Dirty Marrakech
Marrakech is an extremely dirty city. Running water can be difficult to find. The bathrooms are disgusting. The roads and footpaths are built shoddily, so dirt and especially water accumulates readily. Motorcycles are driving amid pedestrians, spreading pollution, soot, and muddy water, all over my clothes. I have never spent so much time in my room, refusing to take off my shoes, except to go to bed. Feral cats run everywhere. The average automobile is more than 20 years old. Still, Marrakech is the second-most visitable city in Africa, next to Cape Town.


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After wandering the medina of Marrakech my first night, I was headed back to my riad, when I noticed the man above in a one-customer barbershop. In français, I asked him, “How much?” He replied, “Whatever you want!” I took a seat.

I have paid $22 for recent haircuts in the United States, which is more than I would like. I like receiving haircuts in foreign countries, as I find the communication challenges fun, and the prices are much lower. I had thought I was just going to receive a quick trim, but he also provided a scalp massage. This hole in the wall opened to traffic so there was a constant din of motorcycles and pedestrian traffic.

The facial hair I grow is in the bottom 10 percentile in terms of both volume and rate. However, the barber proceeded to execute the traditional straight-razor shave. I had never done this treatment, so I thought North Africa was a good place for the first time. Bear in mind this man was not using the highest-quality instruments. He had to replace the blade on the razor, put it to a flame, and apply oil to it. The whole experience was fantastic. I was not paying for any luxurious surroundings, but the service was top-notch. After the shave, I touched my face several times, as it is the smoothest my face had felt since I was 10 years old.

I think the barber would have been satisfied with as little as $6, but I paid him $16. The experience and the price sure beats the Hair Cuttery! Marrakech must have the highest concentration of barbershops in the entire world. Several are adjacent to each other, and there is no rhyme or reason why they are located in random parts of the city. In the medina, you could not walk more than four minutes before spotting at least one. They stay open until midnight, which is curious because the city does not party late.

I prefer drinking tap water. Even in Central and South America, I would drink the tap water, despite some local protestations. I asked a riad employee, “Can I drink the tap water?” He immediately replied, “No, don’t drink it!” I rephrased my question, “Do you drink the tap water?” He said, “Yes, but foreigners have trouble digesting it.” I drink the tap water in Marrakech without any problems, and it tastes better than the water in my home in the U.S. You can buy 1.5-liter bottles of water here for $1.13.