies that night anyways. We walked around with a giant box full of 50 cookies and got smoothies before heading back to the hostel. Everyone was stopping and asking us if we were selling the cookies, and we actually traded a couple for some street toys. The next morning we woke up at 5:30 to walk the 1.5 hour walk to the CTM station and rode the bus back to Ifrane!

Overall, the trip to Marrakesh was amazing. So far, it tops the list as my favorite city in Morocco. I felt very safe there and I loved the colors, people, food, and the Old Medina. It is definitely the most tourist-filled city out of the ones I have visited, but it was so fun. Next stop is Rome! Dakota, Kelsey, and I planned a girl's trip and we are leaving on Sunday!

The old palace grounds

A silver and jewelry shop in the souk

Spices and Grains!

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