So on Saturday 19th I came back home after two weeks in Marrakech. My first time in Africa! And my actual first time traveling for what I’m actually studying! So I didn’t feel guilty of missing two weeks of classes, because, hey, what a better excuse than being at a United Nations Conference?!
So I’ve got the chance to follow the negotiations at the 22nd UN Conference on Climate Change and that was awesome! I found myself learning so much, more than what I could have possibly learnt in class, on a subject that is not even touched by my studies, notwithstanding the fact that I study international law. And what also surprised me the most is how in this sector of the UN action NGOs, organizations, youth movements, universities, etc. are deeply engaged and actually listened to when it comes the time to take decisions. So it’s not so surprising that I met so many people my age, from South America, Africa, North America, Europe, etc. So many amazing and inspiring people, who have worked for years to raise awareness on climate change, while I was completely new to it.
But what about Marrakech, you may ask? Sorry, sometime my law student nerdness kicks in! Anyway Marrakech is a beautiful city, and it is easily understood why it is known as the “ochre city”: every wall in the city has the characteristic pinkish colour that shines brighter at sunset. I got the opportunity to stay in a real Moroccan house, right in the Medina, and some cultural shock of course manifested itself. To enter the Medina we had to go through the walls and gardens of the royal palace, and the difference between the neat and clean gardens and the messy, dirty and chaotic Medina was quite harsh. But the Medina, which is the actual old city of Marrakech, is amazingly fascinating and it reminded me of the messy beautifully decadency of Naples. After a week we had learned how to live there, how to negotiate everything, how to buy anything you need at the small corner shops, how to go to the local hammam for a full-body very deep scrub.
If Amsterdam is the city of bikes, Marrakech is the city of motorbikes, in particular of “Ciao”, that is the little motorbike you actually have to pedal to start, which nowadays in Italy is used only by people who are at least 85! There are of course more motorbikes than cars and quite often it is possible to see a whole family (father, mother and three kids) hugged together on a single motorbike, which should probably only carry two people.
I didn’t get to see too much unfortunately, given that I spent my days in the COP venue following the UN negotiations! But I mostly spent my nights in the chaotic and colorful Jemaa El-Fna, the main square. And during the weekend I also got to see the Majorelle Gardens (Jardin Majorelle), the beautiful gardens of an amazing blue and yellow villa. The place itself has a fantastic story: built and decorated by French painter Jacques Majorelle, it was bought in the 80s by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé after falling in love with the villa; they brought the gardens back to their original splendor and used the house as a gallery for their collection of Berber art. The art is still there and the house is now a museum, while the designer’s ashes were scattered in the garden after his death in 2008.
There are several Moroccan goods famous in the whole world, and being in Morocco you can truly make good deals. Of course negotiation is always implied, and doing in French (or Arabic even better) can assure better prices. Which was a problem for me with my awfully shitty basic French (but friends are always a good resource)!
A real leather bag is an awesome deal! The quality of Moroccan leather is quite good and I got a bag for the equivalent of 28€, the money I would have spent in Italy to get a bag completely made out of plastic from H&M.
Spices are also a great thing to buy! They’re usually so expensive in Italy, while here you can buy the amount for a lifetime without spending all you’re savings! Best deal is on saffron, which here costs pretty much half the price it does in Italy!
Mint tea is a Moroccan classic, you find it everywhere, in any restaurant or café and it is a must during the chilly November evenings. I’ve actually heard that the real way to make a perfect mint tea is brewing green tea with fresh mint leaves on top. But the kind of tea you can buy in a souk, which has ground dried mint in it, is not so bad either, especially when you live in a place where you can find fresh mint only during summer because it freezes in winter. Of course a ton of sugar is required as well to have it the real Moroccan style.
Last but not the least, Argan oil needs to be on everybody to-buy list in Morocco! Although we find it pretty much in every lotion and shampoo, pure oil is magic! I actually found out that it is exclusively produced in Morocco, and it’s miraculous on skin, hair, nails, etc.etc. But in Morocco is frequently used to cook as well!
There are two more things which are not so convenient to bring on a plane, but you absolutely got to try (and yes, of course I’m talking about food!): the first one are the almond pastries and biscuits you usually get with mint tea, which are not so easy to bring out of Morocco because you’ll probably gonna eat them all before taking off. The second one is the orange juice you can buy everywhere in Jemaa El-Fna: sooooo amazingly good! For what is to me 40 cents you can have a huge amazing glass of freshly squeezed juice! And for just 1€ also pomegranate, mango, etc.
Well, Marrakech is a great city, one of the most amazing ones I’ve been to, and where I’ve left a piece of my heart. It forced me several times to get out of my comfort zone, but I always had great friends to live my adventures with. These two weeks only have proven one more time how you get to meet amazing friends everywhere. The problem is that it just gets a little bit inconvenient to keep in touch or to see each other again, but hope’s always there!
P.S.: Sorry I overloaded you with pictures, but those colours really needed to be photographed!