DAYS 11 & 12 – MARRAKECH

Day 11 was all driving – from Fes to Marrakech – a full nine hours in the car. But it was all worth it because the next day we got to enjoy Marrakech, which is probably my most favorite city in Morocco. We had decided at breakfast the next day that we just needed a day to explore on our own. It’s in our blood to be adventurous and rebel against the norm, and there are always experiences you have just roaming the streets that you can’t have with a tour guide. And that’s exactly what happened.

We had two goals for the day – to see the souks and to see the snake charmers. Both were in the Medina. Using the ‘Maps with Me’ app, we were able to navigate the path on our own. It was a very nice walk, about 20 minutes or so, and the morning weather was perfect for walking and seeing part of the city. We took off excited to see what kind of souvenirs we could find.

My youngest sister, Natalie, has the same genetic disorder as me but can still walk most of the time. She uses a wheelchair when walking long distances, and today was one of those days. My sister, Julie, had taken charge of pushing Natalie up and down the curbs, across the streets, and down the frequently rough sidewalks. About 10 minutes into our walk, Julie and Natalie leading the way, I heard Natalie screech, “Oh no! I lost a wheel!”

I was propelling myself about five feet behind them and when I heard her say this, I looked down at the ground, and lo and behold, laying right in front of me was her front wheel.

We all gathered around the wheelchair to assess the situation and determine if we could fix it. We gathered the wheel, a screw, and two washers. All we were missing was one more screw. And so we went searching. The sidewalk we were on was old, possibly made of leftover cement and rocks. And thus, it was hard to easily see anything lying on the path.

We spent about 20 minutes pacing the area, back and forth, looking for a single screw. Who knew if we would ever find it? It could have fallen out a mile ago. I was a block away from the “scene,” searching the ground intently, when I turned back, racking my brain with alternative solutions. As I got closer, I saw my sisters and Amelia with two young men, locals who had been doing construction on the side of the street, all leaned over the wheelchair. I wondered how and if they were going to help when I heard Julie yell, “They took a screw out of their motorcycle to help us!”

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I looked at the young men, probably 19 or 20 years old, and watched how they graciously helped us. Neither them nor us could speak the same language. These young men literally saw us trying to repair a broken wheel and stopped what they were doing to help. And not only that, they took a screw out of the engine of their motorcycle, using a coin (they didn’t have a screwdriver) to screw it firmly into the axle of Natalie’s wheelchair. We couldn’t say thank you, as they didn’t understand. We tried to communicate our gratitude as much as possible, using our very limited knowledge of Arabic – “Shukraan! Shukraan!” They just smiled and nodded.

As we walked away, we debated about whether we should give them money. I commented that I thought it would be offensive. In this case, we truly experienced the local culture. I still cannot believe that two young men, doing construction on the side of the street, took a screw out of their motorcycle’s engine to help repair Natalie’s wheelchair. This is what the people of Morocco do. Who they are. Why this is a great country.

I often doubt the world, humanity, everything on this Earth. After all, there are a lot of terrible things going on every day. But today, the two young Moroccan men doing construction on the side of the street have restored my faith in humankind. In the goodness in people. I know it won’t last forever, but until it fades, these two young men will be at the forefront of my mind. Thank you both!

After our “incident” was resolved, and another 20 minutes of walking, we arrived at the Medina. The Medina in Marrakech was much, much more accessible than the Medina in Fes. It appeared to be newer, which was likely the reason. We spent four or five hours just strolling through the winding streets, enjoying the spices, oils, dates, fabrics…everything. And the people were so incredibly nice, not pesty like many souk workers can be.

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After we had spent our Dirhams (the Moroccan currency), and our backpacks were full of loot, we found a little pizzeria (I know, not very Moroccan…), where we had our 2015 Thanksgiving dinner. Cheese pizza for everyone.

It was mid-afternoon at this point, and we only had one more thing to see that day. The snake charmers. Snake charmers are musicians who play flutes for cobra snakes to watch them dance. As we approached the three men playing their instruments with snakes standing up for them, another man, out of the blue, was behind us putting snakes around Amelia and Tony’s necks. I quickly escaped the area, grabbing photos only from afar. I just couldn’t do it…put a snake around my neck.

As the afternoon progressed, the area became more and more crowded, with beggars starting to emerge from everywhere. It became evident that we needed to bring our bags and bags of things back, and that it was time to get out of the sun. We started our two mile walk back, and all I could think that it was a great day. A great day to spend in Morocco. My most favorite memories of Morocco were today. I will cherish them forever.

Please feel free to read Tony’s perspective of our trip at http://www.whereistony.com.

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