Backpacking through Morocco: Day 2

Part 2 of the Morocco backpacking series: Backpacking through Morocco

Day 2: Marrakesh Nouvelle Ville

Kim’s email

Breakfast split: 24 Dirham
Train ticket split: 168 Dirham
Water Split: 3 Dirham
Youth Hostel split: 120 Dirham
Drinks split: 28 Dirham
Food Mark: 20 Dirham
Food Peter: 20 Dirham
Shower split: 12 Dirham

The dutch girls

Friendly-MoroccanTrainCourt roomNouvelle-VilleMc-Donald-buildingMark-libraryLibrarytestHalf-built-communityCactusPlazaPlaza2Intersectiontest

We rode hard to Marrakesh. A 4 hours train ride inside an oven is how the experience played out. Mark noticed that I got a tan just from the reflected lights of the window. The torturous ride isn’t without its own color though. While in transit, we met some helpful Moroccan engineer who’ve been to Montreal who later introduced us to his home town of Ouarzazate. He mentioned how he still decided to live in Morocco after having seen the world. “Where else would you get all 4 seasons.” A statement that we would later come to understand and appreciate.

Immediately upon arrival at Marrakesh’s Nouvelle Ville we felt the difference. It is a cleaner city, with the majority of buildings painted red. There are less people trying to sell us stuff and more young women who don’t wear the signature Hijab. It does not mean that we get to skip the full welcoming committee, consisting of shady taxi drivers trying to rip you off. If  you ask me, I say that the most dangerous moment for tourist’s wallet is when they first get off the train. here’s what happened to us.

A taxi driver demanded 50 Dirham to drive to our hostel which, we later found out is a mere 10 minutes walk. We haggled and pointed and we haggled again. The guy doesn’t want to budge on the price, calling our bluff. We called his bluff and decided to call the hostel even though we don’t speak Berber Arabic. This is where our phone card came in handy and allowed us as much time as possible to sort out the route.

To those of you who does not know. Morocco seems to have two different phone network. One can be accessed with a calling card you buy at convenience stores and their phones are easy to find with a little orange roof overhead. While the other, more local phone network function with coins. I believe these are being phased out because half of them are broken and some of the locals don’t even know how they work. Cellphones are the easiest way to communicate in Morocco. If you have a SIM card from France or Spain, they will also work here. No such luck for American SIM cards. Resort to the newer calling card based phone if you have to and only use the coin based phone on backwater country side.

Then again, there’s the taxi driver who kindly pointed us to the right direction because he’s off duty.

We took a walking tour to the nouvelle ville the same night. It doesn’t seem very Moroccan to me. Just the fact that the whole city is clean and painted red (clean as in cleaner than Casa Blanca.) Other than that, the city feels like any other modern city of a 2nd world country. Plus lots of dirty old white man with pretty young Moroccan woman.  This city used to be known for child prostitution and remained so even after the crackdown. Then again, who am I to judge the morality of such an arrangement.

The night at the youth hostel, we met Kim and Linda who’s part of a 17 people group of dutch students. We found out that there’s actually four of these groups running around in Morocco and the main reason why all hostels were full on the first night we landed. They are very outgoing and friendly, I wish we’d meet them sooner. This is part of the reason why I like youth hostels. You meet people and you get important information.

Dinner was spent on some local delicacy with I don’t know what’s in it. The vendor motioned something with horns. It is a piece of bread with some veggie/tomato sauce and pieces of meat and liver. Little did we know the exact nature of the meat. The next morning, we some someone bike past us with bloodied, skinned head of mountain goats.

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