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Landing in Marrakech

Landing in Marrakech, the sunlight lit a bright sand-colored city sitting in a bowl of mountains on the edge of a desert. There is something calming about the symmetry I could see from the airplane windows, but this is where this atmosphere ended.

The airport was large and modern but seemed absolutely deserted except for the corrals of people waiting to get through security. I had heard reports of people being oddly pushy, in Marrakech especially, but didn’t realize that this also meant in the airport as well. We spent around an hour at least staying “active” in line so as not to be pushed farther back.

By the time we reached the outside of the airport it was dark. Even here we were hassled by people to take their taxi. Though they tried to take us for a 10 min car ride for 150 dirhams per person (approx. $15 each) but managed to whittle him down to 100 for both of us.

When dropped off from the taxi, we were on a main street of the notoriously convoluted streets of the old city of Marrakech. We later learned that he didn’t drop us off as close to our destination as he could have. While using our phones to find the way to the hostel a nice young man approached us wearing a djellaba and offered to show us the way, we followed a few feet onto a side street but we halted, effectively losing him ahead (semi-intentionally). While we knew that he could help us find the way, we were fine with our phone’s map. Marrakech, especially the old city, is notorious for people who help you find directions, whether you want them to or not, and then demand money for the service. It turned out it was good we followed our own map; while the direction the young man was taking us would have eventually gotten us there, we found a faster route.

Over the next few days, we came to realize that there wasn’t a “polite” way to say no to an offer of service; you just have to say no and not look at them. Even when we were just meandering the streets, going nowhere, in particular, people would often still try to get us to go places (and pay them for their services, whether asked for or not). The most common things that people shouted at us the next few days were, “you want to go___? We can bring you there fast!” or, “That road is closed” (though it never was), or “Do you want some chocolate?” (A name for hash in Morocco).

Keep an eye out for the places we visited in Marrakech and some suggestions for when people offer you things!

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