A Narrative: Initial Moments in Marrakech Pt. 1

January 24, 2018

Taxi in Marrakech

I exited the Marrakech airport and my city-girl instincts kicked in. It was January 5th, 7:47 pm and the night air was cold and humid. I walked around looking for the taxi stand knowing this would be my first test as to whether I could handle negotiations with a taxi driver.

I learned that 70 Dh should be the price so when the first taxi driver said 200 Dh I told him,

“No way.”

He took me around to see another row of taxis and the next person offered 150 Dh. Knowing that it was a hussle I was too anxious to get to my riad after a full day of travel.

In the back of this circa 1990 Mercedes, I stared in wonderment out of the window taking in where I was. I couldn’t believe I was in Morocco and on the African continent.

Lights, palm trees, men on scooters, and neon signs swept by as we zoomed around in moderate traffic. The taxi driver spoke up and stated that he wouldn’t be able to drop me right in front of Riad Chalymar He said he would get me as close as possible and I would have to walk the rest of the way.

The taxi drove past the main city square Jemaa el-Fnaa and down an alleyway that lead to a dead-end.

As the taxi parked man walked up to the back seat window and asked where I headed. Before I could say anything my driver told him the name of our Riad and the man offered to take me to the front door.

Feeling unsure about following him, I slowly walked in the direction the taxi driver had pointed out. The stranger told me this was his normal walk every day and he could show me how to get to my destination. He then started to head down and pitch black alley. I immediately said no thank you and began to head towards the light where I saw people standing. The man said,

“Please, trust me I know where your riad is.”

My partner was convinced that we should follow the man. So I did. I followed this stranger’s dark silhouette as we turned right and left countless times in a partially lite alley. As I rounded the last corner we were in complete pitch black. My ears were listening for any hidden movement in the dark. I was worried that he may have some friends waiting for us at this, the darkest point of the street. Trying to see as my eyes darted in different directions was pointless; I was in absolute darkness. My grip tightened on the straps of my backpack and I began to think about what I would do if someone grabbed me. 

Orb of light appeared ahead. We walked closer to the light showing a door with a plaque that read Riad Chalymar.

We tipped the man a few euros and thanked him. He turned and left.

I hate being such a suspicious person. Instinctively I am distrustful of strange men. I suppose this is what most young girls are taught from day one.

“Don’t talk to strangers,” mom said. It’s true that by acting with caution you can maintain a bubble of safety. But it is equally important to learn that not all people are bad. There are those in the world who genuinely want to help. And that is the reason why I travel… to pop that bubble.

    1. Even if traveling makes us more open minded and maybe less afraid of other people, fighting against our deeper fears, this we were thought since we were lille girls, are the harder to eliminate. Maybe it’s impossible but… let’s keep on fighting and learning

      1. Thank you. It took a little bit of bravery and a bit of trust. I swear though, without his help I’m not so sure I would have been able to find my Riad.

    1. Wow you’re very brave, I too would have been very suspicious and no way would have followed him! I am very distrusting though, I think it’s due to my anxiety!

      1. I get anxiety too sometimes and in the craziness of a city like Marrakech, I was hoping not to have a panic attack. But sometimes I just push through these moments and try to keep my wits about me as best I can.

    1. Definitely could relate to your experience! We’ve been ripped off a few times by some taxi drivers around the world. So, I’m definitely a fan of UBER ever since it started.And for the ever “helpful” stranger we encountered once, we did follow him to where his going but due to language barriers we were even more lost! It’s better I guess to trust google maps and invest in roaming data!

      1. Yes, GPS is a gift which we did not pay for this trip we were hoping to find wifi everywhere which we did but in moments like these, there is no wifi. We should have bought it which would have made things easier but I think in a way it made for a very interesting experience.

    1. Well you can’t really blame yourself for feeling that way. It is a foreign country anyway and having the fear of the unknown is normal. It seemed like an adventurous night though!

      1. You’re right but it still makes me feel like a bad person sometimes. I guess it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It was a good learning experience.

      1. I suppose that is a normal feeling even though a woman is just as capable of being dangerous. I’m sure if a woman had approached me I would have followed her much more willingly.

    1. I am always so suspicious of strangers and could have never followed that man. Although it is right that not every person is bad, in fact we meet such beautiful people while travelling that they leave a lasting impression on us.

    1. I really enjoyed your post because your style of writing is unique and refreshing – storytelling is a nice break from listicles and I really enjoyed reading your first moments in the Moroccan city.

      1. Thank you! It has been a long time since I wrote a non-fiction story and I wasn’t sure how fluid it sounded. But I enjoyed writing it so much that I think I will do more short narratives.

      1. Hahaha, you may find yourself doing those things when you really have no other choice and just hope things will be ok. It really depends on the situation sometimes.

    1. I am happy that your encounter with the taxi drivers and the man who led you to the Riad had a happy conclusion. I would never have gone with either the taxi drivers or the man in the alley to be honest. My mum had the same ‘don’t talk to strangers’ refrain growing up so I am overly cautious like that.

      1. Thank you, dear. Yeah, it is always good to listen to mum but sometimes to have to put a little faith in people and hope they mean well.

    1. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I visited Marrakech 11 years ago and knew about the common practice of locals to ‘offer’ to take you to your riad as the souks are quite confusing to navigate for tourists. Like you I was very skeptical perhaps less from a safety side but more from a scam side. I’m really glad you a positive experience. It is true that travel is the perfect way regain your faith in the kindness of humans!

      1. Thank you 🙂 Before I went to Marrakech I was also hesitant about the possible scams. I had read a lot of peoples stories sharing their experiences about how they were helped by someone then when that person asked for money it was an outrageous amount. Some people even found themselves in a confrontation. That was something I was really nervous about but luckily for me, I did not come across that issue at all. Aside from getting used to the negotiations in the markets I really loved the city and the people were pretty cool.

    1. great post! Ever since my friend studied abroad in Morocco I’ve been dying to visit. Those scams can be so annoying though. Taxis are the worst!

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