Arriving in Marrakesh

I arrived in Marrakesh at night. The train station is located in the New City. My guess is, you will book a place in the Old City (medina) if you don’t have a car. If you do, it might be a little tricky to find parking in the Old City.

There are taxis outside the train station. If you arrive at night, you might want to have dinner first if your hotel/riad is not located near the Big Square/Jmaa el-Fnaa. I asked the inn for transfer so getting there was not a problem. It cost me 15 euros (they usually quote in euros). If you ride a taxi (there are two kinds, the petite and the Grand taxi) it will cost less BUT arriving at the Old City at night, you might want to consider that a lot of riads/hotels are located so deep in the medina that a transfer will probably be a smarter idea to avoid touts.

Finally, after a long trip, I have arrived in the Old City with a Korean couple, also booked in the same inn. I had no idea where I was exactly but I sure as hell was happy to see someone from the inn. He was a nice man in his early 20s, good-looking and tall, quite shy but had a big smile on his face. He inquired, “Are you Vanessa?”

I immediately felt safe and happy. Someone in Africa knew my name and I didn’t even know him! He didn’t look anything like the photo of Rachid (the owner) on Airbnb, but I thought it’s only fair since my profile photo there was from a long-forgotten era, pounds and pounds ago. I said, “Yes, I am. Are you Rachid?”

“No. My name is Mohammed. I answered all your mails! Welcome to Marrakesh!”

“Thank you!” I said, a bit embarrassed `cause I tried to haggle for the transfer. I sure hoped he didn’t remember that!

It was almost nine in the evening and all I wanted to do was take a shower and sleep. We walked for about five minutes, along tiny streets that reminded me of Ilocos, and stopped in front of an unassuming green gate. He opened the gate and my heart sank. I thought I made a booking mistake. Beside the gate was a door that lead to an entryway that was too narrow and small. About three meters from the front door was another door. He opened it and said it was going to be my room. I nodded, not expecting anything nice. But lo and behold, it was a gorgeous place with a separate kitchen, bath, bedroom, and living area! Wow! I hit the mother lode on this one, I thought. The place is called Chez Rachid, which I booked through Airbnb.

Mohammed left to take the couple upstairs. I was getting impatient and called him by phone. I was quite the jerk, hurrying him up, not appreciating the relaxed way of living in Morocco I have read about even before I came. At this point though, I was ready to faint from exhaustion and only wanted to message my brother that I have arrived safely. Mohammed gave me the wifi password after serving me mint tea and the most delicious peanut-caramel rolls I have ever tasted. I felt guilty `cause the tea energized me enough to chat with a few friends and post a photo on Instagram. But he was really nice and explained how everything worked the following day. Oh, and by the way, there is a tannery right beside the inn, where I bought leather for journal making (no, the inn doesn’t stink because of the tannery).

Apparently, I booked an inn a bit far from the Big Square (but I prefer this place and I will book it again if I go to Marrakesh). The area where the inn is located is called “EL Moukkef.” Mohammed gave me a map of the medina with clear instructions on how to reach the Big Square. From EL Moukkef, the square is only about seven to ten minutes away by foot.

Every time I went out, my senses were assaulted by vibrant colors and aroma, some strange and others intoxicating. There was a market where oranges were being sold on the streets like onions in our talipapa (Oranges grow so abundant in Morocco that fresh OJ is always available and cheap. Orange trees line median divider islands of some roads, too). There were all kinds of fresh herbs and vegetables that will make you want to cook (cauliflower as big as my head, which my travel partner said was common in Europe); merchants using vintage scales I never knew still existed, much more used; donkeys carrying all sorts of merchandise; strawberries as big as light bulbs; spices of different colors and aroma; powdered minerals; dried roses and herbs; oils; carpets; leather items–from wallets to futons; mountains of dates, dried oranges and figs; nuts; breads and mouthwatering French pastries; live chickens being slaughtered as the ladies wearing colorful hijabs wait for the day’s fresh ingredient. My favorite though was a picture perfect merchant selling vintage items in a street corner—from paintings to plates to fire bellows… all these and the Big Square would still be five minutes away! I swear, it’s a Moroccan Diagon Alley. The pictures below are crap compared to what you will experience in this area of Marrakesh. I would’ve taken more photos if I wasn’t told not to take them without permission. I’m also not a good photographer and dislike taking photos all the time; I feel it gets in the way of the experience. I have taken a video of my stroll down the streets though but unfortunately, I was wearing my GoPro like a necklace and my scarf covered the lens. Yup, I do this sort of thing all the time, sadly.

If you are booked in a hotel near Jmaa el-Fnaa, take a stroll down EL Moukkef. In fact, before booking, maybe you might want to consider checking out my entry about choosing a riad/hotel for your stay in Marrakesh.

Ah, the memories are making me misty. I sure could use some mint tea right now.

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