I caught a flight to Marrakesh, Morocco this afternoon. The flight was operated by the discount airline Ryanair. It was my first time taking them and even though they offer dirt cheap fares, I had heard many horror stories about them and how they ding you for extra fees for overweight or oversized luggage or boarding passes printed incorrectly or any number of things.
Thankfully I dodged all those things and was soon boarding the flight. What stood out the most was how they just hawk things throughout the flight: food, drinks, perfume/cologne, phone cards, scratch and win tickets. Yes, they sold scratch and win tickets on the flight. Actually announced it on the PA and held them up and waved them around. Ah, the world of discount airlines.
Once in Morocco I followed the somewhat intricate instructions of how to get to the hostel:
• Look for Cafe Argana
• To the left of the Cafe is a small square call Bab Fteuh. There is a pharmacy.
• Find the archway to the left of the pharmacy.
• Walk through and straight on until a boutique called Fnaque Berbere and Bazaar Chichaoua.
• Turn left and straight on. There is a large flower shaped archway.
• At the end of the street is a mosque and wood-carving boutique. There is a tiny tunnel to the right.
• Walk through it. This is Derb Rokni.
• We are the first door on the left – #23
I was very thankful that French is common here in Marrakesh and I was able to ask a couple of policemen which way to go in my broken french (which is WAY better than my broken Spanish).
Arriving at the hostel I met the other dozen people staying at the hostel. Everyone was super friendly and laid back. We all made plans to go out to dinner together later in the evening but I couldn’t wait that long. I had been mesmerized by all the activity in the marketplace leading up to the hostel and desperately wanted to head straight back out to explore and eat something before our dinner a couple hours later.
As I walked through the marketplace looking for stall number 98 (one of the girls had recommended it) I was constantly accosted by hawkers trying to coral me into their stall to eat – “hey, cmon in… don’t be in such a hurry… number 74, remember me… where are you from?”
When I reached stall 98 and quickly found out why they recommended it. I literally sat down and within 30 seconds 5 plates of food were dropped in front of me – fish, fries, bread, tomato salsa, green peppers and eggplant. He simply waved his hand and said 35… meaning 35 dirham which is the equivalent to about $4. No problem. I was so sick of trying to read menus of items I knew nothing about and here I got exactly what I wanted – a little bit of everything for cheap.
As I sat there eating alone among the locals I sat back and took all the culture around me in. This was the first time since I started this trip where I felt I was on vacation and I was overcome by an immense feeling of joy. I was smiling to myself in this crowd full of people.
After a full meal I headed back to the hostel and joined the others as they were readying to head out for dinner. So, I went out to dinner again.
This time there were 9 of us and we went to a different stall and ordered lamb, sausage, couscous, calamari, olives and bread for about $6 each. Oh, and fresh squeezed orange juice for 4 dirham (40 cents!)
We ended the night having tea on a patio overlooking the marketplace and then returning back to the hostel to chat for awhile.
Unfortunately pretty much everyone is leaving early tomorrow morning either heading home, to their next city or into the desert for a camel trek but I have a feeling there will be a new batch of great people to meet tomorrow afternoon.
I can’t wait!