After a couple of minutes of yelling at my old lady that we need to go and she needs to stop touching the puppies and get to the car, we discovered we were on time! Now, I’ve had a bit of a questionable run when it comes to travelling and over time I have almost missed at least half of my flights A short car ride, a longer train ride, a metro ride and a 1.5 hour bus trip later we made it to Girona airport – on time! Crazy.
With a woman in front of me trying to bring a 25 cm kitchen knife in her handluggage (what the..?!) we cleared security pretty quickly (btw, if you’re on instagay, follow the account of TSA, it’s the account of airport security in the US and they post the crazy things people are trying to sneak on the plane). Thankfully we quickly found a table so Laia could finally start doing her homework and let me ponder about all the things I might had forgotten.
Sleepy faces doesn’t make for the best looking photos in the morning. Thankfully there’s filters.
Look at the backdrop of Girona airport!!
Laia doing her homework and taking notes.
Very important when it comes down to taxis: be cheeky!
Sitting, waiting, wishing.
Reason why, is that while I always like to travel as light as possible, this time it’s a little crazy. Literally all that is in my suitcase to Morocco is four t-shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, flipflops, some underwear and a notepad. I haven’t weighed the it, but it can’t be more than 3, maybe 3.5 kilo’s tops. Plenty of room to take some nice things home then. I’m always a little worried about forgetting stuff but the truth is that you can really forget anything as long as you bring your passport: all the rest you can either buy or wash.
Some hours later -sitting, waiting, looking out of the window trying to sleep, read, play a game and listen to some music- later, Ryanair pilot Adam starts the descent and soon we touch down firmly on African soil. Another first!
Just like in India there’s a looooong queue in front of the immigration office, giving you quite a lot of time to observe your fellow weary travellers. It’s a test of patience and emotional resilience to stand in line for an hour after waking up early, sitting in cars, trains, metros, buses, and planes. Anyway, after a while an angry man punches a stamp in my poor passport (YES!) and we are on our way.
More of the selfies with sleeping strangers. I should really make a segment out of this on my website.
Just what you want to see after a flight. Long lines. We did well though and moved relatively quickly!
Get ready for Marrakesh
We exchange some money and get out of the airport, smiling full confidence to the nothing-to-declare-man. A man holding a sign with “Jesper Black” awaits us in the arrival hall and he takes us to his car and subsequently to the hotel. The heat surprises us both and Saki, our driver, laughs as I wipe the sweat from my forehead. “Très chaud,” he says with a big smiled on his tanned face. “Ouais, c’est vrai” I reply in my best French (thank you Mrs. Buurman).
It’s crazy. Fly 2 hours to the North and you’ll be in more or less of the same world as to what you are used to. More or less the same kind of people, culture, architecture, restaurants, you name it. The food may be a little different, and sure the language sounds weird, but in the big picture, it’s the same compared to the world you live in at home.
Same if you fly east or west. Fly 2 hours south though, and it’s like someone turned the whole world upside down. Everything seems different. A for me incomprehensible language, different people, wearing different clothes, new smells, colours, shops, advertisements, methods of transport. It’s mind boggling.
Saki drives us to the center of town, parks the Citroën Berlingo and leads us down a narrow alley to a small, closed door while motor bikes whizz past. He knocks the door so softly he barely touches the metal on the door and I can’t help but laugh. There’s no way somebody can hear that. Miraculously, someone opens the door welcomes us with a big smile.
It’s Hassan, our host that serves us the first of the many cups of fresh mint tea we will be drinking over the course of the next week, and subsequently leads us to our honeymoon suite (don’t ask).
You can read all you want and think you are ready, but there is nothing that can prepare you for the shear madness of Marrakesh. As we make our way through the narrow streets and head towards the Jemaa el Fna, the main square of the city, it is like arriving onto a filmset. There are belly dancers, people making music, monkeys, story tellers, snake charmers, food stalls, henna artists, fortune tellers, bikes, taxis, a TON of people walking around, and the SMELLS! Every 30 seconds you will walk into a new wall of flavours, some great, some overwhelmingly terrible. (Marrakesh top tip: don’t walk past the horses. I’ll spare you the details, just believe me when I say don’t.)
Our lovely hotel room of the Mehdia hotel.
Making our way to the main square through the old streets
Small corner of the big Jemaa el Fna square. On the right the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque, in the middle a monkey.
Beautiful Marrakesh madness
Tens of old wagon cars selling freshly pressed orange juice are ready to help you lessen your thirst, and for just 4 Moroccan Dirham (about 40 euro/dollar cent) it’s an absolute treat. Reading up on the city beforehand, a lot of people seem to warn you about the people of Marrakesh, that they can be real assholes in trying to get the money out of your pocket (sometimes literally, if you believe the stories), but the truth is, we find, that the vast majority of the people here is incredibly kind and warmhearted. Yes, we are Westerners with -relatively, ha!- boat loads of money they are tempting us to spend, but isn’t that their job? Of course you’d like somebody to buy something if you own a shop. Can you blame them? It’s part of the game, and instead of being overwhelmed by the advances of the many salesman, it’s important that you keep smiling and not get thrown off by anything or anyone around you. It’s important to remember you don’t owe anything to anyone, except for maybe your kindness.
After an extensive stroll around the Jemaa al Fna, which sounds difficult but really it’s just a Moroccan version of the Grote Markt in Groningen but with monkeys, a slow stroll around the beautiful Koutoubia mosque, we dive in for another glass of orange goodness before losing ourselves in the magical maze of the souks. Souk means market in Arabic but that kind of put shame to our humble European market because there is literally NOTHING you can not buy here: shoes, dresses, bags, jackets, lamps, herbs, spices, tortoises, chameleons, rugs, watches, tagines, henna tattoos. Every stall offers a different range of items, colours, and smells.
OJ! As fresh as can get. Supertasty. Our man to go to was Youssouf from number 14.
Small insight into a souk street.
Small square we ended up at after some time in the souks.
Ah, man! In hindsight it was probably a very wise decision to fly with Ryanair. There were SO many beautiful things for sale on the markets. Look at these spectacular lamps! I’d love to have ANY of them in my house.
With the sun slowly setting behind the Koutoubia minaret we walk down the food/restaurant alley where people -literally- fight to get into their food stalls.
“This restaurant is – BLOODY AWESOME,” one of the guys tells us. “No diarrhoea, I promise! Plus, we have very democratic prices for you.” I’m not sure what that means, but the guy had me at no diarrhoea.
Quickly we are surrounded by mostly locals. There’s not too many tourists here, and even in the old part of the city most of the people still seem to live here. Not sure if it is because of the fact that the holiday season has ended or anything else, but it’s nice.
Look how happy Laia is here in the winding streets of the souk maze.
I love this shot. Even though it’s composition wise not the best, it contains a lot of characteristic items of the city: the old taxis -a post about cars in Morocco later-, the minaret of the Mosque, great weather. Oh and horses.
Shameless selfie. Having walked through 25% of the city on the first afternoon we fully deserved to sit down and hang back for a while. And take a photo.
Beautiful beautiful Koutoubia Mosque and minaret.
And a magnificent sunset. I keep being surprised how nice the photos my phone makes are.
We love Marrakesh
After triple checking the food – my Spanish señorita is 100% gluten free, and has been so since she was a child, WAY before it was cool not to eat gluten. You could say she’s a gluten hipster – We order a Tajine with chicken for her and a couscous with chicken for me, as well as some olives and a bottle of water. The food is very, very good, and more than we can eat. The price? Eight euros. 8. In total. Crazy. There’s a great spectacle of food, flavour, smells and visual excitement and it’s hard to stay focused on the food.
Satisfied and with our tummies filled we go for one last stroll around the square that, now darkness has fully fallen, has become an even more magical place. The guys from the restaurants are still fighting for our attention and the fact that we’ve just eaten doesn’t seem to matter. “You look very skinny, go for round two,” they counter my objections.
Slowly we make our way back to the bubble of peace and tranquility that is our hotel and sitting on the rooftop drinking a cup of mint tea we contemplate on our first day in this new city, land and continent, trying to take it all in. We’ve been in Marrakesh only a couple of hours, but one thing is for sure: it has already won us over.
View from our restaurant, Number one.
Laia a little apprehensive, even after triple checking. Everything was fine though, and it was supertasty.
This is where I am right now (my mom said this would be a good idea):
READ NEXT: WHAT IT’S LIKE MOVING TO A NEW COUNTRY
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