We left Casa this morning to get on a train to Marrakech. Youssef's brother helped us find a taxi and it was another tumultuous ride to the station. Once there, we figured out tickets to our destination an I nervously sat waiting, wondering what was coming next. I knew from talk and books that Casa wasn't the most hospitable place in Morocco, but we were staying with locals and it was comforting even though we couldn't communicate well. How would we get around without our translators and bargainers?
The train was 4 hours and through grimey towns and barron desert with half-kempt fields of who knows what crops. Donkeys with their ribs showing, sheep lining the roads and every so often some horses were among the scenery. I dozed here and there, woken by my arm falling asleep or the train jolting abruptly. A woman got on, loud and henna intricately drawn on her hands, garbed in traditional muslim clothing. She asked if she could sit next to me in French and I stumbled with my words, pointing at the lady next to me because her son had sit there earlier. The henna woman quickly realized I did not speak French and sat, eyed me adorably and said in a thick accent "Ah English, you do not speak French" while I sheepishly apologized. When we arrived at our last stop and everyone began piling out she said the only other words to me, "Welcome to Marrakech."
We step out and immediately I am awestruck with the beauty of my surroundings. The train station looks modern and chic. We break our large bills for taxi rides and find our way out, hoping we can communicate effectively. I ask the driver if he speaks English in my best French I could muster and we are soon in a cab driving to Riad Marrakech Rouge, the hostel I booked the night before.
Upon entering, the host greets us enthusiastically, our backpacks in tow, and leads us to a large room with many couches and a group of young French boys scratching their balls and probably discussing last night's soccer game.
We're offered to sit, put our bags down and if we would like some tea. "Oui, s’il vous plait" I say and sit, admiring the gorgeous view around me. The walls are high up and you can see each of the 3 stories from the inside as well as an open roof with a grass rug covering the top. It's bright with vibrant colors and the smell of old couches and perfume. We're brought tea and a few more travellers come in. First a young couple and their complextion makes me hope for a little English. Then a pair of girls and I catch some comprehensable words. They are given the same entrance, please sit and make yourself comfortable, here is some deliicious mint tea for your enjoyment. No rush to your room, relax. Enjoy being in Morocco.
Another man walks in, young and stylish and in a beautiful Morocco accent asks if we would like a map of the area. We say sure, and he offers us to join the others. We find out the couple is from London and the two girls were living in Spain for an extensive time, but one was English and the other American.We make small talk, where we've been, where we're going, how long we're in the area for, the soccer game the night before, etc.
The stylish man is Ali and shows us where we are and how to get around (the hostel is down an alley with no signs and very easy to miss). He shows us good places to eat and things nearby to checkout. We're very grateful for the information and also for the openness. He gives us his phone number and tells us to call if there are any questions or if we get lost. He tells us how to barter and if we want, we can take a picture of what we like to show him so he can tell us the real price.
We are offered to go up to our rooms, so the six of us march up the stairs to the second floor and the rooms are just as spectacular as the lounge area. The colors and layout are so coastal in feel and very relaxing, but electric. We set our stuff down and are shown the rest of the building. There is a rooftop terrace with bushes, hammocks, couches, and lanterns, with a few tortoises walking around. We head back to our room with the pair of girls and chat a bit, figuring out our next move. We haven't eaten all day, but are also tired and not sure if we are ready for the tourist hassel that is all around us - the shouks within blocks from us and we get hammered shop after shop to look at their wares at ridiculous prices.
Everyone has slowly crept up to bed, and LCA guy and I are left, smoking to ourselves and drinking fresh squeezed orange juice while I write. So if anyone decides they would like to see Morocco in a very easy way, I recommend this place. Free WiFi, free tea, free shisha, free croissants for breakfast, and an otherwise open kitchen to cook whatever you like at your leisure. Already it's feeling a bit too comfortable for me, but I would gladly come back to take a rest and enjoy the beauty of this place. They also help you book excursions for cheaper than touristy places trying to scam you, so Jake and I may take a camel ride soon. After that, it's off to Essaouida, where it sounds even more wonderful than this place, and many of our roomates are planning to go as well.
Also, since my blog is fairly new and maybe inaccessable (intimidating) to some, maybe I could get more people to comment by turning the focus on you. Moroccans are all about music, so my question for you is: What music do you like while traveling? I brought some with me on a USB stick, and a lot of it has been received well since I chose music to theme our journey. But what are your favorite digs for car rides, plane rides, or being somewhere more exotic than your back yard?