$$ MarraCa$h $$

Once the actual capital of Morocco, Marrakech, otherwise known as “The Red City,”  is now the tourism capital of Morocco.  In 2017, two and a half million people visited the city – a 20% increase from 2016.  I immediately knew why Marrakech attracts so many internationals when we exited the bus and made a 3-minute walk through the medina to our riad.  We passed by innumerous ‘shops’ in the souk with aromas from their spices, oils, and soaps that wafted throughout the Medina’s streets, beckoning you to turn back and find the source of the smell.  Shopkeepers, eager to make a sale, yelled as we walked past, advertising their goods with lines like ‘Good price! Very good deal I make for you. Come see.’  Unrelenting even as I walked away, their calls began to wear on my nerves quickly.  Upon later observation, I noticed the shopkeepers only tried their marketing skills on the tourists.

Dyes in the Marrakech souk

The Marrakech Medina

Later that night, I found myself in the infamous square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.  Cross-dressing belly dancers, snake charmers, and musicians littered the square, drawing a crowd with every incredible performance.  It had countless exotic animals chained at the neck and picture ready.  Kiosks selling freshly squeezed fruit juice housed young Moroccan men avidly waving at passerby to come and try the juice in hopes they would buy.  It seemed to be out of a storybook.  Or maybe a never-ending carnival.

Jamaa el-Fnaa from above at dusk

Marrakech’s streets at night

I couldn’t help but wonder how it was feasible for locals to live in Marrakech given the exorbitant prices (compared to other cities in Morocco).  Simo, a young Moroccan who showed us around during our time in Marrakech, told me only rich Europeans live in the Ville Nouvelle.  He spoke a little about the cost of living in Marrakech, but he was mostly concerned about the lasting cultural influence the Europeans have had and will continue to have in Morocco.  With tourism increasing drastically every year in Marrakech and other Moroccan cities, the resulting factors most likely won’t be kind to the local civilians who live in or near the city center.  Gentrification is real, and it isn’t usually pretty.

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