We decided to take a public bus into a random Marrakesh neighborhood, away from the tourists in the old walled city, just to see what it was like.
We used a large bus stop area just outside Jemaa el Fna (the main square) as our starting point. We looked at the maps, and picked a line that looked like it might go by a mall or commerce center, so we wouldn’t be left in the middle of nowhere. We picked bus line number six, with the Massira III neighborhood as the end of the line. (Google map here for reference.)
The ride was interesting. It cost four dirham, or about 40 cents. We went in the afternoon, and the other riders were mostly women because men were at work. We passed some supermarkets, shopping centers, a couple of office buildings, many apartment buildings, and then we ended up in regular neighborhoods until finally the bus stopped at the end of the line.
There wasn’t much there – it looked like any neighborhood might look. There were some apartment buildings, small shops, a couple of convenience stores. We went into one convenience store that had a few tables. We bought a large container of a yogurt drink and a couple of small chocolate cakes. We sat at a table with our chairs facing the sidewalk and we snacked.
When we were done, I turned around and to wave goodbye. I saw three Moroccan men watching us with great interest from behind the counter. They broke into big smiles when I waved and returned “au revoirs”. Tedly and I left, and we mused they probably don’t get too many Caucasians in their store – let alone Caucasians who sit down at their tables to eat and relax.
We strolled down the main road. We stopped for another snack of sugared, fried dough that was still hot, and that felt good in the cold air, chased down by the last of our large yogurt drink. (Yes, Marrakesh can be in the 40s or 50s in January – and that is cold to me after living in Mexico for most of two years.)
We strolled down the main street on the other side and made our way to wait for the return bus to our ‘hood. On the return, it was rush hour and the bus was packed with mostly young men. (Seventy percent of the country is under 30 years old.)
We picked a good route to explore because it went by some of the key areas in the more modern part of the city, which included a McDonald’s and a Starbucks. It was the first time we saw those signs in Arabic, as well as English.
There was a time on the ride back when Tedly half-joked with me not to speak English so loudly. It was a tad – just a tad – intimidating to be among people who don’t speak our language and who had different beliefs and customs, and who kept looking at us as if they couldn’t believe we were there. That said, I never felt in danger in any way.
Doing this little adventure for a couple of hours was a good thing for me. It again showed me: people are the same despite different looks or customs or religions: we’re all human, and we’re all trying to get by and live a good life.