In recent months, the trendiness of Instagram had enhanced my travels. What I mean is that since people seek out the coolest places to post photos from, I can go onto a #marrakech hashtag and find places I may not have known about otherwise. This was the case for most of the trendy cafes I went to and also the gorgeous BE Marrakech riad. I had to find this incredible place. It took me forever to find. Those winding alleys, man I tell ya, next to impossible. After walking back and forth, acting like I knew what I was doing, I finally found the door to the riad and walked in. Ah-mazing. The thousands of varying tiles, the square pool in the center, the stairways. Everything. I was dying and simply obsessed. The owner told me they had found this place with the tiles already there. I couldn’t believe it, and it makes me wonder what the interior of many other random places looked like. Unfortunately, it was booked for my entire trip or else I would’ve considered splurging to stay there. But then again, I was also obsessed with my place.
After I had satisfied all of my visual desires of tiles, it was time for the main event: my hamman and massage haha. It went a little something like this:
Strip down and put on the funniest disposable thong I’d ever seen, and also a robe. Enter the private wash room and de-robe. A woman comes in and throws buckets of water on me, then runs Moroccan black soap all over my body. Talk about getting to know someone fast. Then tells me to sit and wait for 15 mins. Apparently, during this time the steam opens your pores and the black soap is ready to do its magic. So I wait and wait, and just when I think maybe she forgot I was sitting in the with gunk all over me, she comes back with her trusty scrubber over her hand. Immediately she begins scrubbing my entire body about equal to how you’d sand a piece of wood. I was ready for it though – I was about to be dead skin free and a new Haley. Until she got to my armpits. I swear I thought I’d never have to wear deodorant again after she was finished with them. She smiled and pointed to the dead skin rolling off my body which was cool and gross at the same time, I mean let’s be real. Once she got every inch and threw more buckets of water on me, Miss scrubber stuck my feet in a rose petal bath and left me there for 15 more minutes, not sure why. When she came back, she helped me into my robe and had me come out to the lounging chairs to drink Moroccan mint tea. I’d heard all about this staple drink and was super excited for it. It didn’t disappoint. And then it was time for my massage. My lady took my upstairs, asked what type I wanted (Moroccan, drainage, or soothing) and got to work. I chose Moroccan for my back (it’s the hardest one) and drainage for my legs (just cuz). It was all good, but by the time she got to my upper back, I thought for sure she was pounding my back hard enough that I might fall through the table. I was in it to win it thoug and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.
After my hamman, it was time for a trendy lunch, a fresh juice, and an espresso, cuz that’s how traveling works for me. I decided to walk to a place called Atay cafe which was about 15 mins away, and I was excited. My walk got a bit interrupted though, right as I got close, from an old man walking his bicycle who decided he was now my tour guide. I had initial plans to run into Atay real fast and escape but then he had all this good knowledge and I was intrigued…but still hungry. He asked if I’d been to a carpet (rug) shop, and I told him I’d seen some on the streets. “No, no, no,” he told me, “those are from China. You need real rug. You see loom in doorway, know it’s real Berber carpet.” (Berber are the women who create them in the mountains with the local wool.) I told him okay but that I was really hungry and had to go. He told me it was fine and he would be find me afterwards. I thought no way.
I ate for an hour and a half/ had an online meeting. The cafe was awesome. I sat on the 3rd story terrace and got, of course, the starter of bread and olives (YES!), a fresh quinoa/avocado/tomato salad, a fresh juice, and a cappuccino, because I’m bad at stopping myself from getting. All the things.
You guessed it; I left and bicycle guide found me. He came out of nowhere, it was incredible. And he was ready to get me in my first official carpet shop. It was around the corner and yes, had a loom in the entrance. I walked up the windy staircase and found myself among thousands of rugs. It was a production from there, because you can never just look in peace in Morocco. I had no idea the price point of these rugs, but I knew there was some beautiful ones that I wanted to see. I declined the offer to sit and have tea (too long of sales technique for me) and I proceeded to look at my own risk. Soon enough, 2 men were pulling out rug and rug and flapping them down on the floor asking if I liked. I declined so many that they taught me the Arabic word for no so I could just say that instead. Eventually they laid down one I actually liked and I asked for more variations of it. It was cream and fluffy, with pink and neon green stripe designs on it, an unlikely rug, but a great statement piece in my opinion. Rug man #2 brought over a bundle of new rugs and started profusely sweating as he showed me them all. I don’t think he listened to what I liked because I declined almost all of them. Oops.
At this point I decided it would be a good time to figure out what something like this even cost. So I inquired about my 8×10 neon white fluffy rug. I found out the regular price was $1200 but he was going to offer it to me for the steal of $900. Yikesssss. I immediately told him something along the lines of no, no, had no idea, can’t afford. At which point he whispers, “this is Morocco, we go back and forth here,” like I was messing up the whole system haha. I told him there was no way he could possibly get down to what I wanted to pay and said I’d have to go. “$700” he quickly replied. “Nooooooo! Can’t do,” I basically yelled back. He asked what I wanted and I said $100. He laughed. Of course he laughed. I was laughing inside and a bit panicky that I was stuck in this pickle of a barter. “Okay, okay, okay, lowest price for you: $500,” he told me. “Can’t do! I will go back to America with 0 dollars!” I don’t think he felt bad for me. “Okay, okay, okay, give me most democratic price. Most democratic price!” I hesitate. Did I even want this rug? I definitely wasn’t planning on spending money on a rug. Or bringing it to Portugal, then to New York, then to San Diego, then to Wyoming with me (my route after this). Oh, the logistics. “$200!” I shouted. “$350” he came back with. “$200!” I said. “$250 and you bring business cards back to America and tell people to buy carpets from me!” Not bad, I thought. “$200 and I’ll pass your business cards out to all of New York!” Hand shake. Bam.
As I was signing paperwork (legit, I tell you) in the secretary’s office, another assistant was wrapping my carpet up as tight as humanly possible in thick plastic. He’s done that before. I tipped him out, grabbed my freshly bound carpet, and walked outside basking in delight of the barter I just felt like I’d won. And there was Mr. Bicycle. In my excitement I showed him my rug and proudly told him how well I did up there (we were buds by now, and on a team), he seemed genuinely excited, which only added a bit more bound to my step and faded the realization that I now had to carry my huge heavy rug 20 minutes to the other side of town in the desert heat. Didn’t think that through. “Wait,” he told me “now we go to blanket shop!” Ahhhh! After declining a thousand times, I told him I had to get my carpet back safely, and I went on my way. Well, after giving him a coin because I had no idea if we were in a business deal that day. He smiled and said the carpet men would give him money. It’s always business, isn’t it? He told me he’d find me again and I totally believed him by now. He didn’t though, which is probably better for my bank account.
The walk back couldn’t go fast enough. I was a sweaty mess but filled with pride. Oddly enough I had wanted to explore the particular street of shops that the rug shop was on so I had to retrace my steps and go all the way back after I dropped my rug at home. The trendy shops were funny. Incredible stuff, but basically the same stuff you can find if you look far enough in the souks, but for 10x the price. I can see how it works for the tourists though. I was ready to buy all the dresses. But you know, I’d just thrown down 2 hundo on a rug…
My housekeeper had promised me he’d teach me to make tagine and I was like, HECK YES. I kept texting him throughout the day to make sure we were still on. He didn’t speak much English though, so I don’t know if he paid attention. Oddly enough, I met his wife and his wife said, before a year ago he spoke no English, but once they started renting the riad out on Airbnb, he’d met so many English speaking people that he’d picked up a lot. It was impressive!
He came over around 7 and we went out to the street to pick up onions, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots (that needed the spike in the middle cut it – weird), peas, spices, beef (scary), cilantro, olive oil, cherries, coffee, and cookies. It was all under $10.
Tagine is made in a special clay pot with a lid and cooked on the stove for about an hour and a half. Some veggies with the meat and spices start to cook and then all the other veggies are added on top and the lid is put on. We had cherries and coffee and cookies while we waited. My kind of appetizer! I was sufficiently hungry by the time is was ready to eat about two hours later. We sat down at the coffee table and tore bread while dipping it in the clay pot of tagine. No plates. A bit tough to eat, but after the process I was very excited and totally enjoyed the moment. And then more cookies.