This was Carly’s last morning in Marrakech because she is headed off to Spain to study abroad, so we decided to do the most touristy thing we could do…a camel ride! After some mix-up with the time, a guy named Kenny power-walked us (we literally had to run to keep up) to this square not too far away from our Riad. We waited for about twenty minutes until a driver came to pick us up and we headed out to the Palmeraie Village. I loved this ride because we drove outside the wall of the city which gave some more perspective to how small and condensed Marrakech actually is. We headed into the Palm Grove, which judging from the houses (aka cement block and cardboard buildings) seems to be a much poorer part of the community.
I loved the camel ride! Even though we weren’t out in the Sahara, it was still fun to just be riding around on a camel! It actually wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be with the saddle thing they have rigged up. We rode around the palm grove for about thirty minutes. It was so quiet and peaceful, a nice change of pace from the chaos of the city. It was the perfect amount of time because in the 106 degree weather we were all ready to get in the shade. I have to say the wrap/turban things they put on our heads were a great help in staying cool!
After we got Carly sent off to the airport, Grace and I relaxed and had to cool off by downing a couple of liters of water. A couple people in the hostel had been telling us about how beautiful Ben Youssef Madrasa was, which is a historic Islamic college. It was in a part of the city we hadn’t been before, but not wanting to waste our last afternoon we decided to try and find it. After navigating by signs written in Arabic, our vague map and some sketchy directions from locals, we arrived. (Props to Grace doing most of the navigating) We ended up taking a detour to the tanneries where they make all of the leather. We knew we would end up having to pay for a “tour” but we were already there so we took a look. All of the skins are stomped in pigeon poop (gross) to soften them and then in different pools of dye and flour. They are then laid out for two months to dry. They gave us somewhat of a hard time about paying an exorbitant anount but we held our own and walked away after giving them five dirhams.
On a more positive note our afternoon ended much better than it started exploring the Ben Youssef, which was gorgeous!
The tile and stone work was so intricate and amazing! The ceilings and balconies were all made out of carved wood while the walls were carved stone and marble. Grace and I both love architecture and design so we were having a field day here. After exploring some of the rooms the students lived in, all the way in the basement, we decided the dorms at UNC are top-notch!
Since it’s our last night here we are all packed up and planning on going to sleep early since we are headed to Milan on the morning.
Closing thoughts on Morocco:
It’s complete chaos but definitely an experience I am so thankful I had! Traveling here as white, young female definitely had its cons- even if you are aware and respectful of the culture women are simply viewed differently here. But this is also my first experience in a third world country which is something to take into account. The Riad we stayed at made a world of a difference! The staff was so friendly and always willing to make recommendations and give directions. It was clean, beautiful and a comfortable place to spend the afternoon when it’s in the hundreds outside. Overall, if you are ever in this part of the world make Morocco a stop on your trip! Huge culture shock, but a valuable experience. Marrakech is a place like no other.