Last summer, I went to Morocco with my girls. I could write a book about the mostly sober shenanigans that took place over the course of 10 days. This is the story that started it off.
Christina and I divide up the duties for the trip. I would secure the hotels, she would handle the adventures. Fine.
I research and research. I am super picky about where I sleep, and in general, I don't do traditional hotels unless it's a last minute situation. Hotels are overpriced, and usually sterile. I picked a ryaid, a traditional Moroccan palace that's kinda like a bed and breakfast because well, the architecture is dope and we don't have them in the US.. I picked this specific ryaid because the decor was kind of like Morocco-meets- shabby chic, Old World--meets-new and black-and-white, our room had a balcony and there was a rooftop pool. A review said it was a bit off the beaten path, but worth the trek. And it was close to the hotel where our friends are staying.
So, two of us-- me and Christina-- fly out from JFK. We have a 12 hour layover in Mardrid where we meet up with our Chicago friends, Luvvie and Eartha. Perfect. The flight from Madrid to Marrakech is short, and not enough time to catch a proper nap. We are exhausted when we land in Marrakech, just before midnight.
We haggle with the cab driver because this is just the culture. You'll pay triple if you don't negotiate. Luckily, one-fourth of our group is a Nigerian woman (aka Luvvie) who takes great pleasure in haggling. Like, it thrills her. So we leave that up to her.
When she reaches a decent rate (around 1.5x the actual rate), we throw our bags in the car, and the cab is to deliver us to two different hotels that shouldn't be all that far apart from each other. I learned that night, "far" is subjective.
So the cab drives and drives then drives into the medina, then pulls over near Jemaa el-Fnaa, the Marrakech equivalent of Times Square, and says this is the first stop for Dar Dama. He can't drive up to the hotel, but if we walk straight for two blocks, and make a right, we'll see it. Ok.
Me and Chrissy get out, say goodbye to the other half our group until we can get on wi-fi, and we walk. We follow the instructions, but can't find the hotel. Then we realize that the driver has dropped us off at the wrong hotel. I mean, it's the right hotel, just the wrong group of people got out of the car. Shit. And OMG. What about Luvvie and Eartha? Where are they going?
So we go to the wrong hotel, explain the issue, and get directions to the right hotel. It's not far, per se, but it's not walkable. We're going to need another cab.
So... can he call one?
No. Cabs can't pull up right now, too many people in the square. We have to walk across Jemaa el-Fnaa, to where the cab stands are, by Kutubiyya Mosque. Normally, this is a non-issue. But we have bags, we are exhausted. We are in a place we have never ever been, or seen anything like, and we are frustrated. Oh, and we are in the middle of swarms of people. SWARMS. Oh, and we don't know really know were we're going.
But we will walk.
A pair of kids offer to guide us over. Ok fine. So we follow the kids in a straight line across the square. Not so bad. And yeah, we could have done this on our own. All I have is a five, and twenties. Two kids, a five minute walk across a square? It's not five, but here, have the five. The kid looks at it and tells me it's not enough. Um... what? To walk across the square?! (Complete BS. I'll learn later. The US conversion rate is insane in Morocco. You can ride across town for $5). I cry broke and the kids wander off. No harm, no foul. The kids are hustlers. I mean, why else would kids be out after midnight?
So a group of cab drivers come over, and Christina does the haggling. This is not my forte. Me? I'm like give me a price, I'll determine if I want to pay it or not, and either go or move on. But this is not the way it is done here. So... Christina finally finds someone who's actually heard of the hotel AND will agree to take us for what sounds like a reasonable price, a concept that is hard to gauge when you have no clue where you're going, except "it isn't that far."
So we get into a cab bus, and we're driving. We leave the "touristy" section and go through a bunch of winding not-really-all-that paved roads. There are people everywhere, and bikes, and donkeys and cats. Tons of cats. It is live. At midnight, vendors are hawking their wares and there are food stalls set up randomly. It's awesome and "WTF?" all at the same time.
We drive for what seems like forever, then the cab stops in the middle of the road. I look around, I don't see anything that looks remotely like a hotel or the size of a hotel. And honestly? The hotel could have been right in front of me and I never would have known. In the medina, people don't show their wealth. You could live in a palace, but from the outside, the building will just look like a slab of stone with no windows. You might be able to gauge its important place by the design of the door. Maybe. But probably not.
Case in point (but picture this at night and overrun with humans, and donkeys, and cats):
The cab driver calls over a man with a wheelbarrow who starts unloading our bags into it. Wait. What?
I say as much. The driver says the guy is going to take us to our hotel because he can't drive up to it. No. I don't know this man, I don't know where I am, the driver didn't say a word about not driving up to the hotel. The cab driver says it's fine. The hotel is up some way, and the guy is gonna take us.
I look at Chris. She looks at me. My options are limited here, so I hope for the best. Also, I don't want to be some crazy American who shows up thousands of miles from home expecting everything to operate like America. I wanted an adventure. I'm getting an adventure, even if this wasn't the one I had in mind.
I do a quick mental assessment of everything in my bag. Everything I need is in my backpack or my bra. If I get robbed for my bag, I do. I say, "okay" and pay the man not because I believe him, but because I want to believe him.
So we follow the guy with the wheelbarrow down a dimly lit, deserted street. Christina says outloud, half-joke, half-prayer, "God, don't let us get sold into slavery." And I laugh because I was thinking the same thing, and what else am I supposed to do right now? The guy keeps walking, and turning, and now we're following up a hill, then down one and turning again, and I realize if I had to run, I wouldn't even know which direction to go in. "Dear, Father God..."
And right then, the guy with the wheel barrow stops and knocks on a non discript door. An attractive man answers, and smiles at us. I recognize the tile on the floor from the pictures on the website. Black and white. "Welcome to Dar Darma, " he says.
I tip the.. pusher? Is that the right name for that occupation? And then I step inside this:
I never paid attention to doors before visiting Morocco. Now, I'm obsessed with them:
Our bedroom: the listing said the suite had double beds. Um... technically, I guess..
The bathroom had rose petals. Nice touch.
Another room, the one I wanted, which wasn't available on the website when we booked:
The layers of detail in this pic are glorious. So much happening at once-- the chair backs, the striped walls, the mirror from, the floor tile? Ugh!
I posted this picture of the bathroom on Instagram, and someone commented that the tub looked dirty. It's bleach-clean. It's just olddddddd. You could lick the floors in this place. It was spotless like someone's good Granny's house.
Back in the lobby:
This was my second day with my camera. I so wish I has a close up of the detail on this lamp.
This table was so gorgeous.
I loved this photo on the mantel. I wonder who the guy in the picture is:
If ever you make it to Marrakech, I HIGHLY recommend Dar Darma IF you are arriving in daylight.
Also, I learned after I arrived, I could have called over to the hotel to get a ride from the airport. Womp.