November 2013: I have been to Morocco, specifically to Casablanca multiple times over the years on one night long stop-overs but the only time I visited Morocco when I did anything significantly touristy was on a long day trip to Marrakesh from Casablanca. Marrakesh, founded 1,000 years ago with old winding alleyways, donkey carts, and traditional buildings was one of those places that I have always heard about and I knew going into it that it was going to be a touristy experience and that there would be lots of hawkish touts, venders, snake charmers, pretty much everybody in the medina would be aggressively seeking  my tourist dollars but I still wanted to experience it at least once. To reach Marrakesh I hired a car because the train schedule didn’t match up with my timing and I traveled from Casablanca round trip to Marrakesh, spending a full day in the old Medina.

 

 

Marrakesh Location

In my mind I had stereotypes of what Marrakesh would look like but as I entered the city, most of it was a modern city but as I approached its oldest District, the image of what i expect started to come into fruition along with all of the tourist buses in parking lots. My taxi dropped me off and I was free to wander the city at will. The main square was where most of the action was, and the majority of tourists and their predators congregated. It also was the target of a suicide bomber attack a year or so before my visit that killed dozens of tourists. Although the odds of this happening during my visit are low, I always try and stay vigilant for this kind of thing especially in places like Marrakesh that would make a prized target for terrorists. The medina was not my favorite place. The street venders were aggressive and rude, and every transaction of money would become an attempted robbery and one smoothie vender refused to give me my change claiming there was no change but after my continued efforts and threat to return with police, he relented. Then as I walked away the man hurled some pretty vulgar obscenities at me.  

 

kasbah-old walled citadel and mosque

fruit vender

The winding alleyways is where I found myself. These were mysterious places where young boys pushed donkey carts down crowded aisles of Berber men wearing head dresses and druid like capes called djellabas selling exotic wares and less exotic tourist trinkets. These were the places that enticed me the most.  My curiosity led me around down alleys way corners that would lead around more corners until I eventually had no idea where I was, but it didn’t matter as long as I was exploring, I was happy.

 

Marketplace

Marketplace

The deeper I traveled into the alleyways the quieter they became. They were a good place because they were quiet, and everyone left you alone. But they were also residential, and I started to notice signs indicating no tourists and one man even admonished me against entering an area. It was clear to me that the people that lived in these areas had probably been putting up with rude and disrespectful tourists for years and have probably had enough of it so out of respect I avoided walking to extensively into the residential areas especially the intimately small ones where I could feel the unwanted glances of residents.

 

 

Residential alleyways 

Donkeycart in residential alleyway

Door in a residence

I knew ahead of time that the snake charmers would be aggressive and swarthy but I had to have a photo so I agreed on a price in advance for a photo but would not let them place any of the snakes on me because this is where their extortion efforts begin.  So, I agreed on a price and took my photos and quickly departed as they tried their hardest to get me to pay them more than what we agreed upon.

 

 

Defanged cobra and its charmer

I love snakes and especially cobras so there was no way i could pass up the snake charmers. Snake charmers are famous in Marrakesh and come from the Moroccan countryside with snakes that are captured in the wild and defanged.

 

 

Black cobra

Black cobra and other snakes

After 10 hours in Marrakesh, I had enough and was ready to head back to Casablanca and onward to Mali my next destination.

 

 

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