E-mail From Morocco...
September 13, 2007
What an amazing week. Seriously.
I experienced a camel ride at sunset in the middle of some of the most amazing sand dunes
ever. I experienced day turn into night on the terrace of my riad with my fellow riad peeps
while looking out onto an ancient medina. I drove through palmeries. I saw Kasbah after
Kasbah. I had a guy wanting me to pet his monkey (much more innocent than it sounds). I
headed out for a sunrise camel ride under a starry sky while watching shooting stars and
looking at the Milky Way. I had lunch with a local family – who happened to speak only
Arabic and Berber (a bit of a challenge). I got scrubbed down (in every sense of the word) by
a woman vying as a wet t-shirt contest winner who afterwards changed into her burka to
head outside. I read my book in a beautiful park. I found a patisserie that I loved. I heard
French accents all around me. A friend and I got swooped into the home of somebody we
now call 'The Spice Doctor'.
Such is life in Morocco…
It all started in Fes – a word I used to solely associate with 'That 70's Show'. But no longer.
Now I reserve it for the largest ancient medina in the world that doubles as a complete
labyrinth. It was here I met Odine (sp?) who was my guide. Midway through the day he had
me over to his family's house for lunch. His family only spoke Arabic and Berber. He,
himself, only spoke a bit of broken English. He used this to serve as translator between me
and every non-speaker of English in the room. Things were going well. We were eating
lunch. We were a happy bunch. Then I realized something. I was in the middle of
committing one of the biggest faux pas in the Muslim book – I was eating with my left
hand. In my defense, I am left-handed. But these people didn't know that. All they knew
was that my left hand was dipping into the communal tagine. I apologized to Odine and had
him tell his family that I was sorry and that I was left-handed so that is the hand I
automatically eat with. He translated and everybody at the table laughed. Phew! Next
awkward moment came when Odine went to have a cigarette. This left me and his Berber
grandmother in the room. I was at a complete loss of words for what to say. Literally. It felt
like Odine was smoking a pack of cigarettes. Where was he? There was only so long I could
sit facing the grandmother with a goofy smile on my face.
In the evening I would go back to my riad and head up to the terrace and hang out with the
other people from my riad as we watched day turn into night. So wonderful.
Then came Merzouga. Smack in the Sahara desert. Sand dunes as far as the eye could see.
Ali was my camel guide. I joked to him that he was Ali Baba. He said Ali Baba wasn't a
Berber. Therefore, he was now Ali Berber. He would also take me out on a sunrise ride
where I trusted his sand dune navgation skills in the pitch black. There are few things better
than watching a sunrise from high atop a dune.
The only way to get to Marrakech from Merzouga was one of the regular local buses. This
would have been roughly 14 hours...overnight....picking up anybody and everybody who
waved their arm on the side of the road. With t minus two hours I pulled out the princess
card and ended up paying quite a bit more to have a private driver. This way I also got to see
the Moroccan countryside...complete with Kasbahs, palmeries and gorges...on our way to
Marrakech. And I also had leg room. And space. And the luxury of being able to stop
wherever I wanted. After zig-zagging our way around the Atlas mountains, we arrived in
The main square here is like no other. Sensory overload with acrobats, snake charmers,
storytellers (can't quite tell you what these Arabic stories were though), guys making
dentures (odd, I know), guys wanting you to pet their monkeys (I caved and got my picture
with one and he literally climbed up and plopped his monkey butt on my head - gross but I
was laughing too hard to really be disgusted until afterwards), dancers swinging their
tassels on their hats, food vendors, etc. Yes, people constantly try to talk to you and get you
to their stalls. But it always seemed friendly here versus in Egypt where I had people get
mad at me when I ignored them (and you really must ignore them - it's a rookie move to
answer when they ask "Where you from?"). I actually came up with a winning answer when
they would be eye-to-eye with me. I would look at them with an empty look on my face as
they started listing languages. Then I would simply say 'Deutsche'. Nobody speaks German
here. And a winning answer was had!
A friend and I also got suckered into going into a man's home in the Jewish Quarter. He
showed us his full array of spices from every container in sight. Ethan decided he would
buy a couple knowing he was being ripped off but feeling okay about paying for this crazy
experience. Moustafa (the man) wanted us to buy this other stuff as well. The spices were
135 dirham. The other stuff was 50 dirham. He was going to give us a bargain price of...get
this....200 dirham for both. This was an offer we could refuse.
Another experience included a Moroccan hammam. Let's just say I let a woman take full
advantage of me. Not only that, I more or less let her take full advantage of me with a
scrubbing mitt that felt like I was getting a scrub-down with sandpaper. I could get more
graphic. I won't, though. Some of you might be close to eating lunch and I don't want to
ruin your appetite.
I never had a chance to make it down to the beach. But that's okay because I know this is a
country I will return to in the future!
I am actually pretty amazed by how well I was able to throw myself back into the 'traveling'
life again after being in the U.S. for three months. My bag weighs much more this time -
that is the only challenge I foresee for the coming months.
I also want to thank everybody that put me up while I was in the U.S. - Michelle, Jen H.,
Ari, Jenna, Elisa, Cindy, Ann, Lea, Kat and Megan. (I know it sounds like a lot of people -
it's not that I'm that painful to live with...it's just that I went to many cities while I was
Michele, Maya and Mel - Congrats on your new 'hitched' status!
Melissa - Had a great time in London with ya!
On that note, consider this the first email of a series that you will be getting.
Looking forward to hearing the haps with you guys. :)