Marrakech: Modern Morocco

After separating with Jalil, we still had two days in Morocco. Without a set itinerary for those two days, we slept in, relaxed, and took our time. There were only a couple of things we really wanted to do. One was to try a hammam, a communal Moroccan spa. I had read about the process online but the procedure still sounded intimidating and way more complex than the Korean spas I’ve visited in Koreatown, Los Angeles. We ended up going to a hammam for foreigners. The experience included sitting in the steam room, being scrubbed and washed by an attendant, and enjoying a nice naked massage. I’m not sure how much Henry enjoyed it on the men’s side; all I know is that I had a good time. The facilities could have been better but the experience was relaxing.

Beautiful Bahia Palace

Beautiful Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace Detail

Bahia Palace Detail

We only did a tiny bit of true sightseeing in Marrakech. I know tour books have a long list of must-sees but we had already seen so many similar attractions in other cities and we just wanted to wander the souks instead. The most interesting part of Marrakech for us was the Jemaa El-Fna Square. The square is bustling with people at all hours. During the day, there are snake-charmers, monkey tamers, henna tattoo ladies, and other sketchy characters.

Place Jemaa El Fna being transformed into a night food market

Place Jemaa El Fna being transformed into a night food market

In the evening, the square transforms into a huge food market popular with both locals and tourists. Many of the stalls sell similar types of food and I had a hard time picking which one to try. One of the stalls’ touts proclaimed “If you eat here, I guarantee you will not get diarrhea.” We walked by him a few times and he said the same line each time we passed him. On our last go-around, we told him we had already eaten, to which he responded with a curse that we would have diarrhea that evening. Luckily, I felt fine but Henry may have fallen under his spell.

Henry wanted to eat escargot

Henry wanted to eat escargot

Food Stall 32 - Hassan

Excellent Food Stall 32 – Hassan

Shopping in Morocco is a lot like shopping in China. There are no set prices and you have to bargain for everything. But as a tourist unsure of local prices, it’s a daunting task to tackle. I was looking for a teapot in the souks and when I approached one shop and asked the shopowner the price of his teapot, he responded “How much do you want to pay?” I really had no idea what to say.

Shops open at night. Bargain hard!

Shops open at night. Bargain hard!

Marrakech felt much more cosmopolitan and modern than the other Moroccan cities we had visited. It has a reputation of being the Las Vegas of Morocco and is full of clubs, bars and lounges. We’re lame and couldn’t stay up late enough to partake in the nightlife.

During our 8 day trip, we covered all of the major sights in Morocco that we had wanted to see. It was a great cultural experience to be in a Muslim country with no pork (our favorite type of meat), a lot of bread (if you’re on a low-carb diet, you will really struggle in Morocco), conservative clothing (everyone wore long sleeve shirts and long pants; I can only imagine how uncomfortable it can get in the summer), and interesting customs (bargaining, corruption, slower pace of life). I’m glad we ended up hiring a driver to make this trip happen. It would have been much more difficult to try to visit so many places in such a short period of time had we been relying on public transportation and Grand Taxis.

Our route in Morocco

Our route in Morocco