A tale of a creepy Arab man on the train to Marrakech

An amazing lamp-filled shop in Marrakech

Early the next morning, I was slightly unimpressed that my Fez hostel host hadn’t left out a breakfast package for me as promised. But as it was time to head to the bus station, I had to leave feeling hungry and in need of tea. But as I commented in my last post, it was the host that appeared to be kind of an idiot so I wasn’t really that surprised.

I rode the bus for the next few hours to the capital city of Rabat. I’d considered stopping in Casablanca but heard it was pretty industrial. The only reason most tourists head there is because of the movie Casablanca. Which I haven’t watched. So I thought Rabat would be the better option. I was again unimpressed to find out on arrival in Rabat that there were again no luggage storage facilities. And not in the train station either which I found very odd with Rabat being the capital city.

It was hot and sweaty. My stomach was rumbling and shoulders aching with the weight of my bag. I was wearing clothing that covered most of my skin as dressing conservatively is highly recommended for Morocco. I didn’t feel like I needed to wear a head scarf there although I did during my first day in Tangier as all the male attention was a bit overwhelming. Being blonde tends to generate even more attention.

So let’s talk about Moroccan men. I mentioned in another post how the attitude of Arabic men towards women is markedly different in contrast to the rest of the world. But what does this translate to. Well Moroccan women all wear headscarves covering all hair, along with often a type of long sleeved dress extending down to ankle-length called a djellaba. The younger women still wear headscarves but usually with normal clothes which are always long-sleeved with trousers. The only exposed skin is the face, hands and feet. The men and children seemed to wear anything although not shorts. I found it wasn’t difficult to dress conservatively although I could sense it would get harder as the heat increased in summer. A scarf was great for converting my lower/necked tops into a more appropriate style.

Now the deal-breaker. Despite foreign females covering their flesh, it doesn’t stop Moroccan men seeming to think foreign women are easy and loose. And indeed I had so many offers of sex, comments on my appearance, flirting, blown kisses that I felt like a hooker. Interestingly my other mother Julie pointed out on another post that the porn industry has a lot to answer for with making it appear that all white females are sexually available. I really felt the truth of that during my time in Moroccan.

Overall though all this attention was just verbal and gestures. The men wouldn’t come too close and make me feel that I was actually physically threatened. Except for one incident on the train between Rabat and Marrakech.

I was feeling pretty exhausted and the walking around Rabat with my heavy backpack hadn’t helped. The people hadn’t been particularly friendly and the small part of the medina I saw just wasn’t as pretty as Fez or Chefchaouen. Once on the train I managed to snag a window seat and rested my head right against the window with my small bag with valuables under my legs.

I woke up to find a hand on my thigh – on my upper thigh to be more specific. Belonging to an young Arabic man sitting right next to me. I freaked out and grabbed his hand and shoved it back at him telling him off. The asshole had the cheek to smile and wink at me. Ick.

I grabbed my small bag and pushed out past him. There was no way I was going to sit next to him for the rest of my train trip. I managed to find another seat with a Moroccan woman but I felt too weirded out to sleep for the rest of the trip. I had no idea how long his hand had been there or why he even thought it was okay to touch a sleeping stranger. Moroccan women definitely would not tolerate that kind of behaviour.

I was glad to arrive into Marrakech finally later that day. My petit taxi dropped me off in Place D’Jeema El Fna square and I walked through the crowds of touts and tourists ignoring the many offers of hotels and Sahara excursions. The square was packed with stalls along with performers with snakes and monkeys on leashes. Trying to entice tourists to touch their animals and pose for a photo so they could then be charged inflated prices. Henna ladies putting photos of henna designs in your face. And replying ‘Maybe later?’ to my firm no.

I made it to my hostel and settled in for the night. Exhaustion knocked me out like a log on the head.

Over the next couple of days I enjoyed going to ancient palaces and gardens, wandering through the medina, eating street food along with too many tagines, dodging motorbikes in the small narrow streets, trying out some shisha at the hostel and drinking multiple cups of mint tea.

Inside of a palace over one thousand years old

Flowers at the palace

A blue-themed Jewish Synagogue

One of the many horse carriages ready to transport tourists around for a fee of course

Inside the medina

Beautiful shop displays

Camels chill by a pay phone

Sunset from the rooftop of my hostel with a mosque silhouette

Love the vintage-filter version too

Enjoy this overload of photos from the Jardin Marjorelle garden I went to and loved. The snappy blue and red colours really made the beautifully maintained plants really pop.

I actually found Marrakech to be my least favourite out of the places I stayed in. The touts were particularly aggressive there due to I assume Marrakech having the highest number of tourists in the country. The henna ladies had a habit of trying to grab your hand so they could start painting a henna design without your permission (it would only take them maybe twenty seconds) and then charge up to 200 dirhams for something that usually costs maybe 30 dirhams.

The restaurants were rather expensive with 70-90 dirham tagines which was considerably higher compared to Fez and Tangier. I did manage to find a cheap place to eat and there were also food stalls that appeared in the square every night. But the problem with those food stalls is that the Moroccans were very competitive with promoting their own stall. And when you chose a different stall to their particular one you could hear them muttering things like ‘American assholes’. Not an effective way to get customers. One tasty thing I did find is orange juice. There are a row of stalls selling juice all day long and it is certainly the best orange juice I’ve ever had. Nice and refreshing too with the heat. Plus at 4 dirhams you can’t go wrong.

Mint tea. Image from foodilicious.smeak.com

My taxi driver going to the airport on my last morning tried to charge me over three times the usual fee. I suspect he could tell I was a little stressed as I had programmed my flight time incorrectly into my google calendar with the wrong time zone again (meaning I woke up, then realised I had less than an hour until check-in closed) and was running late. Sadly this is NOT the first time I have done this.

I really did not have time to haggle but luckily I literally only had seventy dirham left in my wallet. As I triumphantly told the taxi driver while shaking my empty wallet at him, I couldn’t pay two hundred dirhams since seventy was all I had. And considering the usual price is meant to be sixty dirhams, the driver was still getting a bargain really. Once I went to grab my bag back out of the taxi boot the driver realised I was serious and accepted my price. He was even nice enough to drive over the speed limit and through red lights to the airport. Although I suspect that was his usual style of driving anyway.

With plenty of time after that fast driving I was able to cruise through the airport, check my bag, and nibble on some last Moroccan snacks while awaiting my flight.

Next stop – Sevilla, Spain.

Hitch-hiking Moroccan ladies in traditional djellaba

Where I stayed: Hostel Riad Marrakech Rouge
Price: €10 in a 10 bed dorm
Overall: One of my top hostels ever for sure. It was painted in bright red colours with the multiple common areas overflowing with decorations and cozy couches. There was free shisha and mint tea, and even a tortoise running around on the roof terrace. The atmosphere was chatty and friendly with kind sociable staff. The only negative I had was that the showers ran out of hot water very quickly so I essentially had cold showers for three of my nights there.

Looking down the centre shaft to the lounge area


Fez Madness, Morocco

Arriving into Fez after dark, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. The touts were much more creative here with their attempts to part tourists with their money and the amount of buzz and people out in the medina was staggering.

As I was withdrawing some money from an ATM, a tout nearby started to talk to me asking me where I was from and which hotel I was staying in. I gave no indication of acknowledgement or even hearing him so he started to say ‘oh you’re ignoring me aren’t you? Well that’s too bad because my uncle’s hotel is the best in the whole medina and I would have shown you there for free.’ I couldn’t help but laugh, and then dived into the crowds of people in the medina to go looking for my hostel.

One of the main medina entrances. This one was known as Bab Bou Jeloud – The Blue Gate

The narrow streets were much better lit than Tangier and seemed a bit cleaner. The shops had brightly coloured wares hanging everywhere all over the walls and strung overhead. Sizzling street food was cooking on the sides while every few minutes a Moroccan man would ask if I was lost and needed some help finding my hotel. When you’re wearing a big backpack and front pack, it does make you stick out like a sore thumb. Being blonde and foreign also doesn’t help. Luckily I had decent directions saved into my iPhone notes from the hostelworld website on how to find my hostel.

Arriving at the hostel, I was informed the dorms had been overbooked so I was getting a free room upgrade to a private room with ensuite. I was very pleased!

The next morning I was less pleased. I was moved to another hostel which did turn out to be a nicer one luckily. But the manner in which it was done felt kinda scammy to me. I made sure to check I wasn’t being expected to pay more money or losing the good location within the medina. It didn’t help that the guy working the desk when I arrived at the new hostel was an idiot who when I asked him to check the wifi modem as there was no signal at all, he insisted that both my iPhone and laptop must be faulty as the wifi was definitely working. Doofus. I was tempted to say told you so later on when it was discovered an essential plug had indeed come out of the modem.

I spent that day wandering deep into the medina. Fez’s medina is meant to be one of the largest in Africa. I got very very lost intentionally within the twisty streets and felt immersed in the culture of the Arabic markets. It felt very special hearing the wailing of mosques very now and again.

An impatient donkey waits

Chickens for sale

I even stumbled across a tannery accidentally and got to have a look around to see the leather-making process. Of course afterwards I was ushered into a leather goods shop and wearing a lovely handmade red leather jacket before I knew it. With the price tag of 1500 dirhams (about €150 which is actually a bargain compared to Italian leather jackets which are more like €200-300 or more), I turned down the jacket to the disappointment of the shopkeeper. However I was still invited to have mint tea with him later once he finished work (I also turned that down) as I was such a lovely sweet lady.

Overview of the whole tannery

Close-up of some of the workers

I was really glad to have this mint leaf! The smell was terrible as animal faeces are part of the curing process

I decided to again try the idea of stopping somewhere for lunch the next day. Which would have been a good idea anyway as my next stop was Marrakech which is quite a distance away with at least a good nine hours on the train. I went to sleep feeling pretty happy and safe about being in Morocco.

A view of the city from the terrace of a restaurant I had lunch at

A stray cat admires the Merinid Tomb ruins on the hill

Where I stayed: El Yasmine Riad (1st night) and Dar Zohor (2nd night)
Price: €13 a night in a 4 bed dorm
Overall: It was very nice and Moroccan but I don’t think I would stay there again. It did have a scammy undertone with not only the hostel switching thing, but the activities you could do through the hostel were all mildly overpriced. The Dar Zohor hostel had it’s own restaurant but the prices were actually nearly double the price compared to other restaurants out in the medina. And the mint tea tasted terrible.