A couple of years ago I went on a vacation to Marakesh, Morocco. The old part of town is a labyrinthine maze of shops and stalls (called souks). I kept wandering through this vast sea of stalls amazed at the variety of small shops crammed together selling food, textiles, spices, CDs, electronics, fruits and pottery to name a few. I was amazed at at all vivid colors and aromatic scents that filled the air. I was so drawn into all these sights, smells and sounds that I lost complete track of time.
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In the center of the town was an enormous plaza called the Djeema el Fna. During the daytime, the town center is crowded with tattoo artists and juice stalls, while horse drawn carriages criss-cross the plaza. At the same time, merchants are constantly attempting to lure you into their shops, assuring you the “best deal”. However, by dusk, the place transforms into a spectacular, carnival like atmosphere. Gone were the shopkeepers, and in their place snake charmers, musicians, acrobats, dancers, storytellers, circus animals, and people hawking counterfeit goods. The vast sea of tourists and locals partaking in this scene were seemingly never ending. I turned around to marvel the at the sight, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I happened to notice that a row of over a hundred restaurants had magically appeared within minutes and were already crowded with people devouring their tender meat dishes in their tajines, which is a stew cooked in a pot with a conical cover. One of the cooks caught my gaze and hurried over to me saying “Restaurant 117 will take you to heaven!”. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing as I continued to wander the Djeema. I could have stayed there for an eternity and wandered all day but suddenly this atmosphere was disrupted by the call to prayer blaring from the mosque loudspeaker. I was shocked at how, in less than a minute, the once bustling streets were almost deserted as everyone rushed off to pray.
What surprised me, was the fact that all the stores were left open. Initially, I thought the shopkeepers did not have the time to lock their shops for fear of being late to the mosque. Later I realized that It wasn’t necessary for the shopkeepers to do so, because they had complete faith that their merchandise would not get stolen. I was beyond belief. When I looked around, I even saw people within the shops waiting patiently for the return of the merchants.
I was able to observe a very interesting yet different way of life in Marakesh, one filled with an unbelievable amount of excitement. During my entire trip I was surrounded by people who were ready to help total strangers at any moment. I witnessed this firsthand when a stranger gave us a tour of the Moroccan Kasbahs, which were enormous castles in the middle of the desert. But that wasn't all, after the tour he invited us to his house to share a meal with him. I was deeply touched by the hospitality of the people in Marakesh and is on my list of places to visit again.
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