Photo Journal: First day in Morocco

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I was browsing through the list of PGS student blogs, and I across Tyler’s recent post that depicts Riva San Vitale and the surrounding area through photos. I realized that I have barely posted any pictures to my blog, which is a complete injustice to any readers considering the amount of places I’ve visited.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting quite a few countries (12 this semester, including Switzerland), so over the next week or so I’m planning to upload pictures from some of my trips. I don’t want to just post every decent photo without no explanations (which I am guilty of on Facebook), so instead I’ll upload some of my favorites and do my best to date them and explain the circumstances.

Morocco, however, was most unique and foreign to me, and because I wrote my travel essay for Paul Heilker’s module about Marrakech, I will be going into quite a bit more detail about this trip. Feel free to read it all, or just scroll through for the pictures – I won’t take offense. Also, if any images are too small you can click on them to get a better look. Enjoy the read and feel free to comment!

As I indicated over two months ago, I spent my first Spring Break in Morocco with Austin and Dan. We had a fantastic (though stressful) two days in Marrakech, followed by an equally enjoyable day-and-a-half trip to Seville, Spain. (Flights were much cheaper out of Seville, but by the time we factored in the cost of travel we didn’t save too much – but at least we got to see Tangier, Morocco as well as Tarifa and Seville, Spain!) Here is my “photo journal” of the first day of that trip.

 


Day One: Getting our bearings

Day One began early in Milan (Malpensa) Airport, where we had slept the night before. Our 7 a.m. arrived in Marrakech at 10 a.m., and as we landed we were glued to the window with excitement, wondering what adventures lay before us.

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One of the first things I noticed flying into Marrakech (besides the apparent lack of color, which I later realized was not an accurate representation of Marrakech) was the shape of the city. Like many European cities, it had an obvious center (called the Medina, or “old city) and was made of of concentric circles, the outermost of which was made of of the city wall.

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The second thing I noticed was the beauty of the airport. I can’t say for sure what I expected, but after walking into the airport from what seemed like tarmac in the middle of the desert I did a double take at the color and architecture that surrounded me.

After avoiding pushy taxi drivers and boarding the correct bus (where we found a map, thankfully), we got off as close as we could to our hotel and we realized just how much we stuck out among the throngs of people. We had to walk through a park full of people and the city center, all the while consulting our map and wheeling our suitcases (which we had hoped to put in a locker in the airport.)

The following photo of the city center, the Jemaa el-Fnaa, was not taken until the day we left, but it shows as well as a picture can what we were walking through.

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The square square pictured above was unlike anywhere else I have ever been, and was a complete free-for-all. Cars, pedestrians, motorbikes, and even horse-drawn carriages fought for the right-away in every direction. As we made our way through the chaos and tried not to get hit or pickpocketed, people kept coming up to us and asking to help us find our way – many of whom would follow us until it was plainly obvious we would not acknowledge their existence beyond telling them “LA,” which means “no” in Arabic. As badly as we needed help arriving at our destination, we had read that locals would cater to your every need then not leave you alone until you had paid them a sum that they were satisfied with.

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When we finally arrived at our destination – which took us quite a bit longer than I’d like to admit – we were already exhausted. As nondescript as the outside was, our riad (a type of hotel with a central patio and stairs around the outside) was beautifully decorated and had a homey feel. The central patio was open-aired, and there were balconies for two floors up, with rooms all around them. It was a tight area, and as we walked up the constantly-DSCN2507turning stairs, taking 90-degree turns every several steps, it felt as though we were exploring some sort of hidden enclave. At the end of our climb, we found our cozy, if small, room, above which was a gorgeous rooftop patio – the view from which was only hindered by the AC installation, which we by no means resented.

 

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Having slept in the airport the night before (and quite fitfully the night before that – and quite feverishly the night before that) I was tempted to suggest taking a nap at this time. I knew that I would not be likely to wake up until the next day, though, so I got ready to head back out into the city.

DSCN3256After eating tagine at a restaurant suggested by Joseph, the man at our riad’s reception desk, we explored the city for several hours, venturing outside of the touristy areas and into some streets where we felt even more out of place/uncomfortable.

 

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As a side note, there were mangy feral cats everywhere.

 

 

 

 

That evening we ate some pizza, got on the internet, journaled, and read up on some tourist attractions for the next day. We were all mentally and physically exhausted, having taken in more new “information” through each sense in the previous 12 hours than we had in the last week spent in Riva. Needless to say, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

EDIT: See pictures from the next day in Marrakech here.

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5 Comments

  1. Dan

     /  April 28, 2012

    Your photos are cool I guess. Real life was better though. I’ll never forget how different Marrakech felt from any city I’d visited before. I was pretty terrified when we were in the non-touristy areas (as I’m sure you well remember), but looking back on it I think it was important to see that part of the city.

    Thanks for posting some of the memories.

    Reply
    • I would have to agree about real life being better. I do wish I had recorded some more video footage of the El-Fnaa and the souks, because it’s difficult to convey the feeling of just how foreign it all felt.

      Of course I remember that! I need to go ahead and post pictures from the other days – hopefully they’ll be up by tomorrow.

      Reply
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