Flying Ryan Air wasn't the painful experience I had heard others mention. Flight was on time. Staff was pleasant, including the Polish and Hungarian flight attendants, who spoke perfect English. Seats were comfortable. I scored a window seat at the door, so had plenty of legroom.
Of the 24, or so, lanes at Passport Control, mine was the slowest. After standing there for about 15 minutes, I started taking note of where other lanes were moving. At thirty minutes, a person who was previously right be side me was being serviced. At 45 minutes, the policeman checking our passports gets up and starts chatting up the dude in the next stall. It took a little over an hour to process the thirty, or so, people who had been in front of me when I got in line.
After pulling my duffle from the almost empty belt (even though I was the first person off the plane) and navigating customs, I head for the ATM to get some Moroccan dirham. After waiting for the dozen, or so, people in front of me, I took my turn at the ATM and found that it wouldn't recognize either of my cards, so I was reduced to exchanging the few euro I had brought for dirham, just to take the bus to my Riad (guest house). First order of business tomorrow will be seeking out a usable ATM or bank.
The Jemaa el Fna ("The Assembly of the Dead") is the central plaza of the Medina. It is so named as it was where the heads of fallen enemies were put on display on poles. Today it is the hub of all activity in the Medina. While merchant carts fill the plaza during the day, food vendors take over in the evening. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't feel I've truly visited a place until I've sampled the local fare. As long as you can get past thoughts of poor sanitation and the potential lower abdominal pain, the food is quite good.
I made a reservation at a Riad near the Jemaa el Fna, so I would be close to the places I am working: the Jemaa el Fna, souks and other, yet to be determined, parts of the Medina (old town). Although the map on the booking site showed it right off one of the corners of the plaza, it was about 100 meters away, down some narrow, dimly lit, unmarked streets and allies. I found a shop owner who spoke passable English and was able to point me in the right direction. However, that didn't prevent a teenager from accosting me when he saw my bags and "Just off the Boat" appearance (think Brody from "India Jones: The Last Crusade" when he first showed up in Cairo).
Nowhere near the standards of the places we normally stay when traveling, it was EXACTLY what I had in mind when I starting thinking about this trip more then two years ago: inexpensive, friendly and traditional. I remember thinking, "As long as I don't get bedbugs, I'll be happy." Not a problem here; it is very clean. However, I forgot to buy shower sandals before my trip, so I'll need to seek out some tomorrow, along with bottled water (for drinking and brushing teeth). New first order of business: water.
I had read warnings about using the food stands' utensils and plates, so was pleased to see my lamb kebab served on paper. Then the guy places a saucer of olive salad in front of me. When I said no thanks, he insisted, "gift". One of the tenants of Islam is hospitality, so as not to offend, I dug in, figuring it is better to be a gracious recipient than offend my host.
I am blogging this trip to build content and traffic for my website. Please visit my gallery to see my best images of Morocco. Feel free to comment.