It has been a couple of days in Morocco and all I can say is WOW. It is like no place I have ever been to before!!! When we fly in we are thankfully picked up by our driver to take us to our hotel. We take in our very unfamiliar settings on the 15 minute drive there, passing long derelict orange walls, square buildings and tall palms breaking up the vast desert. The driver expertly navigates the busy roads with no obvious system or lines to follow! After passing the royal palace and going through an old gate- which is more like an opening in the side of a wall- the taxi stops on the side of a busy road lined with stalls, piles of tyres, fruit stalls and mountains of dates. We couldn't spot a plausible location for our hotel anywhere and hesitantly got out of the taxi to follow the man with our bags.
He managed to find an impossible gap in the road between bikes, motorbike after motorbike, cars, taxis and even donkeys pulling carts to make it to the other side. By the end of our 3-day stint Elly and I would be able to cross with our eyes closed! Well actually after a close encounter involving a taxi and a motorbike sandwich on the second day I chose the alternative option of just going whenever Elly went and hoping for the best. I have ALWAYS been terrible at crossing roads- too impatient!
When we finally made it over he led us down an alley and to the left to a small ally that seemed to end in about 20 metres with no other route! We followed hesitantly and gave each other looks of shock when we suddenly saw him dart right down a low tunnel at the end of the alley! I turned to Elly and said- Are we doing this? Are we following the man down a tunnel???- Seemed quite surreal and extremely out of our comfort zone in the first 20 minutes of being there! But that's all part of being in Morocco! You never know what you're going to get…
We took the plunge and bent low enough to fit through and came out to our giant Moroccan door leading to Riad La Porte Rouge- our new home. And palace!!! It was amazing. We walk in to the courtyard complete with plunge pool and in-house cat- max. We are led up to our room with double doors sprung open to our huge double bed, extra cupboard space, fresh fruit, sitting area, giant bathroom (finally). After spending our time throughout Spain in tiny bunk bed dorms with shared bathrooms we were stoked to find ourselves in luxurious style at very cheap Moroccan prices. Always a win.
So after getting very specific and helpful directions to the main square we decided to dive into this crazy new world. The streets are like another world as we step over large curbs, piles of rubbish, cats in the street and road works that seem to have been abandoned for years. We made our way down a small alley that let to the main square. Our hotel man assured us this was pedestrians only and NO cars. This did not however stop the many fast moving scooters and motorbikes that looked more like small motorized bicycles than anything else. We dodged the lines of merchandise on the floor, stalls of spices and dates, while still watching out through the middle for incoming motorbikes and giant carts!
We finally made it into the open square of more chaos! We were greeted by snake charmers, walking a little too close before realising there was a python right at my feet and being approached by men with monkeys in tow to see if we wanted a hold. We did NOT. Woman dressed in long traditional outfits some of which had intricate details on the sleeves and headpieces came to offer us a good price for henna tattoos. We used this time to track down an atm to fund our souk purchases and dives further into the heart of Marrakech.
The souks were insane!!! There were rows and rows of stores all selling jewellery promising to be silver, lanterns hanging from the ceiling, clothing, spices, shoes and each the same as the last! The men would ask where you a from guessing any country they could think of before you got far enough away or in some cases they would just follow you! By the end we had perfected our polite smiles and no thank yous enough so that they knew not to keep going but didn't think you were being rude. A few sellers and people offering help very easily sucked me in. They would come and approach you if you looked lost and promise to lead us in the right way. I was way too trusting, especially when a young boy around 10 enthusiastically told us the square was 'this way' when we had really found ourselves in no recognisable location! Though we tried not to act like we were following him he lead us down some promising streets when all of sudden in stops to show us his fathers shop and what is in there! Sneaky little guy was only helping us into the direction of his dads shop, not to the square! Which I admit was not my first thought! First I was like 'oh cool, that's so nice!'. It is tourists like me that really get sucked in haha
On our third day Elly, Samm and I went battering for Moroccan goods. I proved to be the absolute WORST at it so didn't even really try! I just felt tooo bad and knew I would cave in WAY too easily! Elly and Samm expertly use walking away tactics and claiming bankruptcy to wear them down to their asking price. Elly managed to grab an absolute bargain for an authentic wooden box from $180 down to just $20!!! That is amazing.
Instead we moved on to something more my style to the hammam spas. That is the incredible thing about being here is the total extremes! You step out of the bustling streets full of people and cars into an absolute sanctuary and we treated ourselves to traditional hammam and hour-long relaxation massage. We were shown to a sauna type room where they threw buckets of water all over us, scrubbed our entire bodies thoroughly to get rid of the dead skin (which, I'm not gonna like, there was a lot of!), Washed our hair, applied a mud mask, soaked our feet in rose petal water then threw more buckets of water on us, all while being in a super hot room! Luckily this experience was followed with our FULL body massage. AMAAAAZING! We really took advantage of the luxury recourses while we could afford them before we have to head back into reality for the rest of our six-month trip.
So all up our experience was absolutely incredible. Hopefully this blog could give you a good picture of what Morocco is truly like, the good and the bad. In the short 3 days we were there we eat amazing Moroccan food (without getting food poisoning- thank god!!!), rode camels, went to an equestrian show, got massages, invested in argon oil and many other traditional Moroccan products promising miracle results, and nearly got lost in the souks. Glad to have survived the experience and will miss our amazing Riad home :)