First Impressions of Marrakech By a Sweaty Traveler


Damn, the thickness in the air is definitely enough to make this long sleeve tee-shirt stick to my sweaty back. I walk down the steps from the plane, onto the Tarmac, feeling less than official. You usually imagine what ambassadors, or celebrities look like as they freshly arrive in a new country to experience local life. It’s like they’re spritzed with Evian, and powdered upon deplaning. That clearly is not the case with how much of a hot mess I look.
When you’re an Average Jo, you simply look like you stepped off an economy flight, slightly frightened from turbulence, with stiff legs caused by the borderline illegal parameters of legroom (or lack-there-of) you were allotted
Crisp air finally hits my skin as we walk through one of the fanciest airports I’ve seen. Marrakech, who knew you did it so big with the terminal design? My happiness of the spacious airport entrance is quickly halted when I notice how massive the immigration line is. We snail down at least four long turns, admiring the fact there are diverse people entering a country we knew we’d stick out in. Maybe we wouldn’t be so foreign.
30 minutes of switching the weight of my legs back and forth, and attempting to connect to the failing free airport wifi, I finally get past the immigration officer, who barely glanced at my face, and stamped my passport. Score, another stamp to add to the book of experiences. With no one allowed inside the terminal unless they were actually getting on a flight, the exit into the real world seemed less hectic.
Bright marble floors, massive windows giving you a preview of male only drivers with signs of Riads (local hotels) of all names. Now, to find our Riad. We broke our typical rule, find the cheapest way to get to our accommodation, and opted to just pay the 15 euros of convenience to get us directly where we needed to be. Of course, things aren’t as convenient because we had to weave through the crowds of men holding signs to find the one tiny sign with the correct Riad on it. Dozens of Riad workers and taxi drivers competing for your attention; this is when I got my game face on. Being that Moroccans usually speak French, we used that to explain that we mean business.
Minutes later, I managed not to lose my cool (in the figurative way, cause ya girl was sweattttiiiing), and we finally found our Riad driver, who despite hearing our French refused to engage with us in French, and opted to use his broken English instead. He motioned us to wait. And then the travel sketchiness begins, where you somehow always feel like you’re in the wrong place, despite paying for a service. Another random man comes out of nowhere, shakes the first man’s hand, and tells us he’ll be our driver.
Morocco was great at doing these sketchy pass offs, introducing you to people who you’d not yet seen, that apparently were going to “help you.”
Luckily, this new guy who we were now walking behind did seem legit, so we entered his car, and watched as the city unfolded from our backseat windows.

Here’s the play by play:

The city pumps. It’s like a techno beat where the baseline is the tiny motors of bikes carrying families of four. Helmets? Think again.
The honks of the bikes and cars serve as the melody.
Faint Arabic music playing in the background.
Screeches of tires keep the tune upbeat.
It may be called “The Red City,” but all I see is brown.
Brown buildings.
Brown people.
All covered by a dreamlike brown dusty haze.
Life is spilling onto the streets, as though people live fearlessly. One step too far to the right, and you might lose your foot with a passing driver. One foot too far to the left, and you might knock over a fruit cart. It seems like locals live on the edge without even noticing.

Regardless of the risk, it seems like everyone’s outside.

That’s the thing with “hot climate” cultures: it’s better to spend your time outdoors where you might at least get a chance to feel a slight gust of wind.
The air is thick, but since the airport’s AC cooled off the initial sweat, I’m happy to report zero new sweat stains.
I peek outside as we turn down another dirt road and see mothers fling their babies on their chests as they walk dangerously close to traffic. Literally fearless. Or option-less?
Hundreds of handmade clay pots decorate street corners, also brown, like the sidewalks.
A motorbike driver exchanges a silly face with a child in the back or a Tuk-Tuk, and I appreciate the simplicity of it all.
Palm trees lining one side of the road, and a sausagefest on the other side. Men in clusters so thick, a woman wouldn’t dare enter. In fact, the only women caught outside are either fully covered, tourists, or on the back of a passing motorbike. Every once in a while, we’d pass groups of young boys playing soccer carelessly outside. The little girls? At home learning how to cook and clean as our taxi driver explained when we asked him where all the young girls were.
The gear is changed in the car as we pull up to our final destination.

We may be stopped, but nothing else around us is.

To be continued


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