Marrakech is by most standards a touristy city, but the size of the Medina (old walled town) allows you to comfortably avoid the other foreigners in the narrow alleys and quaint neighborhoods. Walk a few steps outside the highlights on the tourist map, and you’re practically the only foreigner there. The recent CIA warning of the high likelihood of ISIS-planned attacks in Morocco may have put a damper on tourism, and perhaps that’s why I got such a deal on accommodations.
With India fresh in mind, Morocco appears as an orderly and modern place though there are plenty of shocking displays of humanity if you look for it. The Medina is a maze of narrow alleys, passages, mind boggling souks, homes, and people selling anything you want (and more often, don’t want). One of the greater challenges for a Westerner is avoiding the touts and pushy sales tactics. Even though I consider myself street-wise, I fell victim to a few low-stakes schemes, usually starting with an innocent friendly gesture. But the experience only cost me a couple of Dirhams, and I’m wiser for it.
While many visitors choose to stay in more Western-style hotels, I had the pleasure of being housed in a traditional Riad, a traditional and unassuming fronted larger house with a courtyard. The experience was amazing — these homes are more or less insulated from the chaotic life and noise just outside their thick walls. An oasis, of sorts.
Entrance to my Riad.
Jewish Cemetery, Marrakech
Tannery, Marrakech. The stench was unbearable…
Flying out of Casablanca, I boarded the day train from ‘Kech to ‘Casa, a beautiful 3-4 hour journey through the countryside. Compared to the former, ’Casa is a big, sprawling metropolis. While the city boasts an impressive array of French colonial architecture, it lacks the charm of ‘Kech. If you come here for a romantic movie throwback to last century, you’re out of luck — Casablanca wasn’t even filmed here, and Rick’s Cafe never existed. Nevertheless, the huge city offers a good contrast to the more cinematic Marrakech.
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
With society here mirroring developments in the rest of the world, it’s a little harder to experience what one hopes to be uniquely Moroccan. But it’s there if you take the time to wander a little. I happened upon a funeral with the ritual of hired wailing women, experienced traditional cooking up close and committed a religion-related few faux pas, all committed to memory.