It comes at 5:48am. As I lied awake, shivering in my (unexpected) 30 degree hostel room, anxiously awaiting the morning prayer call. I was uncertain what to expect (our warning from other travelers is that it will “jolt you out of bed”), only a day removed from the United States and a following a restless night spent trying to sleep in the arcade room at London Luton airport, I was extremely anxious for our first full day in Marrakech.
The call was certainly louder and much longer than I expected. For about 15 minutes, prayer chants from mosques echoed (eerily) throughout the old town. It is almost as if each mosque is competing with the others to see who can most loudly proclaim the beginning of a new day. Allen, myself, and our Danish roommate Patrice sat up momentarily for subtle recognition before rolling over and sleeping for another 3 hours.
Marrakech lifestyle is a dramatic change of pace for a couple guys who have been softened by a comfortable American lifestyle for the past 2+ years. However, it is a welcome change. The old city (medina) is comprised of hundreds of unmarked meandering alleys each lined with shops that contain one of the following: spices, garments, meat, or nuts. Every shop is manned by a gregarious Berber salesman who comes in from the mountains daily to peddle goods to the few tourists who visit this time of year. Needless to say, we were often lost and I was dangerously close to purchasing an old Arabic robe while Burt became entranced by the authentic Berber swords. Thankfully, both of us used our better judgement.
Our days have been spent wandering the alleys, stopping on the hour for mint tea, smiling in response to shouts of “Obama” and “Yes we can!” and waiting for evening to fall so we can experience the infamous Djemaa al-Fna, one of the most eclectic and exciting open air markets in the world. A blend of an normous food court, outlet mall, and entertainment plaza, the Djemaa is the highlight of our Marrakech experience. We gave many Dirham to the snake charmers (think flute + dancing cobra), Arabic storytellers, and, most of all, the food stalls. Our first night involved a stew of sheep brains, sheep heart, and cow tongue with a side of boiled snails at our favorite spot, stall 118. The dinner, in which you sit side by side with locals and watch the cooks boil your sheep brains, cost a total of 25 Dirham ($2.50). We made friends with the cooks as a result of our intrigue in the food but, probably moreso, because of our unsuccessful attempts at taking candid photos of one of the cooks who was certainly the Moroccan version of our friend Samic (see photo below). Needless to say we will be back to stall 118 before our flight back to London in a few days.
Marrakech has been a great beginning to our travel adventure and acted as a bit of “shock treatment” to get us out of the comfy mindset of home. Our beards are growing, clothes are smelling, and our girlfriends have nothing to worry about as we are growing more unattractive by the day.
Next stop: Fes en route to the mountain town of Chefchaouen.
(See Below: Morning Prayer Call and Moroccan Samic)