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Marrakesh, Morocco

Marrakesh is by far the most touristy town in Morocco, which instantly put us at ease. No more wondering if we were going to be left in the middle of the desert with no way of getting home. No getting lost in the middle of a souk, worried that no one would speak English and be able to point us in the right direction. Tourists were everywhere, English was everywhere, and we felt like we had rejoined civilisation again.

 

We caught a taxi to the old town, where most of the action was, and searched around for a hotel. Apparently it was some sort of holiday and there were people everywhere. Many hotels were completely full or only had expensive rooms available. We finally found one within our price range, dumped our bags and meandered through the party atmosphere. There were stallholders aplenty, people shoving objects in our faces and asking us to buy them, others leading us towards their food stall to have dinner (not that we were hungry at 11 p.m.), music and entertainers at every turn, all the shops still open, scooters zigzagging their way through the pedestrian areas - it was chaotic. Many people asked where we were from and as soon as we said Australia they replied with a typical Australian saying or Australian TV show. It was pretty funny. The best yet was someone saying, "Australia: Summer Heights High mate". We still didn't eat his food, as good as his pop culture knowledge was. We did buy ice cream, which was incredibly good. Ice cream was insanely popular and there were long lines for it. No one drank alcohol, it seemed, so maybe this was what they were into instead. 

Both the shower and our sleep were fantastic. Not often we score both of these things, let alone one. Rejuvenated and refreshed, we spent the next day seeing as much of Marrakesh as is possible in one day. We headed down to the Casbah, through street markets and dozens of touts. There were no signs anywhere, so we had to rely on asking the locals where things were. We never knew if they wanted a tip or not (most did, some demanded it) so we tried not to ask too often. We found our way to the Saadian tombs, full of tiles and overgrown gardens, then onto a palace, with even more tiles, decent gardens, large grounds but small rooms. 

The main square was where the action was at. Horses with carriages, snake charmers (we were somehow conned into paying for a photo with a snake), live music and dancing, dozens of orange juice stalls and people selling crap no one wanted. We ate lunch near the square – a "small"' tagine, which was enough to fill us both and was worth the food coma.

 

Then we hit the souks. The roads ran every which way and there was no logical order to the maze. All up I think we walked through the souks for about two hours, of which about one hour and 50 minutes of it we spent lost. Luckily a small local girl knew where she was going and led us out of the labyrinth. While we were there we bought a bag each (Danny was intent on buying a leather bag and managed to find one made of camel), a t-shirt for Danny, a salt and pepper set (why??), churros that rivaled the Spanish version, key rings and jewellery. We sort of blew our budget today but our haggling skills have improved enormously.

We needed a break from the wild, cramped souks, so we walked to the new town, full of fancy hotels and manicured gardens. There wasn't much to see so we just turned around and walked back again. One thing we did notice was travel agents – there were everywhere, unlike in Fez where we didn't see any. Did the travel agents pop up because there were loads of tourists here, or did the tourists come because there were services such as travel agents?

A quick stop at an internet cafe was interesting. It didn't take us long to realise that the keyboards were slightly different in Morocco. Several of the letters had been swapped around, to type numbers we needed to press the shift key, and punctuation keys were all over the place. There were signs on the walls to help us navigate around it. We didn't spend long there.

Back in the main square we found a rooftop balcony and watched the main square transform into its nighttime set-up, with the appearance of hundreds of food stalls. No one bothered us in the cafe, which was a nice change, but we did brave the square for dinner. All the food stalls seemed to be selling the same thing (except the ones that only sold snails – we skipped those), so just sat down at one and ordered our tagine and couscous. It wasn't our favourite meal in Morocco.

We picked up our bags from the hotel and made the long walk to the train station. It took us three attempts to find our carriage and with each attempt our sleeping arrangements looked better and better. The last one was excellent: we both had bottom bunks and there was only one guy above us, who was quiet and left us alone. Unfortunately, like the train in Thailand, we didn't sleep much but it was ten times more comfortable than the overnight bus.

We weren't given much notice of the approaching station in the morning, so it was a mad dash to get dressed, packed and off the train once it had stopped. Emerging into the early morning light in Tangier we were faced with hordes of taxi drivers all wanting our business. We squeezed through the shouts and pleas to walk along the beach to the ferry, which was far more peaceful. The sun was just rising as we reached the beach and it eerily quiet, unlike the rest of Morocco. On arrival at the ferry we had dozens of local people asking us if we had tickets already (we had) but there one man who desperately wanted to help us. He wore a uniform so we presumed he was an official of sorts. He asked to see our tickets, so we showed him and then he walked us up to the ferry terminal, something even an idiot could do by himself. When we reached the terminal he demanded a tip. I guess you're not in Morocco if you're not getting scammed at every turn. Danny gave him some change and he walked off. The ferry was waiting for us so we jumped straight on and said farewell to our crazy adventures in Morocco.