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Eric: 24 Hours in Marrakech

July 13, 2010

This weekend I went to Marrakech, the “Capital of Tourism of Morocco” as one of my Moroccan friends calls it, and had quite the interesting time. I took a 2:30 am train from Fez on Saturday to get to Marrakech, as I didn’t want to miss any of my class. I much prefer having 7 hours to sleep on the train and get to Marrakech in the morning. Not much a fan of sitting through 7 hours without air conditioning, I bought a first-class ticket this time. Even though it did cost more, it was worth it at least for the first couple hours of the journey. I had the entire compartment, which seats 6 people, all to myself and was able to lay across 3 seats comfortably. As the sun began to rise and we passed through more stations, people began to get on. It was at 11 am that I arrived in Marrakech, the temperature of which at the time was 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).

Standing under the burning sun, I called a taxi and got to Djemaa el Fna without getting overcharged. I met my roommate  at one of the orange juice stands and went to the hotel, which was built in riad style, with rooms surrounding a central open space.

Djemaa el Fna was among the first UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. At daytime, few stands except the orange juice stands could be found in the square. At night, the place turns into this massive crowded area full of food stands and other exhibitions.

After checking in the hotel, a couple of us went to walk through the souks (traditional markets) of the medina, which is actually the largest in Morocco. Compared to the souks of Fez, Marrakech’s shop owners are a lot more aggressive at selling things.  of going into their shops. Different parts of the souk sell different items, ranging from clothes, leather goods, scarves, carpets, species, wooden boxes, silverwares, and more. It was really a huge maze, and after walking through the souk, it took us a while to find our way back to the hotel.

After the walk, we returned to the hotel with semi-heatstroke to rest until the day cooled down. I fell asleep reading and woke up to find rain pouring down, which didn’t last that long, but made the day a little more bearable. Two other people and I decided to walk through the souk again to find some souvenirs. I also got to see how they put buttons on a leather jacket after one of the girls made the purchase.

Close to nightfall, we walked back to the hotel to meet up with other people for dinner. The square was full of people and smoke from the food stalls. It was hard to walk through the crowd without getting separated from the group. We stopped to get a few glasses of orange juice. It may be because of the hot weather, or the fact that it’s fresh-squeezed right in front of us, but orange juice tasted so good in Marrakech. And with one glass costing only 3 dirhams, I would have finished 5 glasses straight had I not been saving my stomach for food.

We ate at one of the food stands in the center of the square. I ordered a plate of “Fish mix”, which consisted of fried fish, fried calamari, and fried shrimps, successfully fulfilling my crave for seafood, even though it was quite greasy. After seafood, I was up for some more unusual food. First stop: snail stand. I have eaten snails before, and they didn’t taste bad, so I didn’t really think it was a big deal to eat snails. Here they put snails in a huge pot of broth, cook them, and serve right from the pot. The small bowl full of snails we got tasted a little chewy and salty (you eat them using a toothpick to fish the snail out of the shell). The broth tasted a little peppery, but was delicious overall. Contining with the spirit of Andrew Zimmermand, I walked up to one of the stands that displayed goat heads by myself, and ordered a quarter of a head (at least that was what I thought I ordered). To be honest, it was just a plate of meat and tongue (I had eaten similar things before), and maybe a little brain, nothing more exciting. It did taste really good with bread, and I was happy that I tried it. After ending the night with a couple more glasses of orange juice, it was time for bed.

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