Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh, Marrakech

I've got some blog catching up to do!...

A few weeks ago, I got a last minute hair to book a trip 'somewhere warm', as the weather in London was cold, cold, cold and I was in serious need of even just a few days where I didn't have to wear 4 layers while out & about just to stay moderately warm.  I've wanted to go to Marrakech for a while, and though Simon wouldn't be joining me on this trip due to work, I decided to book a last minute trip anyhow-the flight was only 3 hours, the trip was less than 300 GBP, I'd only be gone for a few days, I've travelled by myself difficult could it be?  Oh, famous last words. There was so much going on on this trip-and especially in my head, that instead of keeping a flow of journal 'posts', I opted instead for bullet points-otherwise, I'd be writing for days!  In somewhat chronological order of thoughts/experiences...
  • When leaving my taxi to head into the maze of 'roads' to find my Riad (like a hotel), my taxi driver patted me on the arm.  Big mistake-on his part. The throng of women that were standing nearby talking amongst themselves immediately descended on him and began doing what I can only describe as 'giving him what-for.'  In Muslim countries, it's a bad, bad, bad idea for a man to touch a woman publicly.
  • The streets are an endless maze.  I wonder how many times I'll get lost while I'm here (update: only twice!)
  • Snakes, monkeys, and kittys-oh my!
  • Are the men friend or foe?
  • I drank the tap water...
  • Best. OJ. Ever!
  • I bought my wedding shoes for 80 dirham!  That's roughly £6 or $9!  Whee!
  • On a related note...I've noticed on this trip that when I translate prices, my impulse is to translate to GBP first-not USD.  huh.
  • Sitting in what is clearly the 'expat cafe' of Djeema el Fna-Les Terraces de l'Alhambra and I'm somewhat relieved to hear even the accented English around me
  • I've lost count of the number of sexist (is that even a concept here?...) comments men have made towards me in the past 36 hours
  • As I continue to ponder the taxi driver incident of my first few moments on the ground and juxtapose that with what I've seen since, I can't help but is it possible to be that repressed but so dominant in society all at the same time?
  • I'm surprised/shocked/disappointed at the number of female tourists here who are either oblivious to the culture (wearing shorts/sleeve-less clothes..) or don't give a damn.  I'm also frustrated that as a solo female traveller (the only one I've seen on the trip), I'm annoyed as hell that though I've tried to respect the culture, I'm the one that is singled out and, for lack of a better word, harassed non-stop.
  • Relatedly...not that I dislike my body (though I wouldn't complain if I dropped 20 pounds), but on this trip, I'm even more grateful for my size-I can only imagine how much more I'd have to tolorate if I were a petite woman.
  • I've noticed a surprising micro-economy in the streets while here; instead of buying a carton or pack of cigarettes, there are men walking around with an assortment of open packs of cigarettes providing the option to buy just *1* cigarette.
  • Immense challenges getting out of the airport in Marrakech and back to London.  Initially a wind storm delayed flights for a while, and then the King of Morocco decided to fly out once the storm ended (meaning the airport was closed for a period to all inbound & outbound flights).  Five hours later than originally scheduled, our flight takes off. The only saving grace of this is that I met two lovely American women-Michele and Lindsay who were individually at the airport leaving Marrackech after breaking from their travel groups.  We had a fantastic flight back to London-chattering the entire time, having a sneaky Heineken that I bought in duty free (I swear, the woman behind the counter *really* didn't want to sell them to me....), some Moroccon sweets and comparing life/travel stories.  Ironically, this may have been the hilight of the trip for me! :)
In general, I'd read articles about the 'challenges' that face single, female travellers when in Morocco:  You don't sit in a bar & drink alone as some men may think you're a prostitute, you don't touch a man (and vice versa)-even casually in public if you aren't married, it's best to keep as much of your body covered as possible (I wore long sleeves & trousers the entire trip.  I brought a scarf to cover my head but felt like I would have been acting like a 'poser' had I worn it...), it's best to avoid too much eye contact...etc.  I tried like the dickens to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I guess single, white, female travellers should always proceed with caution.  It's a pity, really.  From what Michele & Lindsay said of their adventures, I think that had I been in Marrakech with someone else-male or female-I would have genuinely loved the trip/city/experience.  But, as a solo traveller, my experiences were almost 180 degrees away from theirs.

What a bummer.


  1. I wish you had a better experience in Marrakech because it is a truly amazing city! I agree about the women tourist respecting the culture. I always kept my shoulders covered and wore pants even though it was so hot. I didn't want to be stared at or picked on.

  2. I went years ago with my husband (then boyfriend). Honestly, I'm not sure if a companion would have made it any easier. With the blond hair, (I could have had a paper bag over my face) men followed me along the streets muttering, even when the hubby was with me.

  3. I've traveled both alone and with others to Toronto, and the solo version was distinctly more difficult, though it had it's wonderful parts too.
    Interesting paradox how the men behave.