Marrakesh, tourist capital of Morocco. After our excursion in the desert, we jumped on a bus, and for the next 11 hours, winded our way to the city! On our way to the city, our bus stopped in a little town for lunch, and we couldn’t find an ATM, so we spent the last of our cash sharing a big bottle of water. By the time we rolled into the city it was pretty late and we were hangry. I mean REAL hangry! Rob was not a happy camper for the last few hours of the drive. We also knew as soon as we arrived we would have to battle our way through mobs of people in the medina to find our riad. Neither of us were looking forward to that, especially in our famished condition. Our stomachs were speaking much louder than any of the competing sounds in the city. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, AND walked (anyone ever sang the primary song “Pioneer Children”?…well that was us) until we finally found our riad; again, down some dark, narrow, and somewhat sketchy alley. Seems to be a regular thing for us since we arrived in Morocco. Not my favorite thing in the world. We couldn’t fight the hunger any longer. We quickly got to our room, dropped our bags, and hurried off into the night, headed in the direction of the amazing aromas of freshly fried food filling the air. Sadly, we made a really poor restaurant choice for dinner (I know, totally not like us right?!). If anyone suggests that you eat at an Italian restaurant in North Africa, I’m going to go with, probably not a good idea. That was our first mistake. Pizza in Morocco, what was I thinking??! That was the worst meal we had during our entire time in Morocco. Even the gelato we indulged in from the cart outside the restaurant was disappointing.
The next morning we toured a tannery inside the medina. The guide gave us a small bunch of mint leaves and gestured for us to hold them up to our noses before we entered. I was completely clueless about why he was having us do this, but I soon realized that the process of tanning leather is a very stinky one! The mint was to help reduce the highly concentrated cow urine and pigeon poop smell. Haha! The whole tanning process was very raw, crude, and fascinating. A process that has remained unchanged for 1,000 years (that’s back in medival times people!) — Sheesh!! Tanning leather is not a little job. A lot of work goes into the process! You can read more here.
Following the tannery tour, we were funneled into a nearby rug shop. The owner of the tannery and the rug shop owner were clearly friends. Rob and I were then lead into a stuffy back room with the shop owner, another employee, and handmade rugs galore. We were asked to take a seat. That was a mistake. Then the shop owner began having his employee unroll rugs in front of us one at a time. Rob and I sat quietly as the rugs began to pile up at our feet. We sat quietly, not knowing what to do. The rugs were absolutely gorgeous, but we knew we couldn’t afford any of them. The owner asked us which ones we liked. In order to not be rude, I pointed to a few that I thought were pretty. That was our second mistake. He then began asking us which of the ones that I liked did we want to buy. We then told him we couldn’t afford to buy any of them. He said that sales were really low and asked us to write the most we could pay for one of the rugs on a slip of paper. After he looked the number, he was seriously offended. He looked at us both angrily and told us to get out in a nasty tone. We apologized and told him we weren’t saying that was how much the rug was worth, but he had told us to throw out the highest number we could pay, because sales were very low, so we did as he asked, and that was honestly the most we could pay. He followed us out the door. He was mean and nasty to us. As soon as he went inside and we were walking away I began to cry. I felt so hurt that he would be so unkind to us. He had been so nice initially and then when he didn’t get what he wanted, he became rude and nasty. He began saying things about us that made me feel horrible. I felt so stereotyped and judged. I was hurt that he would assume all of these things about us when he didn’t know us at all. Rob was so sweet and helped remind me that people are people and they make assumptions and judgements on others, we all do, and to try not to take it personally. I had a hard time shaking it off. I felt so crumby for a while, but after a long walk, a good cry, and thoughtful words from a caring husband, we found a beautiful unexpected park and a friendly Moroccan that helped to cheer me up.
One bad egg in all of our travels is not about to stop us from exploring this incredible earth! We wouldn’t let this experience sour the wonderful experiences we had in Morocco. Remember that people are people and we all make mistakes. There is so much more beauty than there is ugliness in the world. Brush off the ugly and choose to see the beauty everywhere you go and you will find it!
We spent time each day wandering around the square looking at all of the foods and the super fun entertainment. There were real live snake charmers and fire breathers performing — YES! Snake charmers really exist and we saw them! Snakes slithering up from woven baskets right before our eyes! There was so much to see, smell, and taste — a food lovers paradise! There were little shops selling everything you can imagine: spices, beans, clothing, lamps, watches, dishes, tea sets, candles, clay pots, etc. I fell in love with the hand-painted dishes from the moment I laid eyes on my first bowl! I knew that of all the things I had seen in Morocco, that was what I wanted to take home with me. The day we were leaving Marrakesh for to Spain came quicker than I expected, I still hadn’t gotten any bowls or plates. We had overslept and had an early afternoon flight, so we didn’t have much time to shop. I was panicked. If I couldn’t bring a Moroccan door home with me, I was not going to leave without my dishes too! I know I’m a silly girl, panicking over dishes, but at the time, it was no little matter! We left the hotel in a hurry, hoping that one of the shops in the medina would be open, because we knew prices would be better there than in the square, but no luck. It is so hot during the day in Morocco, most of the shops open late morning and stay open late into the evening when it’s cooler. We were in a rush, only a few shops were open, and we had only a little bit of cash left, so our options were limited.
I found some little plates that I wanted at a shop in the square, so we purchased them, but he was asking way too much for the large bowls, so we left with our tiny plates. We headed back into the medina, hoping someone had opened their shop early just for us! As we walked along, every shop was closed. My heart began to sink. I had hoped to find a big beautiful bowl to hang in our future home someday, but that dream was slowly fading with every corner we turned. I felt myself on the verge of tears. I felt a little foolish. I tried to hold the tears back. Was I really crying over dishes?? Yes, yes I was. They were so beautiful and unique — I wanted to take a piece of that beauty with us and share a part of Morocco with others back home. As I was about to abandon all hope, my eyes met big beautiful bowls hanging on the walls and piled on the ground of a small shop down a side street to our left. We were in luck! I hate being rushed to make decisions, especially decisions that are important to me, but I knew we were out of time and this was my last chance to bring a big bowl home! I made the swiftest decision I may have ever made, choosing a large turquoise bowl hung high up on the wall. It was perfect. Rob bargained with the seller until the cost was in our price range. We purchased the bowl and made a mad dash for a taxi! I let out a deep sigh of relief as soon as we were in the taxi on the way to the airport. I swaddled that bowl like a baby in my carry-on bag all the way back to America! That bowl did not leave my sight! One day we will build a house and that gorgeous hand-painted bowl will hang for all to see and hear the wonderful tales of two kids and their adventures in Morocco. Gosh traveling is a rush! Is it any wonder we love it so much!