It was like a portal back in time, and I was Aladdin. This scrawny middle-aged man with broken English led me through the winding walkways: narrow, cobblestoned pathways through a maze of shops and markets and what else I wouldn’t know until the sun rose in the morning. I was so overwhelmed by the charms they sold, and the clothes they wore, and the smells and the language and motorcycles whizzing past, I was enswirled by a mixture of awe and excitement and fear, wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into this time, but too intrigued to want to turn back even if I could.
It was well after 11 o’clock at night and, wobbling under the weight of my 60 lbs pack, I trudged behind this complete stranger who just happened to be loitering near the archway where my taxi driver stopped. He said he knew the way and since the taxi (and especially the driver) had proven useless at that point under the archway of the rampart, this chipper, chatty chap had all the trust I could spare.
It wasn’t much, but it was all I had.
We were trying to find my hotel, a last-minute booking to a place that seemed to stump anyone I asked, but this guy seemed to know the way. I hoped. I didn’t have much choice but to trust him. He assured me it wasn’t too far, maybe a 15-20 minute walk, and all the while I followed him deeper into the maze, I couldn’t but feel like I was plummeting down a rabbit hole.
But he got me there after what felt like an eternity and after a haphazard haggling over his worth, I had never been so relieved to check in some place in my life.
And the Riad Del Charme Moulliard was just as overwhelming as the walkways that got me there.
Lavish rugs and traditional sculptures, tapestries and all forms of art adorned every surface. I felt as though I was transported to another world. Perhaps that walkway was a rabbit hole.
When the sun rose the next morning, it was with absolute fascination and trepidation that I slipped out the door with my new map, courtesy of the innkeeper.
The Medina proved to be as much of a maze in daylight as at night, but in lieu of shadows and everything cloaked in grey, it was a medley of colours, of crowds, and of buzzing activity. Some routes wound away from the markets and into tall, plain stone buildings, while others took you into a vegetable market that wreaked of fetid meat, too.
I was confronted at what felt like every turn, asking if I needed help, where was I going, and to each and everyone I said as politely as I could, non gracias, unwilling to have to shell out more dirhams when I knew I’d be better off to figure out my way on my own anyway.
It took some effort, but I did.
I was even happier when I found my way back the way I’d come and managed to find the hotel entrance on my own.
But I had a few days on my own here, I knew, to find a more affordable hostel while brimming with anticipation to see my sister for our first reunion since I left home, and fate could have not been more favourable in having this place, of all my destinations, to have a companion…
This piece of the adventure will be continued soon. Until then, here are some photos…