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Morocco- a land of fire and ice (Part I)

ITALY | Thursday, 17 August 2017 | Views [304]


I have been giving a lot of thoughts recently where to spend my summer holidays. It has been a long time dream of mine to see a piece of Africa so I started searching for a country that would satisfy my desire to visit this continent but it will also be safe to travel too. After reading around 1 million travel blogs and another 2 billion searches on Google-there was it! Morocco, an Islamic country that is a perfect combination of antiquity and modernity. I am pointing out Islamic as I would never try to hide the fact that this has always been a concern and there are many places I have never visited (for example Istanbul) for this very fact. So finally all decisions were made- I packed my stuff and headed to Africa.

I do not know if you believe in destiny but sometimes destiny makes me believe in her. Everything was telling me I should not go, everything was telling me I should simply give it up. Four days before I had to fly I made myself a coffee, sat on the table in order to do the online check-in for the flight on Sunday. Until I opened my passport and I discovered that the passport has expired. Do not ask me how I didn't see this before..as you well know I am a very self-disciplined person but I guess when it comes to djinn nothing really matters. I do not know if you have ever experienced a feeling of full despair of having no clue what to do next. Well I had. What followed up was a pure nightmare- phone calls to the Embassy, plane tickets and me returning to my country of origin in order to make an express 24h new passport. On Saturday I was back in Italy, flying on the next day to Marrakesh. Maybe.

Ok, the flight was late with three hours and a half, it can happen to anyone. What it cannot happen to anyone is that the moment we sat down in the airplane the pilot came out and said that the plane has a technical problem with the engine and we have to move to another aircraft. After moving to another aircraft the pilot came again and said that unfortunately what we are doing is totally illegal and we have to go to the border police one more time for a check. So after putting my bag pack in the third airplane after 5 hours of delay I was pretty sure that the airplane will most probably crash as I have never had so many signs that I am not supposed to go somewhere. You know, you pray to the Gods that they will guide your way and in this case the Gods were fighting over should I or should I now see Africa?

I knew what to expect as some of my friends have already visited Morocco so I was totally prepared. At 10 PM I was already fighting over the price of a ride with a taxi driver in all possible languages from English and French, to Italian and Spanish, though believe me I do not understand a word of Spanish up to this day. After some minutes, Jamal, one of the taxi driver, agreed to take me to the Riad for a descent price (a Riad is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel) but left me in the beginning of Medina-the old part of the city of Marrakesh. I started walking with my phone in order to discover where I am and of course this is all they have been waiting for. In seconds I was surrounded by a crowd of youngsters showing me the right direction. What you don't know or maybe you do is that in Morocco no one is showing you the right direction. That's right. What you confuse as politeness is actually a very well played role. Even if the place you are trying to reach is 2 min away, the boys  of Marrakesh have prepared an exquisitely constructed spider web for you and they will lead you along the streets for at least 30 min until they show you the real way and of course...ask for a compensation. And during all of this time you have to be very careful of the motorbikes passing literally everywhere around you in a manner as you did not exists. If you do not make the effort to move away from their way be sure you would end up in the nearest hospital very quick.

I am going to publish a lot of photos in this entry of my blog as the beauty and diversity of Morocco's landscapes is its greatest advantage. Why fire? Because the first three days were filled up with the fact that I was simply fighting against the temperatures of Africa. I stayed in a lovely Riad called Riva and I have chosen it as it has amazing ratings both in Booking and TripAdvisor. It was a very good decision as both the place and the people were marvelous.

The breakfast was marvelous as all the food and the tea that I had the opportunity to taste all over the country but what I have to tell you is the truth. And the truth is that I have made a really long list of places to visit and later I was very grateful that I did that because the hygiene in the restaurants is something unacceptable for human beings. That's right- do not listen to anything that is written all over Internet as all the Barbie dolls out there that want to play fancy will only publish the cool photos of themselves and will never tell you the truth because they will not be fancy and luxury anymore. But I will tell you the truth and nothing but the truth. Did you know that 90% of the people of Marrakesh lack most of their teeth or if they have any left they are with the color of dark chocolate due to all the sugar intake mainly by drinking mint tea? Do you know that everything you can hear walking on the streets of Medina are boys at the age of 8-11 offering you hashish? Do you know that I bought water for the beggars on the street as they were asking me instead of asking money and  it simply broke my heart? I bet you don't.

However I will also point all the marvelous sides of my travel as the things are neither black nor white. Except this photo of mine that was taken during the first day of my stay where there was a tempest and it was raining (that's right) and this is why I am so desperate. However at the end of this entry I am going to also publish all the places that are worth visiting in Marrakech, either for lunch or dinner (I have a list only of Marrakesh as in all the other cities it was a matter of survival).

Of course one of the most famous places in Morocco for eating is the marvelous Jamaal el Fna- the main square of Marrakesh. What is interesting to point out is that it is a part of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity as it is the home of the so called storytellers- a special group of actors that act as the keepers of the folklore of the country as well as of many street musicians and performers. What I can tell you is that if you go after 8 PM you would be fascinated by the quantity of people that are visiting the square to have a dinner there or simply to enjoy the atmosphere. Of course you have to be prepared for all kind of  people to speak to you- whether they are trying to convince you to have a snail soup or to paint your hands with henna.

It is difficult to point out all the nice places you can visit in Marrakesh or to write about all of them- the next parts of this post are going to be dedicated to the desert and the mountains as it is something that is more difficult to find as information on the Internet. For all touristic places to visit or places to eat you can always read some guides, however I would give you my personal suggestions here and later you can decide for yourself.

Of course the thing that is most important to note is that exactly next to Jamaal El Fna there is the biggest market I have seen in my entire life. If even in your life you have been searching for a complete, noisy, messy chaos- do not look any further! If I thought that Medina is chaotic then I should have first came here. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE is speaking to you, trying to drag you inside their little shops in all possible languages on planet Earth. And if you are ever stupid enough to follow them then be prepared to spend a lot of time negotiating over a spoon. They might even ask you to trade your earrings or necklace for something you were interested in. Yes. It happened to me.

Places to visit in Marrakesh:

Jamaal El Fna
Jarden Majorelle
El Bahia palace
El Badi palace
Maison de la photographie
Le jardin secret
Madrasa di Ben Youssef

Where to eat:

Atay Cafe
Cafe Kif-Kif
Souk Cafe
Roti D'or
Cafe Chez ZaZa
La Cantine des Gazelles
Chez Chegrouni

Tags: adventure, desert, holiday, marrakech, marrakesh, morocco, mountains, on the road, trekking, trip

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