First Week in Morocco: Part 2

First Week in Morocco: Part 2

The only real failure is the failure to try – and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment – as we always must. We came here – and we tried – all of us in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling that we’re too old to change – too scared of disappointment to do it all again? We get up on the morning and do our best – nothing else matters. But it’s also true that the person who risks nothing does nothing. – has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So, we must celebrate the changes, because, as someone once said, ‘Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.’    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I get up in the morning and I do my best.  So the turtle guy from the previous post was upset with me for not buying more.

“But I gave you a presentation and let you take my picture.”

“Yes, but I didn’t ask for the presentation.  In fact,  I asked you for the prices of the spices and you said I needed to allow you to practice your English and give me a full presentation before you could speak about price.”

I am learning to be more assertive.  My friend, Dana, who taught in Casablanca, said the most important Arab word I need to learn is la which means no.  She said as a Southern girl,  she became stronger in Morocco.  I get it. Starting with the full-court-press-souk-salesmen, I am learning not to confuse assertive with being rude.  Not to be talked into something I don’t want.  To walk away if the price is too much.  To buy from the guy who doesn’t push, who will take a fair price.  Not the guy who pushes, then acts offended when I don’t buy.  In the souks you can see how leather goods, textiles, many home goods of quality craftsmanship are made. I’m learning the difference between the real deal and the imitation.  And rule-of-thumb is start by offering 1/3 of the price they ask.  Dealers expect to haggle and will finally ask for you “final price.”  If they want too much, walk away.  They will usually follow and offer a better price.  Thankfully I was warned to agree on a price BEFORE shooting a picture of the snake charmers. 54 I left the souks on Friday after one of the five calls to prayer.


The Kautoubia Mosque in the medina (old city)  holds 20,000 people for prayer inside and 20,000 outside on its plaza.  Many of that number were exiting as I caught a cab.

Many have asked me, “Where is Morocco?”  Slightly larger than the state of California, it is located in North Africa. The country borders the Atlantic Ocean at its west and the Mediterranean Sea in the north. Approximately 31 million people live in Morocco, of whom 99% identify as Arab-Berber. More than 98% of the population identifies as Muslim.  There are over a million people in my city. Following the Arab conquest of North Africa in 788 BCE, Morocco was ruled by Moorish dynasties for centuries. Marrakesh, known as the “Red City,” was founded in 1062 as Morocco’s capital of an empire spanning from Spain to Senegal.   Moroccan sovereignty steadily declined beginning in the late 19th century, when Spain occupied northern Morocco and instigated a European trade war. France ultimately dominated, and imposed a 44-year protectorate over the country. Morocco regained its independence in 1956. Today, the country is a constitutional monarchy. The Moroccan dialect of Arabic, Darija, is commonly spoken, though Modern StandardArabic is the official language. Much of the population also speaks French. Many Moroccans also speak a local dialect of Berber. In the 1960s the city became known as the “hippie mecca” which attracted music legends like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Today my city, consisting of a walled imperial city (the medina), and an adjacent modern city, known as the “Ville Nouvelle,” is the main tourist attraction in the country. After hours in the souks, I checked out the Plaza–the new city shopping district a 10 minute walk from my home in the Guéliz district.  I didn’t buy anything since prices here are “American.”  Just wanted to feel comfortable moving through my new city solo.

IMG_5360 I followed the scent of grilled meat to my neighborhood and had brioche and the ubiquitous french fries.  Funny that I had always thought of “french fries” as not French, but American fare.


43 My lunch companion napped under my chair.  Cats are EVERYWHERE here but dogs are few which is why I left my darling Ella (rescued yellow lab mix) with Mom.  Living on the third floor (technically 4th since the ground level is floor 0) and my work schedule (gone until 4:30 PM) would not have been best for Ella.  She and Precious the Persian are getting royal treatment with my mom, and Mom’s doctor told her today they are good medicine for her. 40 So after Cindy’s Amazing Adventure–first day on the town solo–I went home to my apartment, a cool oasis in the city. 18
I recovered the Moroccan couch with a piece of fabric I bought in the souks.  I was hoping to buy a pre-made cover and pillows to match but apparently the fabric is sold and tailors do the sewing.  This is my living room. 62 64     So far CNN is the only channel I’ve found that has tv in English. Below is  the view from the balcony off the living room.  On a clear day I can see the Atlas Mountains. 66     My neighbors below have a pool.67This is the balcony off of my bedroom.  I look forward to adding flowers and a chair once the weather cools off enough to enjoy it. 6869I pretend I’m Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give writing with a view. 70 71Cooking with propane gas indoors is a first.  I like it. 85 My friend, Pablo, friend and DJ at my Bon Voyage Party wanted me to remember my hometown. 87 My first experience with the washing machine involved two hours and a lot of soap suds for one item of clothing.  I couldn’t read the buttons so had to wing it.  I look forward to decorating the apartment, but with a long time to do it, I am taking it slow, adding only what I love. Maybe a Moroccan wedding quilt or silk comforter…artwork…lanterns….many possibilities in the miles of souks. bedroom 2 brom Saturday the school provided a tour of the souks and other landmarks. Below, our Moroccan guide showed us the Jewish quarter and explained that Muslims in Morocco have lived at peace with Jews and Christians for centuries. In fact, only one Koranic school of learning still exists in Morocco to avoid conflicts over religious belief; it is in Fez. 99   Berbers, considered the “first Moroccans” wear traditional dress in the Square. 91     Spice souks in Jewish quarter 103   100 101   We took a tour of the Bahia Palace and gardens.  Built in the 19th Century by a sultan for his harem, it is still a royal residence when the king chooses to use it.  Morocco is a country lush with spices; lime, orange, and olive trees. 104 105 106 IMG_3328IMG_3325IMG_3322IMG_3348IMG_3343 IMG_3349 IMG_3342 Our guide took us through the souks IMG_3341 to Ben Youssef Madrasa, a former Islamic college founded in the 14th century.  It is now a historical site.  Built of cedar, marble and stucco, the courtyard is surrounded by small windows of dormitory cells for students who lived there. IMG_3352   IMG_5382 IMG_5379 profile Below is the Shell of Santiago, a Christian symbol of St. James’s spiritual journey (Camino de Santiago) and Jesus as explained by the Quran– a prophet of Virgin birth but not the crucified son of God (thus, no cross). IMG_3354 After the tour I had lunch with the Woods family at a cafe down the street from my apartment and around the corner from the plaza.  I went alone to the mall area as I had done on Friday to buy a purse to hold my hat (a must for me here), my camera, my small purse.  I didn’t feel like a tourist anymore.  All the women I’d seen shopping the day before had chic purses and clothes; the neighborhood was built by the French and the French sense of style is big here.  I found one I liked for a good price so I strapped it across my body for the walk home just to be safe.  I was feeling all Gigi- in- Paris/Audrey- Hepburn- Happy when two guys on a motorbike drove up on the sidewalk straight at me. They cut across me and it seemed they hit me in the throat as they yanked my purse.  I realized later from the red strap mark I had been clotheslined by the purse strap. Thankfully I yanked back and they didn’t get it.  I screamed as they zoomed off out of frustration, anger, fear.  I looked around and saw only one other person–a man stopped at the corner on a motorbike.  He stared at me and I wondered if he was with them, if he’d circle back and rob me.  I stared at him, then started walking home, looking back to let him know I was watching him.  He drove on.  I was shaken but felt protected. IMG_5396That night I didn’t go out.  I went up.  Tomorrow I’d take a cab to the plaza and buy a picture frame so Taylor and Cole would be on my desk as I wrote.  I’d get a shade for my bedroom ceiling light, a pitcher and glasses.  I’d take the suggestion of a colleague who also loves spicy food and eat at Wok to Walk.  I’d get teary eyed when the American music they play is a song my daughter loves.  But that first Saturday night, one I’d normally spend with friends or family, I’d take the elevator to my apartment complex’s rooftop to watch the sunset.  To thank God for protection.  To look at this city He loves, and as the Call to Prayer sounded around me, pray I’d see the good and the bad through His eyes.  That I’d learn valuable lessons.  That I’d grow stronger and come to love this new place, too. 10532891_10153119090119466_342789021798609900_o

Cindy McCain

I'm Cindy McCain, Southern Girl Gone Global, who flew from my empty nest to write/teach for three years in Marrakesh, Morocco and the Caribbean. Now back in Nashville, I'm sharing tales, tips, and takeaways from exploring 27 countries and finding treasures in my backyard. My blog offers itineraries, travel/hospitality reviews, and inspiration for letting go of fear, holding onto faith, and finding freedom in roots and wings. Featured in Yahoo!, US News and World Report, Expedia, Orbitz, StyleBlueprint, Named a Top 35 Baby Boomer Blogs 2020-2023 and a Top 50 Travel Blog of 2016.

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