My First Four Hours in Marrakesh Included Crazy Driving, Good Food and a Monkey Taking a Swipe at Me

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Two continents in one day. That’s how I do it folks.

My last afternoon in Sevilla was a wash with a massive rain storm, which was what greeted me in Bilbao two weeks ago. The rain delayed the flight and a bunch of people got to see their canvas luggage soaked out on the tarmac. That’s why I got a hard shell case … suckers.

The short flight on RyanAir was notable in that I want to stab the guy next to me who was snorting his snotty nose the whole time. BLAHHHH! We all got to depart down stairs on the tarmac, where I was hoping he would got sucked up into the airplane.

What waited us was another epic passport control line of an hour. When I got my luggage, it was just left off the conveyor belt in a pile, so anybody could have taken it.

The riad I’m staying at out comes with a driver to pick me up at the airport. It would be my first time that somebody would hold a sign at an airport with my name on it. As it turns out, this is a common thing so I was finally got into the arrivals terminal, all I see are a sea of guys holding signs with people’s names on it. I felt like Eli Wallach at the end of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly when he’s running around a cemetery looking for Bill Carson’s grave.

Found the nice man and his vehicle can only be described as a large van a church would use …. and this is just for me. As you can imagine, the streets of the Medina can be rather tight.

We get through the Medina gates into a cauldron of urban traffic hell with other taxis, motorbikes, mopeds and donkeys circling around one in other with no resemblance of order. The streets become tighter and tighter, but my driver is a pro.

Get to my lovely riad and inhale an amazing dinner. Now it’s 9pm and as much as I want to stay away from that chaos, it’s Saturday night and the Jemaa El Fna is where the action is.

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You can hear the square from ten minutes away. I would say you could smell it, but all you smell is various forms of feces — donkey, horse, cat, dog and human — toward the nearby traffic circle.

The Jemaa El Fna is completely bonkers. I had that thought in my head, “This trip to Morocco seemed like a good idea at the time.” The streets of Hong Kong, China, Tokyo and even Istanbul can’t compare to the slamdance of humanity in Jemaa El Fna. I didn’t even realize how large it was. At least a 1/2 mile square long.

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With that many people, you just have to be mindful of your possessions and keep your head on a swivel. In the Time Out guide-book, it says the square is usually two tourists for every one local. I was hard pressed to find a few dopey tourists among the masses.

This was a kind of trial by fire for me, so my mind was racing a little. I enjoy chaos, but throw in there live animals. You’ll find some monkey and snake wrangles in the mix among the drum circles and old guys telling stories.. One got away from its owner, took a leap at me and was pulled back at the last moment by a lease. I’ve been saying the monkey uprising is real.

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There are at least a 100 food stalls in the square, and they all look like they are serving the same food. You’ll have skinny Arab guys in track suits telling you that their food is different, not like the others. One guy came up to me an says, “Sir, sit down. We are waiting for you. Nobody gets diarrhea from us.”

I smiled and thought to myself, “You might not want to say the word diarrhea in any context when trying to get people to eat at your stall.” It remains to be seen if I’m going to sit down, but I’m sure it’s completely safe … right?

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After a good many laps, I went to the top of famous Cafe de France that overlooks the square. It’s a little long in the tooth, but for a price of a mint tea you can watch the action from above.

At 11pm, most of the stalls start shutting down, so I made way to a bar the guide-book recommended that’s open late. As I discovered, there’s not much “life” in the “nightlife” in the Medina, at least at this place. More on that later.

Trying to get back to the riad was a little daunting. My data plan doesn’t work in Morocco, so it’s going to be a chore getting around without a  free wifi hotspot. Along the way, shady characters will try to walk you to your place for money. Yeah, that’s not going to work out for me.

That’s night one in the books. If you don’t hear from me this week, avenge my death.

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