Where the streets have no name
Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
129Trip End Ongoing
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I switch my phone on in case Alex needs to contact us and find a text message from her telling us that her flight is 5 hours delayed and that she has arranged a taxi to take us from the airport to the riad.
We find the taxi guy in arrivals and then the fun begins – we didn’t have any money on us because you can’t get Moroccan Dirhams in the UK beforehand. We need money in order to pay the taxi driver - after several attempts using various debit cards in both of the ATM machines we go to the bureau de change, to find that they don’t accept cards either – we try ringing the various numbers on the back of the cards, all to no avail. Eventually we decide to try one of the cards again and just by sheer luck it decides that it will give us some of our money after all!! It must have been in a bad mood before!
Anyway, now we were on our way.
We had a reservation at a small riad in the winding narrow alleyways beyond the souks. The driver weaves his way round in amongst cycles, mopeds, donkeys and other cars – everyone seems to drive at one another and beep their horns, its fairly crazy, twisting round blind bends and basically now we’re right in the thick of the medina – the taxi driver pulls up in THE most unlikely place and gestures for us to follow him, so right now me and John are absolutely convinced that he’s bought us to the wrong place as there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling looking like accommodation around, but we follow him anyway and I don’t mind admitting that at this point we were both feeling slightly intimidated, we continue to follow him and he stopped in front of a wooden door and rings the bell – we wait for what seems like a lifetime and eventually a lady opens the door and welcomes us warmly inside. From the outside it just looked like a wooden door in a wall, but it opens out into a beautiful courtyard where we are presented with a strawberry yoghurt drink and registration cards to fill in.
We are shown to our room and once we get inside we kinda just look at each other – the riad was beautiful, but as I said before we were both actually feeling a bit intimidated – we decide that we need to go outside and investigate so a bit apprehensively we wander downstairs and out of the wooden door. We have no clue which way to go or where we’ll end up, so we just start walking. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the driving here and we end up in tiny passages barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side with mopeds, bikes and donkeys whizzing and crashing past us and round us and on the slightly wider parts they were coming at us in all directions – it was fairly disorientating at first – a direct assault on the senses, a one point I rounded a corner and actually got pinned against the wall by a boy on his bike. It was hot, noisy and vibrant – I loved every second of it. I was slightly disarmed when I first arrived, but it took me all of five minutes to adjust and that was it, my senses were completely alive, this is what I came for – I got what I wanted, it just took me aback for a second. So, after a while we find a stall to get a snack from and a couple of bottles of water, wander around a bit more and then find our way back to the riad in time to meet Alex.
Alex arrives and we sit in the courtyard drinking mint tea and eating some bite sized pastries that were given to us with it. Its still really hot and it starts to rain very gently, I stay sitting in the rain because it’s actually really cooling and also very light. As we sit here in this absolutely idyllic setting I hear the call to prayer for the very first time for real – sure I’ve heard it on the TV, but that’s not the same, I knew I was somewhere different, from what I’d seen so far, Marrakech was going to be a place ripe with possibilities.
Once the mint tea is finished we’re all ready to go and get something to eat – so we head for the main square, Djemaa el Fna. The square is around a 20 minute walk away and when we get there it is completely overflowing with people, musicians, dancers, storytellers, acrobats, a whole myriad of entertainers alongside dozens of freshly squeezed orange juice stalls and food stalls – clouds of steam hang in the air above the crowds from the street food vendors – the sights, the sounds and the smells were captivating an enchanting mix of complete chaos.
Alex has been to Morocco a number of times and she has made friends here – one of whom worked on one of the food stalls – so we find his stall and take a seat, but he doesn’t appear to be there, another man working on the stall recognises Alex and comes over to talk to her and tells her that her friend is now working on another stall. We order various kebab skewers and swap them around so we can try each sort. Someone must have gone and told Alexs friend she was here because a couple of minutes later he arrives at the stall and comes and sits with us – he’s working too so he has to sit and chat for a while, go back and do some work and then comes and chats again – he wants us to go and have mint tea with him, but its been a very long day, so Alex promises him that tomorrow we will visit him at his stall and have something to eat there.
By now its way gone midnight, we are all tired and we also realise that in the dark we didn’t stand any chance at all of finding our way back to our accomodation – the streets have no names where we are staying (well, most of them at least) – so we figure we'll leave negotiating the souks till daylight tomorrow and grab a taxi to get us as close to the riad as possible and then we head in the direction the taxi driver points us in and eventually we find our accommodation. I went to bed briming with excitement about what tomorrow will bring.