Saturday, August 2, 2014

Marrakech, Morocco (Part 1)

In comparison to Marrakech, our three days in Essaouira were blissful relaxation. I guess you could say Essaouira was the calm before the storm. The storm of rich cultural flavor densely packed into one city. Marrakech was absolutely incredible, but definitely challenged our patience and tolerance as travelers in ways we had never been challenged before. Within a period of 24 hours, I contracted food poisoning, had my toe ran over by a speeding car when we were walking to the mosque, and was inches away from a poisonous cobra. But we still loved it. It was intense and this was really good for us. 

We arrived at our riad early in the morning after getting a quick cab ride from the bus station into the medina. The cab could only drop us so far into the medina due to the narrow, pedestrian-filled streets, so it was then up to us to find our way on foot. It felt like walking in a maze and you can imagine how much we stuck out with our bags and looks of confusion on our faces. We were relieved when we finally walked into such a serene accommodation. With only four guest rooms, we were treated very well and the personal relationship with the staff was exactly what we were looking for. Ironically, the owner of the riad has close family in the Seattle area (Microsoft, naturally). Such a small world! He taught us helpful things like how much to negotiate for a cab around town and various other "street-smart" tidbits.

You would never guess you'd find our riad behind one of these doors!

After we settled in for a bit, we decided to walk into the central square. The owner at our riad drew us a map with lots of lines and switchbacks. In order to reach the square, we had to walk through the Sooks. This was essentially what felt like endless paths of shopping stalls selling local goods.

We got turned around a few times, but we finally made it to the square.

I had previously heard about the snake charmers, so this was something I immediately wanted to see.

Jason bravely got close to one while I stayed back and played photographer.

I later learned that these particular cobras are not de-fanged like certain snakes are in other parts of the world where they are used for entertainment purposes. Instead, they pump the venom from them every morning. In other words, these creatures are dangerous!

Next we grabbed a cab just outside of the medina and headed across town to check out an old Moroccan palace. Grabbing a cab was also a chance for me to practice my negotiation skills (this makes Jason extremely uncomfortable but he always thanks me in the end, ha.)

I love the intricate detail that went into tiling the floor and carving the window frames.

At this point, it was getting a little too hot for these two Western Washington natives. We were getting hungry and in need of some rest so we grabbed a late lunch at a local cafe and decided to head back to our riad. Later that evening, we debated whether or not we should venture back into the square. Both of us were still pretty tired and knew we had an early morning the following day with our day trip into the mountains. Jason convinced me to go out anyways - he said I'd regret it if I didn't experience the square at night. He was definitely right!

We were shocked to see that it had transformed into what looked and sounded like a lively party. There was music, dancing, story-telling, food vendors, and tons of people watching. What an amazing and stimulating experience!

It was an unexpectedly fun evening. The heat and exhaustion from earlier in the day were long gone. I'm so glad we got our second wind of energy and went for it.

 Goodnight Marrakech! 

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