we spent another day in marrakech exploring the city. we visited the koutubia mosque, the famous 800+ year old minaret that towers above the rest of the city and the gardens around it, and listened to the call to prayer as we walked through the gardens surrounding the holy center. it was my first time really hearing a call to prayer that wasn’t on youtube or something, and i remember being curiously struck by it. i really didn’t know what to think of it. i wondered what they were saying. i wanted to go to the source and watch, but i knew this wasn’t really a thing for tourists inside. it was a place for worship. zuzu steered us toward djemaa el fna.
located at the south of the medina (medina just means it’s the ancient part of the city), djemaa el fna is one of the most famous areas of morocco. a heavily populated market and town square, it is difficult to make sense of it when first approaching. the wide-open space at the mouth of the entrance immediately introduces chaos as pedestrians aimlessly wander in all directions while cars and motorcycles zoom in and out indiscriminately and unconcerned about the foot traffic all around them. unlike the US, the
pedestrian does not have the right of way. if you’re dumb enough to get hit by a car here, it’s your fault. it was a little disconcerting at first, but the longer i spent in the country, the more i liked it that way.
as we approached the central part of the crowded square, we began to hear the squawking instruments of the snakecharmers and the calls of the stall owners trying to attempt shoppers and tourists to their stalls and shops. as i drew near, i began to prepare myself mentally for the madness. before i was ready, an old man with a huge grin on his face walked right into the middle of our group with a black cobra snake on his arm, trying to get someone to take a picture with it. the group immediately and comically scattered, leaving everyone but surjit and myself, just staring curiously and somewhat fearfully at the massive snake less than a foot in front of my face. with his other hand, the man stroked his own cheeks and chin and said “alibaba!” aloud. surjit and i quickly deduced he was referring to our beards, as we had noticed we were the only ones around who had them (i had foolishly assumed everyone would have beards down here, so i had been hoping my travel beard would hide my baby face and make me look at least a little less conspicuous, even if it was bright red. no dice). we laughed as the old man reached out to shake my hand. i reached back, and as i politely shook, he quickly threw the snake around my neck. Continue reading morocco, pt. 2: a stroll through the medina, a drive to the sahara