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New Years in Marrakech

1 January, 2011

The Husband and I, along with our friend Rachel who is in town from Spain, decided to spend a few days for New Years in Morocco’s famed Red City.

We all arrived into Casablanca Thursday, spent the night together at Hotel Atlantique, had breakfast and caught a noon train down to ‘Kech.

On previous travels in Morocco, we have flown by the seat of our pants with regards to where we will stay, etc., but given that we were spending New Year’s Eve in a known tourist destination, we played it safe and booked a triple room at hostel Riad Rahba in Kech’s medina.   The hostel emailed a confirmation and included a warning that we will likely get lost trying to find their place.  The warning also contained a map that, sadly, we were unable to open.

Because the train left Casa about an hour late, we rolled into town as the sun was setting.  Knowing the general direction of our hostel, we set off on our mission to find the place, or get lost trying.

As is common in many parts of Morocco, street names are not always marked.  Also common,  a number of existing signs are written only in Arabic script.  Have I mentioned that I’m still illiterate?  What I’m trying to say is that it took us a little while to find our hostel.  We found it though, and without falling prey to the boys who will guide you to your destination for a fee, so we must have been doing something right.

Our hostel was cute and clean, and we were satisfied with it.  Check-in was easy, and once we drank some tea and stowed our bags, we hit the streets and started our explorations.

We never ventured much off the beaten path here, and reminders of how big tourism is in Marrakech were everywhere.  It wasn’t exactly the “Disneyland” that some of my fellow ETA’s described it as, but it was definitely interesting to visit.

I particularly enjoyed watching shop owners try to guess the language of potential customers and do their best to lure folks into their shops.. especially the food stalls in Djemaa El Fna, Kech’s main square.

We had dinner in stall number 117.  Our food consisted of mostly forgettable couscous, olives and french fries, but it was cool to have the experience of sitting in a stall with many people at a long table, and being told by the waiter to stop speaking Darija and start speaking English.

After dinner we wandered around more, seeing everything there was to see and waiting for midnight.  It was refreshing to be in an area on NYE where the main focus was not on getting drunk, but this also meant that after a certain hour, there was not much going on.  We parked ourselves at a table on the 3rd story of a café where we were refused service due to the late hour, and waited for midnight.  Seconds before the New Year, a group of English-speaking foreigners on the street below started a countdown that quickly spread to seemingly everyone around us.  A few kisses were exchanged, and someone on the street lit some sparklers, and that was it.

Djemaa El Fna on New Year's Eve

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