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I started my first full day in Morocco bright and early when I woke up at 4:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. An hour later the call for prayers over the loudspeaker and the crowing of a nearby rooster woke up Mike too. When we finally fell back to sleep we passed out hard, stuck in a deep sleep until Gian came in around 9:15 to fix our breakfast.
Gian served us a delicious assortment of pastries, bread and crepes with jam and butter, along with orange juice and mint tea. Mike and I quickly realized we could get used to starting our days like this. As I mentioned in my last post, Gian was so much more than a housekeeper. She also operated as a concierge of sorts, helping us organize our outings and assisting us in getting where we needed to go.
Our riad was located about ten minutes away from Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square and market place in Marrakech. Gian showed us how to get from our house to the square, pointing out the buildings and landmarks we needed to remember to find our way back. She also took us to a restaurant she recommended and got us a reservation for lunch. Though the streets seemed busy (again filled with pedestrians, scooters, horse-drawn carriages and carts carrying goods), she told us this was the quiet time and the square really came alive at night.
Our first walk through the carts and stalls was a bit overwhelming as everyone tried to sell us their wares. Not yet confident of our bargaining skills, we did our best to walk quickly, browsing but not spending too much time looking at any one thing.
After walking around the square for awhile, we found respite in a nearby cyber garden, where the calm and tranquil vibe was in sharp contrast to the frenzy a few blocks away. When we got tricked into buying pastries from an older man, we realized we learned our first Moroccan lesson: when someone offers you something and it seems like it's free, it isn't, no matter how sweet the accompanying words.
As Portlanders, we could not stop marveling at the blue sky. We also noted how incredibly clean everything was. Shopkeepers were constantly sweeping the streets outside their stores and we didn't notice any trash on the ground. When it started to rain right before our lunch reservation, we made our way to the restaurant.
We walked up a long, winding staircase to reach the top level of the restaurant and sat by a window with a view of the square below. Mike ordered a salad and all the ingredients were served in individual bowls. We shared this as I went to town (for the first of many times on this trip) on the bread basket. To me vacations and bread baskets just go hand in hand. I ordered a vegetarian tagine, which we shared along with a bottle of sparkling water.
Since we were feeling the effects of jet lag on our first day, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day and spend some time lounging on our rooftop terrace. The rain that pelted down as we safely sat indoors during lunchtime was mercifully short, unlike Portland rain, so we were able to take our books to the roof and get a dose of sunshine and a small nap.
Exhaustion kept us from heading back to the square for dinner, so we decided to have a true night in instead. We stopped at a "store" (a cart where food and water were served behind a counter) and picked up baguettes of bread, chips, cookies and bottled water. I was on a mission to try anything that looked different from the things I typically eat at home. The chips were ... interesting. The cookies tasted like the cookies I'm used to eating. We made ourselves some lazy sandwiches and again spent our evening curled up on the couch in the living room with books, an animated movie in the background, until we decided to retire early to be ready for a day at the beach the next day.