I knew when we arrived at Marrakesh due to the sea of clay colored buildings that seemed to go on for miles. The ISA group would be staying in Marrakesh for two nights until we head for Meknes which gave everyone enough time to explore Marrakesh. Now, Marrakesh is known in Morocco as a huge European tourist attraction, so therefore, it’s more liberal and more open to other ways of life than the more traditional city (like Meknes). Like any other western city, Marrakesh has an interesting night life; however, it’s not all sex, alcohol, and club, there is also the medina which gives any foreigner the perfect picture of the traditional Moroccan way of life.
During the first night the whole ISA group decided to explore the city and go to the Medina. You can tell when you’re getting close to the medina with the growing density of people and traffic and overall excitement of the atmosphere. The entrance to the medina is an open, brick courtyard with a wall to the left and a row of horse drawn carriages to the right. From the courtyard you could see lights, smoke, and a mass of people that seemed to move in unison. There were these bright, blue toys that were launched high into the night sky that gave the medina a carnival/farmers market on steroids type of vibe. There were an array of different noises and smells (some good, some not so good). There where live bands playing for those who passed by and numerous shops yelling at the tourists in French and English. My group walked towards a row of booths that have been around in the medina for many, many years. Once we got close enough for the individual booth keepers to make eye contact with us, they swarmed around us trying to convince us to eat at their booth. We eventually came to a booth were the keeper promised us free green tea (which we did get). For the most part, our meal was very nice, the food was excellent and it was interesting to see the medina in action while we ate. At points the chaos of the medina was a bit overwhelming with shopkeepers constantly trying to get us to go into their shops to buy something. The locals were constantly asking us where we were from and were very pleased to hear that we were American. Those that knew English attempted to use what English phrases they know like, “Obama number one” and “Fish and chips mate”. For me, if one wants to know the true pulse of a Moroccan community they need to go to the medina. The new city is nice and is unique in its own way, but I feel that the tradition and culture can be found in the medina.
The next day, the ISA group took a guided tour through the entire city of Marrakesh. We even visited the medina again, which had a much calmer atmosphere during the day but can still seem chaotic at times. After the tour some friends and I explored the medina and came across a snake charmer. Personally, I don’t mind snakes unless they’re the ones that kill you; however, the snakes that were displayed were two big rattlesnakes. There were some harmless garden snakes as well, which the snake charmer took one and put it around my neck, for” good luck” he said. I thought that experience was kind of cool and it made me think on how unpredictable things can get in a foreign country. Morocco was already having a profound effect on me and I was excited on what I will experience for the next three months in Meknes.