Mattia surprised me with a trip to Marrakech in January. I was beyond surprised (more at his unprecedented thoughtfulness than anything) and excited since I had never been to Africa before.
We trekked over the Grand Medina, the historic city center, by bus (we later figured out on the way back that a taxi would've been faster and cheaper) and even in the relative emptiness of the early morning I could tell that it was someplace special. We followed the winding streets of the souks (outdoor marketplaces) to our gorgeous riad. Riads & dars are old grand houses that have been converted to hotels and still hold the decor and glamour of the past age. They usually have a courtyard or garden in the center.
The Grand Medina was a feast for all senses. Men on carts shouted out as a warning of their passing, though the strong smell of the donkey pulling the cart hit our noses first. I was so absorbed by the explosion of colors of all the shops that I repeatedly stepped into the random puddles of mysterious liquids. And the dry air tasted of dust and spices.
The souks were crowded. Every few steps I bumped into men, women, girls, boys, donkeys, cats, and birds. I wondered about everyone's stories. I had so many questions: what is your family like? When did you first fall in love? What did you dream of as a kid? We might've found more similarities than differences. Unfortunately due to time constraints and the language barrier, we weren't able to get to know anyone. Hopefully next time I'll get connected with a guide or translator, but until then I'll live with the stories I imagined for them.
I tried my best to haggle with the vendors. I had three items in mind: a beautiful white shag rug lined with sequins, a woven basket with beautiful details, and a uniquely intricate tea set. We ended up with leather house slippers for Mattia. Oh well, always another reason to return!
Marrakech is a beautiful place full of history and culture. It felt unreal to be there.