By Jennifer Haug

Marrakech, by Michelle Schwartzbauer

Michelle Schwartzbauer

I sipped a strong café noir and looked out on the busy, crowded streets of Marrakech. Young men swerving around cars on motorbikes, women running across the road holding two children by hand and shouting to run, and old Moroccan men pushing carts of delicious seasonal fruits down the sidewalk. I could sit like this for hours. Cafés are daily frequented by Moroccan men in Jilabas, the traditional long robe and babouche, bright pointed slippers. Men walked in their babouche, ran in their babouche, and rode motorbikes in their unique slippers. I always wondered how these unique slippers stayed on.

Cafés are everywhere in Marrakech, an idea brought over when France had a protectorate on Morocco. The protectorate ended in 1956, but French influence remains throughout the country. Following the French school system to this day, the language is taught from a very young age. My students would often speak French to each other in school rather than Arabic. Maybe this was seen as a sort of affluence. Not all Moroccans speak French, but it is becoming more commonplace among the young.

When I arrived in Morocco, I was excited to improve my French and learn some Arabic. I came to teach English and experience a culture completely unlike my own. I knew little about Islam and heard that Morocco was a beautifully colorful and aromatic country that offered mountains, ocean, and incredible food. I was offered a job in Marrakech, a desert-like bustling city.

This city houses both the new and the old. Fancy night clubs pump music until 3 a.m. in newer parts of the city while men on donkeys deliver precious hand-carved tables to homes in the older medina. The medina is a tiny maze of dirt streets. Veiled women wash clothes outside their doors and prepare enticing entrees of meat and vegetarian tagine. The medina is enclosed by a large clay wall, built as a form of protection. The wall remains, though most of the doors have been removed, creating a welcoming atmosphere. I lived deep enough in the medina at one point to see a few tiny remaining doors closed off late in the night.

Gueliz or the ‘new city,’ is a conglomeration of European architecture, malls and outdoor cafes. Young girls wear veils with skinny jeans and men jump on motorbikes in flip-flops. Globalization is in full force here. You can find anything you would in Europe: French baguettes, fancy high heels, and iPhones. I loved how easily accessible things were in Marrakech and how I could walk twenty minutes to a post office and twenty minutes to drink smoothies from a drink stand for 25 cents.

Now that many flights fly roundtrip from Marrakech, the city is even easier to access. Come from Paris for a weekend for 40 Euro or from Spain for 30. See the snake charmers who sit meditatively in Jamma-el-Fna, the famous square and eat Cous-cous on Fridays. Marrakech is a place of adventure and tradition. It is sure to excite the senses and leave you wanting more.

plicateJennifer Haug, TESOL educator and world traveler, taught at the American Language Center in Marrakech, Morocco following graduation. While in school, she traveled to Thailand for study abroad and to Nepal for an independent study where she taught English. Jennifer is currently in Northern India to explore new regions and cultures.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Paris photo shoot – in search of the perfect Moroccan slipper, by writer Lisa Rounds who tells of her adventures in the North African neighborhood of Barbès in Paris searching for the perfect slipper in red, of course, for a Cosmo photo shoot. Lisa shares her story of “living the dream,” working for a publishing company in Paris. 

Fiction: The Last Passage, by award-winning Moroccan writer Hachim Sbaa whose fictional writing looks at the life of an elderly woman as she is lives life by herself and tries to figure out what truly matters and how she can fill her time and what is left of her life. 

Adventures in Travel: Réunion, French island, by Lindsay Pepper who shares her experiences of graduating college with a French major and going on to join TAPIF, the Teaching Assistant Program in France. Lindsay chose a non-conventional option and traveled to the French-speaking African island, la Réunion.

A French Girl in Greece: On Teenagers, the Sea, and Raisins, by French woman Flore Der Agopian. “In Greece, all foods are natural and we noticed it when we had one mouthful,” Flore comments about her adventures in Greece. “You feel the real taste of the dishes. In France we have some exceptional restaurants, but it can be really expensive when you want to have the same sensation of taste.”

The Little Paris of Buenos Aires, by writer and educator Natalie Ehalt. Natalie writes about Recoleta, a premier barrio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, an irresistible Little Paris of South America. Until the sounds of thick Argentine Spanish reveal Recoleta’s true identity, a visitor might be fooled, stepping out of an urban rowboat and into a garden of 12,000 roses.

French Impressions: Dr. Fatima Araki on the automobile rally, Rallye des Colombes in Morocco, created for women by women. Dr. Araki is the first Moroccan woman to be the president and founder of a motor racing club in 2001 (Union Automobile Club of Morocco) and the first Moroccan woman to organize rallies in Morocco. (French)

Text copyright ©2012 Jennifer Haug. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2012 Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.