I arrived in Marrakesh last night and things got interesting straight away. The first thing I did after getting through the passport control was to get some local currency. Inside the airport were a bunch of exchange places and right next to these were 3 ATMs. One was out of order and the other two refused to accept either of my cards. Now I was starting to get a little worried as I only had 5 euros on me which apparently wasn't even enough for the exchange place to bother exchanging (I was hoping to get at least enough to get a bus to my hostel). Thankfully the guy there pointed me around the corner to an ATM which did work. What the issue was with the other ones I don't know, but I got my money and was on my way.
While waiting for the bus me and two other ladies were continuously hounded by taxi drivers. We were all going in the same direction and eventually one driver decided to take us all for the price it would have been each for the bus anyway, so we accepted. Now if I thought the driving in Rome and Naples was bad, this was something else. Road rules seemed to barely exist. Actually it felt a lot like how I remember catching taxis in Penang and Phuket was. The driver did seem to know what he was doing though., And then when we got dropped off near the main plaza, jeez, what an experience. First thing I learned real quick is that taxi drivers don't bother with change (which actually only cost me like 1 euro). The second was that it was going to be nothing like Europe here.
People starting trying to sell me stuff and call me over to stalls straight away. Plenty more taxi drivers wanted to take me on to my hostel (which was like a 2 minute walk), others were just trying to show me or take me the way there. Eventually one guy actually did manage to and I was actually quite grateful for it, this place is a bit of a maze. When we got to the hostel he waited outside and said we would go for a drink or grab something to eat. When I asked the hostel guy about it he said to give the guy 20 Dhirim (about 2 euros) and to tell him to be on his way. I'm not sure what his deal was or what would have happened had I gone out with him, but I get a feeling it would have cost be a lot more.
The hostel is really nice. A couple of stories and a nice roof terrace which itself has a couple of layers. There's a nice canopied lounge area up there and shisha pipes. The top part of the terrace has a great view over the city. Very nice place.
Today I got up in time to have the included breakfast which was traditional Moroccan. It included egg, flatbread, some pancake type things, various spreads, spiced coffee, some kinda cake thing. Was all delicious. Then I walked around the main market plaza area with a English couple. We didn't buy anything, it was just interesting to walk around. Lots of guys trying to get you to buy stuff, all very narrow alleys and stalls crammed with all sorts of crap. Donkeys were pulling carts all around. We saw some cats eating chicken heads. We saw places selling live chickens, others with entire cow heads, tongue included. There were snake skins and guys selling the opportunity to have your picture taken with live snakes, one with live monkeys wearing diapers. It was all quite an experience. I haven't felt this kind of culture shock I guess though not really shock, since first getting to Europe. We stopped to get a coffee at a rooftop cafe overlooking the market and it was during this that the prayers started. Every mosque in the area would send out prayers over loudspeakers. As I write this they're going again, have several times since that first time. Five times a day I would imagine based on my knowledge of Islam.
When we got back to the hostel there were a couple of ladies who were just finishing up their cooking class (one of the activities offered by the hostel). They got to choose what to cook and then they got taken around the market to buy all the ingredients they needed fresh (including a live chicken which was killed right before cooking). Then they were taught to cook the dish. The reason I write about this is because we happened to be in the right place at exactly the time to get a free lunch out of it. Free breakfast and free lunch, doing pretty well. It was a damn good lunch too. You could taste how fresh the chicken was :p.
So I'm thinking that whatever plans I had to meet some people here, or hire a car and road trip around or whatever have pretty much fallen through. I'm now thinking that either tomorrow or the day after I will go off on a 3 day excursion which includes going through the Atlas mountains and spending a night in the Sahara desert. I'm really looking forward to that.
Tonight the hostel owner has decided to cook dinner for everyone, so that's going to be all 3 meals in one day for free. Score! After that me and the English guy (Gareth) are going to try and see if we can find somewhere to grab some beers. May not be a particularly easy task in a predominantly Muslim city, but we've heard there are a few places.
I think this might be the first time that I write and publish an entry of just one day on the day that it happened. Amazing! But it's turned into quite a lengthy entry. I feel like over time I've got kinda lazy in some of these entries. I think it took coming to an entirely new place with a different culture to kinda wake me up perhaps. I was getting comfortable and in that things were started to be "samey". Maybe things I would have written in length about early on now just got a passing mention or things which got a small mention I no longer to bother mention at all. Maybe I need to work a bit harder to keep these entries actually interesting to read. Something to think about anyway.