It would be fair to say that for many days leading up to my departure I was a little hesitant. After all, I’d had settled back into ‘normality’ for over six weeks and therefore the prospect of solo travel to an African continent had me feeling somewhat ambivalent, somewhat confused. With the help of some people around me, I toughened up, donned my ‘Unlikely Traveller’ attire, braved a false smile and then took those huge first steps, again, like I did back in April 2015.
Know though that the moment I exited the plane at my destination and felt the ambient warmth of the Moroccan sunshine, I turned that frown upside down and positively smiled for the first time in hours. I (and practically all the other holiday makers around me) were happy to be here for that reason alone, such is the power of our burning star.
Getting to the Medina:
I knew before I departed a major difference between here in Europe. I had e-mailed the hostel twice in the week leading up to departure for assistance on getting to the hostel from the airport. Kinda important, right. Well, no response whatsoever and that’s not something that would happen in Europe. This less than ideal situation allowed me to observe a change in myself brought upon by my travel experience from last year. Instead of cancelling the hostel, panicking or whatever else, I did a bit of research and discovered a taxi would be available at a cost between £10 and £15. My mentality then became one of expect the worst, hope for the best. That meant that I would prepare myself for a costly taxi but I would simply see what happened at the other end to see if I could improve on the situation. Sure enough, I was able to improve on this and suddenly had two options available to me. There was a bus an hour later for a cost of 70 pence. No, really. Then, whilst waiting for the bus, I discovered that four other solo travellers also had this thought too (considering that’s out of a plane full of people). We then collectively (ok, me) haggled the taxi driver and got him down to a price we were happy with and then of course split the cost. Job done with next to no stress.
First 36 hours in Morocco:
So have you ever noticed that the country Morocco appears to be synonymous with the city of Marrakesh? The two really do seem to be interchangeable in conversation, especially with folk back home in the UK and probably true elsewhere in the world. However, in the short time I’ve been here I’ve quickly learned there is (and will be) a lot more to Morocco than that famous non-capital city. By the time I leave Morocco, I’ll have hoped to have shown you (and me) a whole lot more so without further ado, let the educational experience begin starting with what’s it like waking up each morning around 5.30am for the daily start of the ‘Call for prayer’? Well, unsurprisingly it’s rather annoying for a non-Islamist but thankfully the chanting doesn’t last long. This declaration of faith is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and if you’ve been to any Islamic country you’ll very likely remember this chant as unless you’re deaf as you can’t escape it – especially as it occurs so many times a day.
You know, the disparity of here compared to Europe, despite still just being between 3.5 and 4 hours away by plane, is staggering in so many manifestations. In these 36 hours I’ve been here I could write pages and pages of the subtle and not so subtle observations one can make. The hostel is bare in quality but high in Moroccan charm. No doubt that my hostel experiences from last year have helped me adapt to the ‘less is more’ standard. I’m currently sharing a 6 bed dorm with only three people (fingers crossed in stays like that) but there are tiny 14 and 16 bed dorms too and they are practically full. Shudder. The price really wasn’t that different to a 6 bed but I guess some people really do care about a super tight budget and really don’t care about sleep quality.
Not quite The Ritz, I know…
It did offer a wonderful rooftop terrace for plenty of chilaxing:
So having met up with a couple of guys I shared the taxi from the airport with, we spent last night and today wandering the many streets inside the Medina and ate some very decent food at very reasonable pricing. Last night we of course indulged in a three course local menu consisting of Moroccan soup, chicken tagine and desert for around £8.
Also I mentioned at the beginning of the post that Essaouira is on the coast so what better that to enjoy the local produce meaning I spent a little bit more than I should have for lunch today but that’s OK so early on in my travels.
I paid £9 for water, salad, bread (bare in mind those few items alone would cost several pounds back in the UK), 250 grams of filleted Sea Bream and the same amount of weight in fresh Squid, Mackrell and King Prawns.
Tonight the hostel staff are cooking up what will hopefully be a three course storm and for around £6, there’s little wonder so many others have signed up too.
I’ll try to write, photo and enjoy Essaouira more in the days to come. The Internet connection in the hostel appears to be OK at the moment but if it died a death at any point, I wouldn’t be surprised – I’m in Africa after all.