Marrakech Night One

April 21, 2009 — Jason del Sur

The first night in Morocco Shawn and I landed around 11:30pm to the airport. After a day of recovering from the wedding and just enough sleep on the flight to make us groggy, we were exhausted and thus somewhat unable to properly deal with this new continent. We were hustled into a cab, I’m still not 100% sure it was legitimate, but it was standing near a sign saying “Taxi.”

We told him where we were staying and he definitely overcharged us, but we were too tired to haggle. He dropped us off at Djemaa el Fna, the main square in the old medina section of Marrakech. He told us to go about 50 meters in and we would find our riad (riads are houses built around an open courtyard. Previously owned by richer families, many have now been converted into guesthouses or hostels). We had an address, but had forgotten to print out directions.

By now, it’s 1am, the main market which we would discover the next day is shut down, so it’s primarily locals hanging out on the square. Many offered to help us find a nice hotel, but we had been warned that everyone in Morocco would want money for whatever minor service they rendered. We were definitely called racists a couple times for refusing their help. Obviously, we came to Morocco because we hate Morrocans. We were still convinced we could find the riad on our own.

Finally, after wandering around the square we eventually accepted help from one of the less sketchy looking people. We began following him. We walked along the square for a couple minutes until our guide turned down a small alleyway. I now know this is just the way the old cities in Morocco are built, but at the time I was convinced we was going to lead us to his friends and rob us.

We turned down another, this one even darker, alley. There were small lights along the way and many interesting doors leading to who knows what. The walls are tall so you are not able to look up to see any landmarks. Part of me knew we’d be safe, the man just wanted to help in return for a few dirhem. But there was another part of me that was scared for my life.

We arrived at the riad and Jafaar opened the door. It’s obviously common practice as Jafaar held the door open as our guide asked us for money. We gave him some dirhem (more than we should have, around 50dh, or a little over $5). We knew the conversion rate, but had yet to understand the actual value of a dirhem. Three (about 35 cents) gets you the tastiest orange juice you’ve ever had, lunch or dinner will run 40-60.

We had arrived and fell immediately asleep. We were now in the most foreign feeling place I had ever been (yes, even more than Cambodia).

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