A Welcome Note: On Filling the Gaps

Dear Friends and Family:

Although I haven't added any posts since the summer of 2007, this blog continues to be a warehouse of my thoughts and experiences from my time abroad.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Morocco: Day Four

2.26.07 - At around 5AM I woke up and noticed we were stopped at a station along our route. We had been stopped for almost an hour there and I struck up a conversation with Ted, a guy traveling with his friend through Spain and Morocco. Out the window was a landscape completely different from the lush, beachy feel of Tangier and northern Morocco. Rocky hills and sparse terrain made for a complete change in atmosphere and signaled a quickly changing climate as we moved south. After a short exchange I returned to the cabin to catch another few hours of sleep before we arrived in Marrakesh. A few hours later our night train pulled into Marrakesh and the conductor unlocked our cabin. We disembarked and made use of the station restroom to wash our faces and try and wake up a bit. We hadn’t made any reservations at hotels, but one of the girls had bought a guidebook before we left that gave a number of suggestions for places to say. From the station, we grabbed two petite taxis and made our way to the Medina. Apart from the sheltered Club Med at the Medina entrance, the main square was open to all sorts. One could see old men carrying stacks of chairs on their backs, cart after cart of oranges and grapefruits, nuts and dried fruits, snake charmers set up on the ground, sellers of all kinds of wares, filled the square, not to mention the people ambling about, lying at the base of buildings in misery, begging for a Durham, and the comically large bubbles of British and American tourists, herded along by their slick tan guides. We found the hotel without much trouble and checked in. The rooms were beautiful and on the roof was a spectacular terrace. The hotel set us up with Sahara Expeditions, a company that leads tours of the Sahara desert and after a quick lunch including tagine (actually the name of the plate in which the meal is cooked) and of course, mint tea made our way to the tourism office. 7 of us (Rachel not included) booked a two day excursion through the Moroccan landscape and desert stopping in Zagora where we would ride camels into the desert and sleep in tents among the dunes, before waking up the next morning and returning to Marrakech. Ironically, Andy and Ted, the two guys from the train, also reserved spots on the same excursion. After booking our trip, we naturally split off into groups to explore the city based on what we wanted to see most (it’s a tough city to get around in large groups so it worked out better this way anyway). Jenny, Rachel and I stuck together and spent the majority of our day losing ourselves in the incredibly expansive and maze-like souk. At one point, Rachel wanted to buy a pair of sunglasses and when she was hesitant over the price, the shop keeper said “These glasses good quality, see not Chinese imitation, Moroccan imitation, so cost more.” Well, for that fantastic explanation she had to go for them. I acquired a whole bagful of gifts including the bag with which I carried them, and a hat to go along with it which all in all contributed to my increasingly unshowered and generally leathery, scruffy appearance. That afternoon, Jenny, Rachel and I enjoyed tea overlooking the main square, Djemaa el Fna, and for dinner we all decided to experiment with the many outdoor restaurant vendors in the main square. Given that we had had pretty decent experiences with the food courts up to this point and the open kitchens looked both legitimate and very clean, we decided to give it a go without thinking much about it. However, by the time I bit into my last slice of grilled eggplant, I did feel a bit queasy. That night was fine, and I thought it had passed. That night before I went to bed, Jenny and I decided to hang out on the roof (where some guests were sleeping in warm wool blankets) under the stars. At one point this crazy man who was woken by some loud noise on the street began grabbing mulch from one of the planters and chucking it down at the voices below. I thought this a most comical way to deal with such a simple ordeal. We were there so long talking, gazing up at the sky and down at the streets below that by the time we realized the time, it was already 4 in the morning.

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