Morocco has always been a second home for my parents and I. A secret getaway, where we could sneak out from Paris craziness and return « like we never left » with a natural glow. In her hippies days, when mom was looking out for Jimi Hendrix across the world, she sought refuge in Morocco hoping that Jimi was hiding in a Riad. Like mother, like daughter.
Over the last few months, I’ve been fiercely promoting Morocco as if I was endorsed by the King itself. I convinced my friend Richard from NYC to join our family tour. I told him not to panic: « Marrakech is like a little Harlem, you won’t notice the difference ». Neither did he know. We initiated our trip in a peaceful retreat in the heart of the Medina. Our Riad was surrounded by children playing soccer like the World Cup final 1998, seniors chopping giant tree trunks in the middle of the street, and cats hustling for a slice of meat. A true Akon video clip.
To our great astonishment, the streets remained largely empty during the daytime. It was RAMADAN. A word that still resonates today. Sex, drug, and rock’n roll were on standby for 30 days. Got damn. On top of that alcohol was regulated and only sold to tourists; a kind of Middle Age vibe. With my Moroccan look, I made sure I carried my passport everywhere. Police officers, merchants, camels, (not to say the whole city) were after me. I could feel their stares burning in the back of my head like a dear being hunted.
On a positive note, we decided to spend our day at Nikki Beach, a sure value. Following our natural instinct, we intuitively chose to get hammered and ordered bottles of vodka and wine. Within a few minutes, we were all jamming on the top of the pool bar. Ibiza on my mind. The DJ played the whole album of Buddha Bar three times in a row. I believe he just pressed play and left. Richard and I looked at each other: « you can’t blame him, it’s RAMADAN ».
One of our daily struggles was the negotiation with taxi drivers. My dad was in his bargain mode ready to negotiate for hours, only for 10 cents. Mom, Richard and I remained silent, not wanting to interfere with the conversation. Within a few minutes, one driver finally accepted to have us in his Mercedes from the 80’s pimped with plastic seats. It was over a 100 degrees and my mum politely asked the driver for AC. He simply responded: « oh, you want AC? Moroccan AC?». With a smirk on his face, he simply rolled down his window. The fuck.
Morocco completely transformed us and brought out our « thug side ». Dad was clearly feeling himself, acting like he was Aladdin or one of the cast members from Alibaba and the forty thieves. He was strolling in the Medina looking for his next deal on a daily basis. On her side, mom was trying to get rid of her Moroccan Dirhams from the 90’. She bought a few items with money that no longer existed, assuring vendors that her bills were brand-new. Even Richard was affected by this new environment. He wandered in the streets, spaced out, ready to assist my dad on his next deal.
Our desire for authenticity and exoticism grew within the next few days. We met Hamid who owned a tiny travel agency in the heart of the Medina. He couldn’t contain his excitement and show us his videos promoting his excursions; a local production with Hollywood type effects. The sounds track set the tone. The Imperial March, from Star Wars, was playing in a loop. Not sure if this was a tribute to the movie or if this was supposed to add value or even convince potential customers. Hamid starred at us, hoping to get some kind of feedback. We all smiled in harmony not wanting to question Hamid’s unique artistic gift.
We ended up on a tour bus at 6 am with other foreign dweebs. Richard was mad as fuck since there was no business class section. He should know better. The frenetic driving throughout the Atlas mountains combined with One Direction’s album blasting made one passenger nauseous. I blame the music.
Our endless ride stopped abruptly in the middle of the desert. A tour guide wearing a djellaba with a fresh pair of Nikes under it escorted us to the village of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked into the ruins, listening to approximate historical details and trying to find the next shadow to cool off. Our guide kept talking to Richard as if he was a movie producer, telling him that numerous American blockbusters were shot in this village. After a brief stop in Ouarzazate, « The door of the desert », it was time to head back to Marrakech.
Expect the unexpected. Morocco was full of surprises. Our tumultuous journey across Marrakech awoke our curiosity, passion, and anger. We were torn between Western luxury and disturbance from the souk. Undoubtedly, dad chose the dark side and couldn’t help but bargain until the very last moment.
Medina. Hidden Spa located in the heart of the souk. A Luxurious villa to get a full body massage and other spa treatments.
Jah el Fna
Center square of Marrakech. Every night the place transforms into a giant market with outdoor restaurants and entertainments.
Palmeraie. Mom’s BFF villas to rent. A quick escape from the madness at a reasonable price. Chef, massages & private pool. You fancy
Hivernage district. Fine dining restaurant, offering modern cuisine. Colonial vibes.
Vacation classic. Perfect getaway for those who missed their home country or want to have a taste of Ibiza in the middle of the desert.
Make the most of your souvenir shopping. A true concept store. Partner let me upgrade you.