Chapter Four: “Only ten Dirham”
Upon my 20 hour plus journey from Philadelphia to Marrakesh which resulted in my getting swindled by a few locals due to a non-descriptive AirBnB address, all I wanted was to hop on a Whatsapp call with my family, browse social media, and listen to Spotify. I put my bags down, got acquainted with my room, and then went to ask for the WiFi password.
The host spoke only minor amounts of English so as I pointed at my phone and spoke in a ridiculously enunciated and slow tone, “Internet” and “Wifi.” The dude looked confused and just sort of shook his head. Eventually he said, “No wee-fee…. One moment.”
My migraine from all of the mounting hassles began to escalate. He returned with his wife, who spoke better English. She let me know there was in fact no “wee-fee” and that I was ignorant enough to book a room without checking that there as internet. “But you can go to any of the corner stores and get wifi for only 10 Dirham, not 10 euro,” she said as she held up all 10 fingers.
We looked blankly at each other, blinking as if that was the only common language to express we were not communicating. It began to sink in I had no way to tell my mother, who had a panic attack about me going to a rural region of the world, that I landed and got in and would not be able to talk to her for another 10 days. This stress compounded with a lack of understanding how I could get wifi on my phone for 10 Dirham. Finally, it hit me that she was suggesting I buy a new SIM card.
I went to sleep early that night since I did not have any digital activities to fill my typical nightly routine. While attempting to dose off, my phone began to ring. My mom was calling. This was odd since my mom specifically set-up my phone plan to allow unlimited texts from family but phone calls were absurdly expensive.
As I groggily answered, my brother was on the line and he sounded frantic. Immediately adrenaline jolted me awake and I tried to calm him down as I deciphered what was going on. Our mother had fallen off a ladder at a home remodel job site and broke her hip. I had never regretted being on vacation so much, my mind already trailed off with anxiety about the lost money getting to my AirBnB, but now I had to worry about my mother’s health as well and try to enjoy myself while she was in the hospital on the other side of the world.
From then on I ended each night of adventures with a stop at a Kasbah Café, which was an overpriced tourist trap near my lodging, but one that offered wifi. The wifi was awful and made the free wifi at American McDonald’s look like the thing of fairytales, but it worked. Each night I sat down at 9pm and ordered a drink every hour until closing so they wouldn’t get mad. On the third night, my café au lait was waiting for me. As I sipped the coffee I would send my bed-ridden mother samples of the previous day’s photos and share anecdotes of the adventures.
Chapter Five: “Where are you from?”
On my fourth day in the city, I decided to spend a day touring the different museums. I still had no means of skillfully navigating the unmarked streets or knowing when things opened or where they were located, but as with everything I decided to wing it.
While walking to the Muse de Marrakesh, I found myself at the front door of a different museum. The second I approached the door, it opened, as if awaiting my arrival. Turns out I got there precisely at opening and assuming it was planned in the most tourist way possible, the guards burst out laughing and grabbed their stomachs as they muttered various Arabic phrases between giggles.
Slightly annoyed at their condescending attitude which needed no translation, I entered and began to walk through the hallways. Entering closely behind me were two teenage girls, presumably also traveling on Spring Break. As the museum was a one-way path, we were forced to walk nearby one another and look at the exhibits.
I heard them whispering in English and thought their accent sounded American, so after moving through a few corridors, I asked where they were from.
“Philadelphia, near New York…” they replied hesitantly.
“Which school?” I continued with a disbelief, certain they were at one of the neighboring school.
“Holy shit what class?”
In front of me were two girls in my very class from college that I had never met except for in Africa. After letting out the necessary exclamations of astonishment and exchanging small talk about what we were studying, where we were from, and how break was going so far, we continued through the museum together.
Nearing the end, they asked me what my plans were for the rest of the day and coincidentally we were both aiming to continue onto the museums and since it was their first and only day in the city they and they were eager to make the most of the time and my first opportunity to talk with Americans we continued on together.
After a jam-packed day involving over 15 miles of walking, hitting all of the museums, the gardens, most of the markets, and sampling a wide selection of the local cuisine, we came our parting ways on an off corner in Old Town. They were heading back to their hostel in the Medina and I back to my AirBnB in the Kasbah and as they said best, “Wow, I can’t believe we have only spent a day together, I feel like I really know you.”
Chance crossed our paths and for some reason in that early morning museum room, I decided I would talk to strangers, but thankfully I did. The fleeting relationship truly did feel like a prolonged companionship.