For this weeks blog I want to share with you guys my trip to Morocco. Upon arrival I received an email from my dad who strongly recommended, in fact seemingly demanded for my own benefit, that I write down everything that happened in a little notebook and type it up when I get back. I took this incredible advice and every time we got back to our room in the Riad I jotted down anything memorable that I occurred. In bold is exactly what I wrote down and everything else is an elaboration of the descriptions:
As my dad advised, I took some notes:
-Culture Shock, redefined term. – The culture in Morocco, or in the old city of Marrakesh I should say as that is the only place we observed, is like nothing I have ever seen before. In the main square where we spent most of our time, everybody is there trying to sell something or make money off you for any seemingly ordinary move you make. For example, if you take a picture, you will instantly be swarmed by several people telling you that you must pay them for taking a picture of them. I do not mean this in any sort of derogatory way, in fact the people that should be looked down upon are the people that actually pay when harassed for taking a picture or looking in the general direction of a snake charmer. We took it all lightly, and had several laughs, and its hard to talk about the culture without ruining the next bullet points, so hopefully you get a feel for the culture in reading the rest of the blog.
-4 durhim orange juice – In the square there were roughly 30 orange juice stands within an area of about 100 square meters. This orange juice was by far the best orange juice I have ever had. Once you choose which stand to get your beverage from—they are all identical so we just went to the one that was not abrasively yelling at us to get our business—they squeeze fresh oranges right into your glass on the spot. We always went to the same stand in order to avoid uncomfortable tension between the juice tenders, and eventually the man who owned the stand gave us free refills to show his gratitude. Its safe to say that we had at least 30 orange juices each in a matter of 3 days.
-Cheap food à cous cous, kebabs, sugar cane drinks, ORANGE JUICE, tagine, – I have to say my favorite part of Morocco was the food. We planned all our days around what and when we were going to eat. Our first meal every day was made for us at our Riad by the very kind young man or woman depending on when we woke and whose shift it was—I’ll tell you more about this a few bullet points down. As for lunch and dinner, every day we went in into the main square and found a nice local place to eat a lot of food for very cheap. If you do not go to the big franchise-esque places, and you choose somewhere that looks more like a hole in the wall, you can eat like royalty for anywhere between 4 to 7 euros. Every day for dinner the entire square changes entirely as there are 50 different food stands that come set up and make a series of portable restaurants if you will. Around 5 pm they would put up the stand in order to be ready by the 6:30 rush and around 10 pm they would take it back down. Every one of these stands is identical in how they look and what they serve, so we would always eat at the place that offered the most free food. The first night we settled for 1 free drink each, and the last night we each got free drinks with our meal, free mint tea after the meal, free bread/salad, fries, and soup. So really all we ended up paying for were the kebabs we bought.
-Successful bargaining, pretend you are Spanish rather than American, or Israeli but that goes without saying. – I very quickly found that everyone in Morocco speaks 4 or 5 languages, and they have much more respect for Spanish people than Americans. Every time I approached anyone speaking Spanish I was treated with much more respect and got way better prices on counterfeit goods. It was hilarious because out of my group I was the only one that could pass as Spanish, so Eric’s solution was to say he was from Canada, which ultimately just lead to countless blank/confused looks. But no matter where you say you’re from, the person that you are talking to “has a best friend close by.” Another extremely successful trick I learned to get store owners to leave me alone, was to team up with them and try to sell their good to Eric or Jonathan. I would intervene and say things like, “Come on Eric this is a great price you should totally buy it” at which point they left me alone and bombarded him with different prices and unnecessary objects he could buy.
-Dead snakes – In the square there are dozens of snake charmers and people that play with monkeys, if any of these people happen to make it into the corner of your picture, their friend—whose only job is to look for people taking pictures—will come harass you for money. One very creative technique to get money was to sell pictures with a dead snake. Someone would come up and tie a dead snake around your neck, and refuse to take it off until you paid him. Naturally everyone gets terrified because they think it is alive so they pay the man to get the snake the hell off them. However, as Kara was freaking out that there is a snake tied around her neck, I assured her that it looked dead as doornails, which only disgusted her more unfortunately. We learned after this never to get within 30 feet of a snake charmer.
-Dish washing machines à bucket of water. The way Moroccans “cleaned their dishes” was by dipping them very briefly into a bucket of water that we did not see get changed once. When we were at dinner we asked the man for silverware, so he nonchalantly walked to the bucket, dipped some forks in, and handed them to us with his hand on the part of the fork that you use to eat. An interesting thought would be what percent of Morocco would be FDA approved? Which leads to another interesting thought—seeing as how we all left healthy as a herd of oxen, does everything really have to be FDA approved or regulated at all?
-Riad à incredible Moroccan style bed and breakfast – We stayed at a Riad, which is essentially a self owned set of rooms that are set up around a courtyard. The only thing I can think to compare it to is La Finka Que Ama in Costa Rica but much more cozy. There was a man and a woman that took turns working there around the clock, both of whom were incredible kind—the only people in Morocco that were warm to us—and both seemed at most 25 years old. On our last night the kind young man made us our breakfast at 4:30 in the morning, which consisted of coffee, yogurt, butter, jam, crepes, olives, orange juice, and warm bread.
The next few days are very similar, in fact virtually identical to these, so I’ll just tell you about the unique things that happened.
-Famous Moroccan Singer – When we were eating lunch on our second day, Kara was curious as to where the family behind us got fruit baskets. Once we asked, they continued to give us several fruits so we can try them before we bought any. One question lead to another and the kind man who was talking to us eventually sold his dad out—who was sitting with his back faced to us and the square—by telling us that his dad is a very famous singer in Morocco. We asked to take a picture and as soon as he stood up people from the square recognized him and flooded in making it nearly impossible to take a picture with him. We got an autograph and a picture with him, and an invitation from his son to stay at their house in the capital of Morocco next time we visit.
-Raped by Henna artist – Some lady was trying to convince me to get henna, and she grabbed my hand and made an intricate design in like 12 seconds then tried to get me to pay 20 euro for it. I sent her on her way empty handed after a bit of yelling back and forth J
-Bargain from 1 jacket for 680 to 3 for 450 – We got these Moroccan jackets that originally cost 68 euro for 1 and we ended up paying 45 euro for 3. The guy literally looked at us as if we had just burned his house down, until the next day when we walked by and he greeted us with a s#@$-eating grin.