Marrakech and Reflections on the Trip

After our trek through the mountains and desert, we arrived in Marrakech for the last 4 nights of the trip. Marrakech is quite a departure from the rest of Morocco: it’s fancy and caters to a different type of tourist, shall we say. Froufrou Americans playing out Arabian nights fantasies abound and we were shocked to see people drinking beer! Yeah, that never happened in Fez. That said, Marrakech’s gentrification meant that the food options were infinitely more appealing. We did see camel head stew here and there, but normal food was possible, and that is all I ask.

Marrakech is a shopper’s paradise (yet again) and we went a little nuts (yet again). We spent lots of time haggling in the souks and scored more very unnecessary but very fun items to cram into our bulging luggage. In one shopping stall we noticed two wholesome looking American chaps bargaining in what sounded like perfect Arabic. We were impressed and found out that they were studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan. We considered kidnapping them, but luckily they agreed to do some haggling for us so we didn’t have to. It was great fun, and now I have a new life goal: learn Arabic. Or maybe just some numbers in Arabic…. Let’s be real.

Marrakech is grimy, chaotic, and full of motorbikes, just like our journey’s starting point of Ho Chi Minh City. Really, we couldn’t have planned a more fitting finale for the Big Trip. The center of Marrakech is the Jemaa el Fna, a square and marketplace where you can buy a monkey, watch snake charmers, and (I presume) get horrific food poisoning from grilled meats. Jemaa el Fna is the physical embodiment of ‘sea of humanity’, drawing people from all over Morocco, Africa, and the world and was made a great symbolic end point for the trip.

On our last evening in Marrakech, Jeff and I headed up to the rooftop of the iconic Café de France to overlook the Jemaa el Fna at sunset. The call to prayer blared, the birds swooped, and the city put on it’s evening show. As we sipped our Fanta and watched the sunset over the square, we reflected the past 8 months and jotted down some highlights and low points. We were hungry, so most of these were food related.

Jeff and Jaynie’s Highlights and Low Points
The numbers

Steps walked: 2,355,942

Days traveled: 246

Places slept: 59 beds + 2 sleeper trains

Countries visited: 27

Flights: 24

Haircuts: 8

Food poisonings: 1.5(ish)

Best Specific Foods

Jaynie – masala dosa (Malaysia), pizza (Naples), fresh myzithra (Crete)

Jeff – crispy beef noodle soup (Hong Kong), milk tea (Ipoh), humus (Tyre)

Best Overall Cuisine

Malaysia, India, Greece

Worst Overall Cuisine                 

Bali, Uzbekistan, Morocco

Worst Individual Meal

Serendib in Negombo, Sri Lanka (we’re still upset)

Top 15 moments we can’t recreate (but wish we could)

The Sinhalese Bar with John and Mr. Low (Malaysia)

Diving in Pemuteran (Indonesia)

Day trip to Rottnest Island (Austrailia)

Train ride from Colombo to Galle (Sri Lanka)

Bus from Beirut to Tyre (Lebanon)

Soviet bunker wine tasting in Kakheti (Georgia)

Exploring Fergana Valley (Uzbekistan)

Sleeper train from Samarkand to Urgench (Uzbekistan)

Tour of Moscow with Olga (Russia)

Gorat and the Gypsies (Romania)

Sunset on the Pnyx in Athens (Greece)

Cooking local food in Apostoli (Greece)

Myrtos Beach (Greece)

Food tour in Naples (Italy)

Haggling in the medina of Fez (Morocco)

The Bottle Cap

The English ‘Coast-to-Coast’ walk is a classic hiking route from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. I once read that there is a coast-walk tradition for the hiker to pick a pebble on the west coast, carry it with her for the journey, and leave it on the east coast to signify that the journey is complete. In this tradition, Jeff and I saved a Tiger beer bottle cap from our first evening in Ho Chi Minh City and carried it for the whole trip – from South East Asia to the edge of the Sahara – and planned to drop our ‘pebble’ in our last destination. The bustling square in Jemma el Fna seemed like the perfect home for our bottle cap, but when the time came to leave it behind we couldn’t do it. After all the roads we traveled, we wanted to keep our symbolic token of the grand journey and keep our journey ‘incomplete’. For now, the bottle cap comes home with us. And also I kind of like lording over Jeff that I’m good at not loosing things.

Until the next adventure!!!

Note: be advised that while ‘Jeff and Jaynie’s’ grand adventure is done, I’ll be heading to Japan in a month for a pottery related adventure. I’m staying at a hotel that offers complimentary tooth brushing (yay?) as well as a carbonated bath (definitive yay). It should be interesting so stay tuned.



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