The flight to Rabat was uneventful except for all the crying babies who kept me awake. I was really looking forward to sleeping the entire way yet it wasn’t in the cards.
As we made our approach, I looked out the window longingly at the beautiful countryside and array of colors. There were greens, earth tones, yellows and the brilliant blue sea. It was gorgeous. The landscape was such a contrast to brown, barren Minnesota! It was like eye candy and I gobbled it up.
We landed safely and I was relieved to finally be here in Africa after such a long journey. For some reason, I didn’t have much luck with customs and was questioned for at least ten minutes about what I was going to be doing in Morocco. It was becoming a pattern. I was stopped in Minneapolis and had the pat down due to an oversize tube of toothpaste, my beloved face lotion was seized at the Paris airport and now I was being grilled over and over again about my volunteer work in Morocco. I think he must have been simply messing with me. I looked tired and was easy bait.
My “chauffeur” met me outside the arrivals gate and we headed to his old white Mercedes car where I practically collapsed into the seat. It was very warm and I was sweltering. Probably due to my Nordic blood.
I was thankful to know French. Yes, it has been eighteen years since I lived in France but suddenly and magically it all came back and it was pouring out. My driver, Mohammed, was full of information and facts about Morocco. I wasn’t in the mood to chat but it helped me stay awake and everything he had to say was of course very interesting.
We arrived at the hotel in less than thirty minutes. I was staying at a Riad, or private historical mansion, in the center of Rabat. The windy, whitewashed walls of the medina were like a maze that somehow lead to the green sign stating RIAD DAR KERIFA. Atlas, we arrived!
The inside of the hotel was like a hidden treasure. One would never know from the outside that there was a gorgeous mansion inside! I was instantly impressed. Here are some pictures of the inside of the raid:
The architecture and furnishings were all traditional Moroccan:
Even the light fixtures were spectacular:
I unpacked my stuff and took a quick shower. There is something about being on a plane and traveling for hours that just makes you feel disgusting. The shower felt fabulous and gave me that much needed second wind and energy to go on my next quest: In search of body lotion in the Moroccan Medina.
I left the hotel and immediately got lost. There were many Moroccans in their traditional attire, the jellaba (hooded robe) and caftans (decorated robes):
The old medina was amazing, like nothing I’d ever experienced. It felt like being in some kind of crazy maze full of endless twists and turns against whitewashed ancient buildings. I somehow managed to find the “souq” or the market. I looked around and realized that I was the only foreigner in sight. But I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Nothing like what I experienced in India. Thus I was able to fully take in the unbelievably overwhelming experience of searching for American Body Lotion in a Moroccan Medina. Ok, I’m at a souq which is an enormous open air market where they sell pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. No big deal, huh? It would be no problem at all to find the lotion and head back to my peaceful, relaxing hotel for a glass of wine. Right! I should have known better! I was in a foreign country, North Africa, to say the least! My mission to find some lotion was absolute madness.
I saw EVERYTHING that is for sure. I saw turtles for sale, ladies underwear fancily displayed (hilarious given I am in a Muslim country), fruit stands packed with dates, olives and figs, jean shops, electronic shops and stuff I couldn’t even guess what it was. It was the most crazy place I’ve ever been. There was shouting, there was chanting, there was clapping….there was absolutely every sales tactic employed to get a sale. It was the most incredible market I’d ever seen! Yet, the lotion was no where to be found.
After two and a half hours of searching frantically, I finally gave in to the pressure of getting a little help. A nice Moroccan man asked if I need his assistance. Yes, this is a no no for sure. I knew he’d probably want money but I was so utterly exhausted and I was lost. He walked me to a place where I purchased some crazy “milk lotion” and then showed me my way back to the riad. He was a friendly guy yet was missing several bottom teeth so I was a little weary but quite frankly too tired to deal with the situation. Finally when I found the way out of the medina and said my farewell, he surprisingly walked away, of course after a request for a small donation, which I gently refused. I was angry with myself for accepting some help but then again, at least I found my lotion!
In the coming week, I know that I’ll definitely be back for more experiences in the souq. Hopefully this time I won’t be so tired and weary! It a place that one could spend hours in. A place of wonder that makes me remember why I travel and see the world.
Here are some of my favorite pictures of the market:
Ok, this first one was the beginning where I freaked out because everything looked like it came from a garage sale. But trust me, it got much better:
Now we are talking:
Pet turtles for sale (they bring good luck in Morocco!):
Now the beautiful, fresh dried fruits, olives and figs:
More wonderful things:
Moroccan beauty supplies (for making homemade facials):
Anything is possible to buy (except lotion!)
I returned to the hotel, beyond exhausted, and headed up to the lovely terrace affording a gorgeous sunset view of Rabat. I had a glass of red french wine (which I grabbed from the Air France flight) and listened to the call for prayer from the nearby mosque. This is quite a country!