an chronicle of my adventures in Ifrane, Morocco and travels within the surrounding area

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marrakech and Essaouira

What a trip it was! This weekend five friends and I decided to take a trip to Marrakech and Essaouira, a beach town on the southern coast. We began our trip around 1am on Saturday, deciding that taking the overnight train would save us some money on a hotel room for Friday and put us in Marrakech just in time for the action. When we arrived, we were needless to say exhausted from the long train ride so we headed towards the main plaza, saw the overt displays of orientalism (i.e. this snake charmer)

were ripped off by some men who forced us to take pictures with them,

but finally found a nice rooftop restaurant

where we spent a couple hours lunching, relaxing and taking in the city.

I got my first couscous outside of the university, and on a Saturday even (couscous is usually only served on Fridays)!

After having some lunch, a friend and I wandered around the old medina to do some shopping while the rest of the group went off to relax and eat some ice cream. I'm not sure whether it is that I am getting more confident in bargaining, that Marrakech is so tourist friendly (and at the same time unfriendly), or if the medina really had better deals than other places I've visited, but I shopped and shopped and shopped, getting lots of gifts and few treats for myself (some psychedelic genie pants I LOOOOVE).

Marrakech had a different feel than most Moroccan cities I've visited, though I can't put my finger on what specifically it is. It was certainly more touristy (mostly French tourists) than any other place I've visited, but I liked the atmosphere a lot more than other places.

After shopping to our hearts' contents, we went to explore the nearby gardens

surrounding the city's famous mosque

and relax for a bit before getting the bus to Essaouira for the night, where our Moroccan friend was able to get us the suite for less than half the price.

We spent the evening enjoying the warm weather on the hotel's rooftop where the employees joined us with music and fried us up some fresh fish. It was quite a treat.

In the morning, we headed out to explore the city and see the beach.

At this point I realized that Essaouira was absolutely my favorite place I have yet visited in Morocco.

Not only is the pace of life much more relaxed than any other city, but the seafood restaurants lining the boardwalk and the softest sand I have ever felt in my life made me feel like I was back home in Florida.

The beach was full of families, boys playing soccer, and children with puppies. One even consented to let us hold his little baby. The whole thing was just a treat.

After spending the majority of the day on soaking in the sunshine and swimming,

we went to enjoy a lunch of the freshest fish. We literally went to a pile of fish, pointed to what we wanted, and then watched as the workers fried it up before our eyes.

Houda, our token Moroccan, once more bargained us a steal- we ate and ate and ate and each time we finished a plate of fish more arrived. I never got a picture of all of the plates as we were too busy eating to stop.

In the middle of our meal, a couple of musicians came by to serenade us, making our already perfect day even better.

Finally, full of fish, we headed back to town to buy bus tickets, and then were on our way back to Marrakech to get a connecting bus back towards Al Akhawayn. We had about five hours between buses in Marrakech, so we headed to a Lebanese restaurant we had seen on the way out to have some hummus and pass some time. We then headed back to the main plaza to get the nighttime experience

and finally caught our bus at 1:30am, which put us in Meknes (an hour from Ifrane, where the university is) about 9:30am (an hour and a half late, but what can we expect). We arrived back to campus about 11:00am Monday morning, certainly having maximized our weekend. If only Essouira were closer, I would travel there every weekend. It was so very lovely!

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