"All the World is a Stage." -William Shakespeare
To celebrate my friend's 40th birthday, I've traveled from Chicago, Illinois to Marrakesh, Morocco. Deviating from my regular schtick, I'm blogging our adventure.
FLIGHT OF (not so) FANCY: Most of us flew Iberian Air, a partner of American Airlines. The flight is approximately 8 hours to Madrid, Spain with a connecting flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. Upon boarding, I review the stellar selection of movie possibilities to entertain. Unfortunately, we are on an older plane with ashtrays. There is one television to the center and a few aisles up. Fortunately, the feature is "True Grit"... a movie that I did not like the first time I saw it. The flight attendants were in a word 'surly.' After serving dinner, they never returned until the breakfast service, six hours later. The good news is the wine is free. The bad news is the staff isn't so free with it. Luckily, Jen and I barter on the airlines' vegetarian screw-up to score another round. International travel is a challenge. Some people easily adapt with or without sleeping enhancements. For me, I achieve three hours of a respite. A tip to note is the lack of water offered by the airlines. Eight hours in the sky is dehydrating. Carrying on water is a good idea.
MARRAKESH EXPRESS: We are greeted at the airport with ground transportation to Riad Villa Wenge. Besides the ample sunshine, the other notable is the plethora of scooters. Everywhere are Vespa-style motorcycles! It becomes obvious why. Our van has to drop us off a mile from our riad because cars aren't allowed in the market area. Motorbikes are allowed! The journey to the riad starts through an open market area and then narrows into a maze of corridors. Shoes, jewelry, food, spices, cosmetics... anything you may or may not want to buy lines the path. Vendors have established open air booths or makeshift temporary tarps with their wares dangling or landscaping every inch of the area. Despite people crowding the corridors, motorcycles beep and speed through the area. Carriages pulled by horses schimmy through these outdoor hallways too. Being alert is a necessity to avoid being road kill.
It's not just the traffic, vendors are in your face too... with snakes. Walking into the blinding sun, snake (not so) charmers thrust live and plastic snakes in your face to get your attention. It happens a lot and my reaction continues the same... surprised shrill of a scream. One guy even puts his snake around Steve's neck. Another guy starts harassing Jen for taking a picture. Being firm and confident with a 'no' and continue walking is necessary to survive the market area. Hard selling seems to be a cultural trait so refusing isn't offensive, it's vital.
'The scene' is a whirlwind of chaos. The locals are dressed head to toe in fabric. Older guys are wearing the Obi Wan Kenobi collection with hooded snuggies. Some younger men are wearing American brand clothing like Diesel. Ladies are scarfed and completely covered. Some female tourists, and it's obvious they are tourists, show a little skin... like a knee or an arm. They do attract attention of hissing and leering. I'm wearing jeans and a long sleeve top with a modest neckline. I also attract some male jeering and comments. There is a bit of panic for the massive amounts of people activity pressing around on all sides. Getting to and from the riad is not an easy task. When Cridlin arrives later and misses his scheduled ground transportation, we are SHOCKED that he was able to find the place. No directions could possibly even map the way. A guide literally is required to accompany travelers to their riad or hotel.
OASIS IN THE CHAOS: Riad Villa Wenge is a seven bedroom house with two levels and a lovely rooftop. Even knowing beyond the walls are throngs of people, the riad feels safe and quiet. The staff is friendly and attentive to our every need. Interestingly, most of us are not getting cell service even with international phone plans but the riad has excellent wi-fi! When Cridlin was MIA, we used facebook to communicate with him. :)
It's 5:30 in the morning and from my room, I can hear morning prayers being chanted over a loudspeaker from outside the riad... so much for quiet.