Marrakech Meandering

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In the summer of 08’ I was bumming around Spain. I had gotten a job working in Valencia as a translator, but when I wasn’t feeling the environment , I grabbed my bags and headed back to Madrid where I had previously made a few friends and used it as a jump off point to hit other cities in Spain. Bumming around pretty much sums up my travels that summer. I would arrive in a new place, no plans, ask directions to the city center, and walk or take a bus there and find a place to stay.

So having found round-trip tickets for 80 euro I arrived in Marrakesh, jumped in a taxi with a couple from Barcelona and tagged along to find out where the best place to stay was. Luckily, following them landed me in a good, clean, and most importantly, cheap hotel on the edge of the Djema al Fnaa (The main square in town). They were all booked up but I paid the equivalent of about $3 US to sleep on the terrace where they had an awning that covered a knee-high bench with a number of mattress pads each big enough for one person. I didn’t mind sleeping in the open air plus I had use of all the shared bathrooms which was all I needed.

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Sleeping on the rooftop was amazing. Every morning I woke up when the sun rose, steadily baking the earth-colored, uneven rooftops in the North African desert. It would get so hot and bright I couldn’t ignore it any longer and had to get up and get ready. I would then wander around the Djema Al Fnaa, eating Tajine and other yummy foods, and meet other travelers (mostly French or French Canadians). At the western edge of the Djema al Fnaa is a red earth colored Mosque with a very beautiful minaret. It was the same exact style as the minaret I had seen in Granada, a testament to the North African’s long rule over southern Spain.

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In the square there were always a number of spectacles to see. There were the snake charmers, people flying small kites, acrobats juggling various sharp things or things on fire, and the boxing lads. The boxing lads were teenagers who stood in the middle of an uneven square that was formed by onlookers. A man leading the event would try to pump up the crowd to get them to throw coins into the circle to pay to see the young chaps to duke it out. He only let them box after he deemed there to be enough coins on the ground. The streets and alleys that feed into the Djema al Fnaa formed a ruddy colored twisting labyrinth of shops, hotels and homes tightly packed together. Walking these alleys were fashionable young guys offering me hashish at every turn. Another aspect that really stood out to me about Marrakesh was the tea. Moroccan tea was green tea with a lot of sugar and a lot of mint leaves. Just like in most Muslim countries chai is a staple at any time of the day with any meal and is served in fancy tea pots and fancy tea cups. The Moroccans pride themselves on their tea and their ability to pour from several feet above the shot-glass sized tea cup which mixes up the ingredients in your cup and forms a bit of foam at the top. Having chai and fresh orange juice with crêpes du miel for breakfast every morning was one of my favorite parts of my stay. And so my days went, eating, chatting with French travelers, and walking the winding streets around the square. One day I decided to take a trip that included snaking through the Atlas mountains, riding camels to the edge of the Sahara and camping out with Bedouins for a night amongst the dunes and stars, but that’s another story.

 

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