From Brazil to Morocco it took almost a full day. We knew we would be tired and prearrange our transportation from airport to our Reide. Our taxi driver met us in the airports lobby, as anticipated, and he drove us to the historic Medina in Marrakech. From there we met our host’s maid who lead us through the crowded streets. As we darted through the crowds, I couldn’t help but feel like I landed in a whole new world. At first glance Medina felt enchanted. The streets were alive with musicians, snake charmers, monkeys, vendors, and people on the go. I was so excited to explore this amazing place.
After a good fifteen minuet walk we arrived at our riad. The maid, who we communicated with via Google translate, welcomed us in true Moroccan form. From a beautiful silver teapot, she performed a long pour of sweet mint tea into a small glass so that a layer of foam was left on top. She served the tea with some delicious cookies that were like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. From that moment I was in love with Moroccan food and wanted to try more. Dan wasn’t in love with all the sweets, but was quite eager to see what Morocco had to offer. Soon we were off to find dinner, and when we did it was quite delicious.
The following day, after sleeping off some of our jet lag we set out to explore. We didn’t really have a plan, just walk and see what we could see. Along the way several people tried to directed us here or there and that’s when we decided to visit the tanneries. A very kind gentleman pointed us in the right direction and we found ourselves in a very stinky neighborhood. The man explained to us working in the tanneries was how he made a living and walked us to an opening along a walled area where he introduced us to a friend ready with mint in his hand.
We were given a quick tour of the pools used to prepare the skins. I’m really glad we had mint because some were filled with pigeon poop and goat pee. I almost lost my breakfast a few times because of the smell. I nearly lost it again when I saw a man removing the hair from the skin. The images and smells are unforgettable; I feel queasy just thinking about it! Following the tour the man led us to a shop and the bargaining began whether we wanted something or not.
I’ve noticed all Moroccans bargain the same way. The sales man says something like just look you don’t need to buy… That’s when they play the “you need to make you wife happy card.” It’s really the only time I (or any female) will be spoken or listened to during the process that could last for hours if you let it. They’ll show you a few things and ask you “what’s your price?” We return, “what does it cost?” After you name a price they chat a little say why it’s worth more and yadda, yadda, yadda… Then they ask again, “Last time. What’s your price?” If they like your answer or in our case just want to sell something, they will shake your hand say “Deal! It’s yours.” In our case, Dan stuck to his guns for over an hour and we made a deal for a prayer rug for 75% of the original asking price.
The haggling is a pain in the butt, and frankly I can’t stand it! After the negotiating ordeal at the tannery it seemed like everywhere we went it was the same thing. Even if we were just clearly walking by. It was exhausting! After our first day walking the city I began to see Marrakech less enchanting… especially the poor monkeys and snakes. It was clear that you had to stay guarded and keep walking or you would be going home with a bag full nicknacks that you never wanted in the first place.
Once we got our bearings and understood the differences in culture things felt less awkward. During daylight we would explore and at night we worked. We learned about the Moroccan lanterns from a craftsman, treated ourselves to a nice meal, took a cooking class, and visited the beautiful El Badi palace, and the El Bahia palace. Morocco was quite a learning experience even though we had read about the culture before our visit; it just felt jarring. We had to learn and adapt quickly in ways that felt so unnatural. Although it stretched my comfort zone I will always cherish our time there.
p.s. Our cooking classes was over-the-top amazing… so I’ve decided to write about it in another post 😉