My admiration for and interest in Arab culture and music goes way back. When Sicily was temporarily invaded by Arabian tribes, it was gifted with so many beautiful architectural, cultural and culinary features whose origin I have always wanted to explore. So my bestie Brenda and I checked our agendas and took the next possible flight to surprising Marakesh......
The Truth Behind The Facade
Let me be clear – noone in Marakesh is waiting for you, the 1 billionth tourist, blocking streets while strolling through the Medina, holding cameras in locals' faces without asking and trying out the 'most efficient way to bargain' taught to you by your guide.
(believe me, no matter how good you think you are or how enthusiastic and 'surprised' the dealers call you a 'real berber' - they always make the better deal :))
Yes, people will throw themselves at you for showing you the way (and then demand money) and yes, you girls will probably be 'treated' for a free henna tatoo (and then be shouted at because - ups - they also want money) but oh my
– how much will you fall in love with that city and its beautiful people!
While traveling, I've always experienced that a country cannot be discovered without having good conversations with its people; even more; to me this is the most beautiful part of it all!
However, at first it felt as if there was a wall around the locals that was so hard to break down. Who could blame them? They see so many tourists come and go, at times it seems as if there are two mini universa living parallely and exchanging only the necessary.
But yes! The great break–through came when we had managed to learn (and - the hardest part; to remember!) few arabic phrases: locals invited us in for tea, took us out for dinner, shared their stories and truely surprised us with their hospitality – they lived in the moment and took everthing as it came – something I regularily need and want to remind myself of ;)
That said, we learned how hard it is for the pottery makers to sit each day in the same pose for hours while making the most beautiful ceramics. We spoke to 3 boys from the Tuareg people who miss the desert because the stars seem so near you can touch them. We enyoyed the most exotic tea mix while listening to African drums and singing. We got taught by our Riad's cook Malika how to hush complementing men in a sympathetic way. When we were undecided one night where to go and what to eat, Michel (father of our riad's owner) simply made the choice for us by taking us out! We fell in love with street cats that keep you company while having your daily tajine. We got scrubbed until -literally- our skin peeled of at luxury Riad Anyssates before getting pampered in full body massages. And just when I thought everything was lost because I broke my new camera (Christmas present!) we were helped by Voyaj's photographers in the most beautiful Jardin Majorell and eventually joined them for one of our best meals in Morocco at Cafe Mama Afrika.
All in all, you gotta work just a little harder if you want to experience the real Marakesh – but then again, nothing will make you happier than their surprised smiles when you thank them with a Sukran!
As my aunt once quoted John Wade for me:
– The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.
For your stay in Marakesh, check most welcoming, warm & friendly Riad Laila
Get clean and spoiled at Riad & Hamam Riad Anyssates
Grab at least one meal at Cafe Mama Afrika
Go for a stroll in touristy (for a reason!) and oh so beautiful Jardin Majorell
For a fun, insightful and authentic trip to Morocco contact Voyaj
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