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,
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.