Monday, May 19, 2014

Stranded in Spain, Pt. 4: Morocco Madhouse

As the clouds cleared during our descent into Fez, I was shocked by how green the countryside was. The weather, too, was a surprise – it was foggy.

The taxi dropped us off in the middle of the Fez medina, where our hotel host met us. Good thing, because her business was located in the middle of a maze (Google map the Fez medina, you'll see what I mean). The path became so small at times that a human could barely squeeze through. B walked into the hotel lobby first while I waited behind. After hugging T and Tam she said, “Oh, I forgot a bag at the door,” and she came to get me. The look of shock on T's face was hilarious; for five full seconds it was as if he had no idea who I was. When he realized, we all hugged and laughed. It was a great moment because we'd overcome the hardships and had reunited.

Fez was my first exposure to the medina life. I dressed somewhat more conservatively than usual, but we experienced almost no harassment because we had T with us. When Tam was alone in Casablanca, it was a different story. It was also my first exposure to the maze-like streets of the medina. There was a cacophany of sounds and sights. People were extremely friendly, but most of them were also trying to make a buck. I couldn't count how many times people offered to guide us to the tannery or back to our hotel. We'd circumvent them and ask store owners instead, who also tried to make a buck by luring us into their shops. “It's free to look!” they'd say.
Lost - again

Tiny streets

The famous tannery
My first lesson in Morocco transportation was when we tried to take the train from Meknés to Marrakech. “It'll be six hours,” said Tam. It turned out to be only three, because the train was so incredibly packed that we had to stand / sit in a tiny corner of the compartment the entire time. It was a nightmare. We tried to busy ourselves with games or reading, but when we got to the capital Rabat, we decided at that moment to escape. As we attempted to disembark, people's hands were reaching for our bags. I was extremely afraid it would get stolen, so I didn't accept anyone's help. But when the hands were reaching for my arm to assist me down the stairs, I realized they weren't trying to steal from me, rather to help me off. I waved and smile my appreciation. On the platform, we were so happy to have escaped the hell of the train that we cheered and did a group hug.
More Morocco green

How I sat for 3 hours
We ended up renting a “grand taxi” to Marrakech. A long, expensive drive, but worth not having to deal with the train. It was nighttime when we arrived. As we walked towards our hotel, I saw smoke and lights in the distance. “What is that, a riot?” I asked. T answered, “That, Aggie, is the Djemaa el-Fna. We're about to enter a madhouse."

If you want to visit a place that is the answer to every stereotype you've ever had about Morocco, visit the Djemaa el-Fna at night, the busiest, biggest plaza in Marrakech's medina. Pushy vendors, snake charmers, drumming in every want it, it's there. One henna vendor would NOT let go of my hand. T had to physically lift me by my shoulders to get me out of her grasp.

On our second day we met up with a Couchsurfer who knew quite a bit about Marrakech. We accompanied him to some extranjero activities: first stop, a cafe where there was trivia in English! Afterwards, we sauntered over to a karaoke bar, and proceeded to sing our drunken hearts out. My first pick, "We are Young" by F.u.n., wasn't great. I grew some balls for my next pick: "Rolling on the River", the Tina Turner version. I brought out the Tina in me and proceeded to purr, shimmy, and belt it out. The club was instantly on their feet - EVERYONE danced! It was my best audience reaction ever. Afterwards, a local came up to me and said, "I hope you are not offended, but we want to give you a nickname - Creedence China Revival!" I laughed and said, "Okay, cool!"
There's nothing like going to a karaoke bar and hearing English favourites belted out in foreign accents. And having people run onto the stage to join you in a true multi-cultural version of "We Are The World". That night in the karaoke bar really encapsulated what this trip was about. Yes, it was too short. Yes, at times it tired me out. But near the beginning of our journey, when B and I were on the train heading from Málaga to Madrid, she apologized for keeping me from my trip and I responded, "I honestly don't mind." Because this trip wasn't about putting another pinpoint on my map, rather it was about forging alliances. When I left Marrakech, I hugged B goodbye and, commenting on everything we'd been through together, told her, "You know we're sisters now, right?" And with a chug of the taxi engine and a final look out the back window, I left.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I lost your blog addy, but I found it just now and have been reminiscing about our trip all over again. (It's always cool to hear about it from someone else's perspective!) I had *no* idea about the "Creedence China Revival" remark - I actually did LOL when I read that! And then I got to the end and you made me all misty-eyed. Your pants are still - and will always be - awesome, Agasel. :)

    - B