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The Maze

Etchings in a wall, a swirling light fixture, scrollwork on window frames – we wanted to imprint these landmarks on our brains so we could find our way back through the maze that leads to Djemaa el Fna, the main square of the Marrakech medina.

Eventually, the cramped space opened and we saw an Indiana Jones-like spectacle in every direction. Snake charmers and monkey trainers, dancing tribesmen with colorful hats, juices for sale and burrows pulling wagons, acrobats doing tricks and vendors selling cellphones, wallets, whistles; paintings on stretched skin, art made of butterfly wings, camels carved from stone, fortune tellers and henna artists all at work under the drone of beating drums.

Men kept grabbing Lauren, trying to pull her toward various attractions. One particularly aggressive vendor put his tasseled hat on her head, took her firmly by the arm, and yanked her toward him so we’d take a photo. “No!” I told him, and snatched my daughter back, taking her in line again between Gary and me.

We made our way to the covered patio of a restaurant, took a seat toward the back, and ordered cold drinks away from the fray but within its view. From our perch, we could see everything without being bothered, and after resting, we ordered kabobs and a pizza. Lauren wanted to use the bathroom, but it required a Dirham coin and we had none.

After we paid for our meal, we got the coins we needed and headed down the tiled steps to the toilets. A male attendant took our money and allocated tissue. Lauren took too much and the man pushed the box away.

Entering a common door, men then went one way and women the other. A huge woman entered our space with a black cloth concealing everything but a slit for eyes, and I wondered what she looked like under all that covering.

“Merci,” Lauren called to our attendant as we climbed back upstairs and then ventured through the pathways of the souk, our white skin and uncovered heads a contrast to the people around us.

They sell everything there, and for me, the noises and smells felt foreign and enticing. We bought dried apricots and a bag of candied peanuts before threading the corridors back to our riad at dusk.

Brice greeted us at the door and encouraged us to relax on the rooftop. Gradually a breeze cooled us down and I dozed on the mattress-like furniture until Gary suggested we call it a night.

Lots of snail vendors in the square, a big hit among locals for a quick cheap meal.

The view from our roof at the Riad L'Emir

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