It was my final full day in Marrakech. I left the hotel lobby just after sunrise looking to buy a treat for my flight home. Specifically, a sugary-powdered biscuit that I’d sampled from a merchant hidden somewhere in the Medina.
When my friend and I visited the Medina the day before, it was mere minutes upon entering the side gate that we'd lost ourselves inside the fortified walls of the narrow cobblestone streets, dodging donkey carts and vendors mounted on Vespas hawking silk scarves and candies filled with nougat. Three hours later, feet throbbing and stomachs rumbling, we found the legendary Djemaa el-Fna, just in time for our scheduled food tour with our guide, Ahmed. That evening our small group of six hungry travelers sampled many of Morocco’s delicacies, including goat stew, honey-dipped almond doughnuts and a hot spiced cardamom tea that warmed our insides and tingled our ears.
Today I would reenter this thousand-year-old labyrinth, alone. But first, a place to sit and eat among the locals. Equipped with a few Arabic words our tour guide had taught us, I approached a man coating paper-thin honey-laced pancakes with butter, on a round cooking top. We exchanged a simple greeting and then all I could do was point and nod. While waiting for my breakfast, I looked around and listened. The sights were foreign, the sounds were foreign, but it was I who was the foreigner. Dozens of people roamed the streets, and I knew no one. Yet, somehow, I blended in. The waiter brought my order, I handed him the coins, said “sukran,” and found an open plastic table and chair on the sidewalk. Looking out at the motorcycles and donkey parked a few feet away, I sipped my tea and swirled my pancake in the remaining honey, while a local man sat across from me doing the same. We said nothing to one another, because we didn’t speak each other’s language, but we both understood two things – the pancake was delicious and it was a great day to be alive.
I finished my meal, and like before, I was immediately lost in the riddle of sounds and smells. Occasionally, I'd come upon a doorway or turret that seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. Regardless, my goal was to find this confectionery and I was determined to take every twist and turn until I did.
By early afternoon I was nowhere closer to my goal, so I finally asked for directions, fully aware that I was a marble in a maze. As the sun set behind the castle walls, I rode the wave of a buzzing crowd directly into the plaza and stood off to one corner. Steam rose from white-peaked food stalls while jugglers and snake charmers set up their stations to the sound of Berber flutes and tambourines dancing through the air. I gave up on the candy shop. I had no idea where it was. But it no longer mattered, because nothing on earth could be as sweet as this.
Once Upon a Time...
People travel for two reasons: to experience wonderful new things and to share their stories with others back home. But, visiting a foreign country where you don’t speak the language or know little of its culture can be intimidating. Unless you team up with like-minded adventurers like yourself.
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By trip's end you will have made several friends and gathered even more stories to share back home. So whether you already have a destination in mind, or need some inspiration, visit our website for a look at our current package destinations and upcoming trips throughout the year.
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