While we were at Koutoubia Mosque, marveling at the stone standing stark against the blue sky, a vendor came up to us and tried to get us to buy some pastries. We said no, but he offered us a free sample, which we took. After tasting, he then demanded money, much more than we would ever have paid.
In Jemaa el-Fnaa, while my friend was getting henna on her hand, the lady suddenly grabbed my wrist and began to make a pattern, as a gift, she said. She charged us an extra 100 dirhams for this supposed gift.
The next day, walking through the square, another woman offered to do some henna for my friend. When she said no, the woman tried to do it anyway, only leaving us alone after my friend wrenched her hand away from the woman’s grasp.
The vendors of Marrakech are intense.
In Marrakech we stayed at a hostel called Equity Point that had been recommended to us by a classmate.
When we got off the train, at first our new cab driver was confused, but eventually figured out where we wanted to go. He drove us up to the ancient medina, a walled area with narrow streets unfit for a taxi. He gave us directions, and we got our backs and started to walk.
The medina was lined with small shops and vendors, some of whom tried to talk us into buying something as we rolled our bags over the cobblestones. As the sun and the walking started to make us sweat despite the cool air, a teenage boy asked us if we needed help, and we went with it. He lead us down the street and into a side alley, more a tunnel due to the ceiling, and up to a big wooden door. We knocked and went inside, where he asked for some money and I gave him $5.
Equity Point is a converted hamam, which maked sense as it is on Derb El-Hammam, street of the baths. Inside there seems to we warrens of passageways, each one with another door at the end. There is a central area, open to the sky and ringed by 2 floors of rooms with a pool in the center. Upstairs there is a restaurant and dining area. Somewhere they have an area for massages. The hotel was quiet and beautiful, set back in an area out of a movie. Even the staff was great, very helpful and friendly. Next time I’m in Marrakech, I think I’ll take myself back there and hopefully get to try some of their interesting looking trips our into the desert or up to the mountains.
One of the best ways to travel between cities in Morocco is by train. The train was pretty convenient, but not without its own interesting moments.
When we got to the train station, despite a Visa and a Mastercard sign, they wouldn’t accept cards. They also didn’t have an ATM. We had to run across the street to find a bank. We got tickets for the economy section and went to the tracks.
After lugging all our bags down a flight of stairs, through a tunnel, and back up onto the platform, we saw that it was going to be pretty crowded. Just remember, we were coming from a school research trip to Turkey, which besides being cold was also formal, so we had quite a bit of stuff with us.
The train arrived, and before anybody could get off, people started to push in. Unable, or maybe unwilling, to compete like they were, we were among the last to get on. At least a nice guy helped us get our bags up the stairs into the train. We had to stand in the vestibule area between cars, next to the bathroom. Every time the train stopped, someone had to open the door and close it after we left; otherwise the door would hang open as we sped across the countryside.
People smoked inside the train despite signs and constantly were moving around, going from one car to another or looking for the bathroom, and stepping on our feet the entire time as we were squished up against our bags. Eventually, as the crowd thinned, we found seats and watched out the window as the landscape got drier and rockier and small farms swept past.
On the way back to Casablanca, we paid extra to get first class seats, complete with assured seats. We sat in a 6 person compartment with only two others, free to stretch out and doze as we headed back toward the coast.
There are two different types of taxi in Morocco, we learned a little too late. One type, small and red, are apparently cheaper than the others, which are big and white. Most of the taxis at the airport are the larger grands taxis. From the Casablanca airport to the center of town is 300 dirhams.
When we left our hotel on the way to the train station, the owner said it would be 20 dirhams. They asked for 50. Apparently there is a large price difference between the two. Instead of explaining the difference, he immediately began yelling, first in French and then in Arabic. Unfortunately, I don’t speak French, leaving my poor friend to fend off the angry man.
In Marrakech, one taxi driver dropped us off at the train station and then disappeared before giving us our change.
As a whole, the taxi drivers seemed nice. They chatted with us in a mix of French and English, and were generally friendly. I have no doubt that even they might have tried to take advantage of us naive foreigners, but thankfully there were only two incidents that I became aware of.