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View from the top of a riad.

 

My first daylight in Marrakech, I walked 600 meters north to arrive at Medersa Ben Youssef, one of the few museum-like tourist attractions in the city. I paid $5.68 for entrance, but I still have little idea of the importance of the site because there are no tours and few informational placards. This area is teeming with souqs, or marketplaces and shops, so the short walk takes a long time because you are wading through pedestrians and motorcycles.

I repeat that the shopkeepers are aggressive in seeking your patronage. I find that the shopkeepers and people behind food stalls are the most tolerable of the annoying salespeople because they are attached to their real estate. The worst are the idle men and boys who try to get your attention with a quick “Excuse me” or similar greeting in the appropriate language. Since these souqs are in unmarked alleys, there exists a common tactic to offer directions to Jamaa el Fna, the main square. Having been in this country a week, I know my way around, and the directions are intentionally incorrect, either to funnel tourists to shops that will provide a referral fee to the local or to extract a higher service fee, ostensibly for helping through such a crazy area.

At times, I feel like everyone is a Nigerian scammer. I have managed to evade any theft, but it is unpleasant always to have one’s guard up in the most innocent of situations. People will regularly offer the local tea, which I have drank a ton of, but on a recent occasion, I waited until the locals drank from the same pot. They did not, so I did not either, setting down my tea. I have even encountered a local who says there are too many scammers and then attempts to pull one on me. One of his demands was to give him money for the local blind people. It is incessant. People will spot me from 50 meters away and make conversation as if it were random, taking a route that would lead them to me.

 

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Medersa Ben Youssef

 

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Traffic in Marrakech is predictably chaotic. Crossing traffic is like playing a real life game of Frogger. There are donkeys, horses, sheep, people, baby carriages, and bikes crossing major roads without the benefit of pedestrian safeguards.

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I am standing in the middle of the road. One realizes how much of a luxury medians are in the U.S. I dash across the first two lanes going in one direction, then I wait for the next opening, perhaps in between a car and a donkey.

 

On my last day, I went to Jardin Majorelle, which is not far away from my riad, but because of traffic and touts, takes a while. Most people would take a taxi, but I prefer pounding the pavement to see as much as possible.

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This shade of bleu Majorelle is an official color, named after the garden’s designer, Jacques Majorelle.

 

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There are many desert plants from around the world.

 

 

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Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria and kept a home in Morocco. He owned the garden, and his ashes are buried here. He designed these “Love” holiday posters each year and sent them to friends.

 

One of the aspects I have most enjoyed here is practicing and learning languages. Having spoken English my entire life, I attempt to speak anything else whenever possible. Since I appear to be Asian, I will regularly say (in français or español), “I’m not American. I’m Korean. I can’t speak English,” to encourage use of other languages. Of course, it’s absurd to think there are Asians who speak français or español but not English. I have picked up several words in Arabic, which I like to repeat ad nauseam. With fellow travelers, I sometimes ask, “How do you say ___?” in français and receive the answer in español or visa versa. It is all quite fun. My comprehension and speaking skills in both français and español have improved noticeably.