Salam, Morocco!

by Karen

Wow.

We were still on the plane when we’d already gotten an invitation to eat dinner with our seat neighbor’s family home.
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Only an hour after stepping off the plane, and already we’re enchanted. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. It’s a sensory overload.
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Our chauffer picked us up in the airport. We were very lucky to find him at the last moment, because he was not given any information about our flight, only Mark’s name. He assumed “Florentino” was from Italy (which is a reasonable assumption), and the only planes arriving from Italy were later at night. He was about to turn around and head home when we found him waving our sign. Huzzah!
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Our van was surrounded by crowds of people at the airport waiting for their loved ones to return from the Hajj. It was a beautiful kaleidescope of chaos. People joyously reuniting with families, roses, balloons everywhere. Our driver was none too understanding though, but he handled the crowd like a pro.
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We drove along the main roads for a bit, they looked like western-style paved roads. Mopeds, cars, horse-drawn carriages everywhere. Then, our adventure started. Everything you’ve seen in movies, games, and TV shows showing crowded streets, faded window shutters, shopkeepers hawking their wares, people cooking food on the street…it’s all real. We even had a kid hop on the back of our van and hitch a ride for a bit. Cars driving recklessly with moped bumper-to-bumper, bicycles narrowly hitting people, pedestrians walking slowly in front of oncoming traffic–it was madness.
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Our driver dropped us off in the middle of an alley, and another man met up with us and took our bags. We followed him through dark alleyways and arched passageways, winding streets with no name. You could very easily get lost here, and the best way to know where to go is to memorize it by heart. We shared the road with motorcycles (I almost got hit by an oncoming one coming out of the shadows!) but on the whole, the streets felt pretty safe. It was invigorating to see the streets so crowded with people going about their nightly lives.

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We arrived at our lodgings (Riad Edward), and I immediately felt transported back to the medieval Ottoman empire. We were speechless, the place looks run down from the outside, but inside is like a magical fairytale palace, with lots of charm reminiscent of a life long ago. Our room had arched wooden doorways we had to duck down to enter, the entire suite was spacious, and rose petals were placed everywhere.
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In the middle of the riad was an atrium with a pool of water in the middle, surrounded by trees and plants. We had Moroccan mint tea (need to add plenty of sugar!), and a satisfyingly good dinner:

– salad course (eggplant dish, tomato dish, and green bean dish),
– main course (beef, tomato & egg dish, and noodles sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar),
– dessert (very dense chocolate cake with some kind of goat yogurt?)

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