So here I am: Marrakech. Yesterday I started my journey from Williamstown and less than 24 hours later I find myself tucked away in a beautiful riad-turned-hostel lost in the winding lanes of the medina.
The flight from Casablanca with Royal Air Maroc was uneventful - except for the fact there were probably about a thousand and one babies who all decided to have nervous breakdowns at right about the same time. Sleep was definitely out of the question.
After a painfully slow passport control process at Casablanca, I was on a train to Casa L'Oasis station where I would eventually switch onto a train that would take me to Marrakech. The rolling Moroccan countryside, the tattooed Berber women on donkeys and the wind in my hair made for the most euphoric mix. I have never been as excited about this project as I was then.
Things that have surprised me this far:
- French is spoken absolutely everywhere and people navigate between Arabic and French with ease. I was well-aware of the prevalence of French in Morocco, but I had no idea that it was this widespread.
- Since I have been getting by with French, I'm surprised that I've been addressed with the informal form twice in a day (tutoyer: to refer to someone as tu, thought be be very familiar or condescending depending on context). Generally, this is thought to be rather rude - but maybe they think I'm young, or maybe it's a regional thing that doesn't apply outside of France and Quebec.
- The developments in Guéliz, Marrakech's new town, smells so strongly of Gulf-style expansion projects. I don't know how I feel about that.
Since I'm staying at a hostel, I've gotten caught up with the company of my dorm mates: a woman from Brazil, a guy from Mexico and another guy from the States. I agreed to check out Djemaa el Fna (the main square in Marrakech) and the souks with them. It was nice to have them around (I didn't realize it would hit me so fast that I was now alone in a foreign country) and it definitely made the souks less overwhelming - somehow there's strength in numbers - but it reminded me that I really need to be alone for this. I quickly began to find their company annoying and wanted to get away from their touristy excursion. I finally managed to shake them off and got to walk around the square alone, taking in a tall glass of jus d'orange before heading back to the hostel for a rest.
I'm caught between several different conflicting emotions right now: I'm jet-lagged, tired, disoriented, excited and a little lonely. But there's just one way to deal with that: get out there and get lost.