Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rooftop of the Sindy Sud.

(on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided, Why Not? and entered a contest to submit a blog entry on my favorite Moroccan destination, hoping to go a little off the beaten path with it. Winner gets two nights at a zwin riad in Fes. That's why this, now.)

Oasis in Marrakech

From the Djemma al Fna in Marrekech, force your way through the crowds promenading along Rue Prince, take a left into the winding narrow alleys of the medina, turn this way and that, past one backpacker hotel after another, past the mul hanuts selling Danon and toilet paper and egg sandwiches and sugary packaged cookies and American toothpaste and anything else you might need, past the rubble of construction either coming up or going down, and eventually, if you've meandered correctly, you come upon the Sindy Sud, one of my favorite places in all Morocco.

Never in my life did I, a middle-aged divorcee from the American Midwest, think I would have a "regular" hotel in Marrakech ~ one where the proprietors not only remember my name but which room I prefer. They indulge my desire to speak my still-fledgling Darija when it would be so much easier to communicate if I gave in to their fluent English. And they never, ever speak French to me. They always ask about my latest Peace Corps project. They always seem genuinely happy that I've returned.

It's a budget hotel, to be sure ~ 60 dirhams (about $7 USD) for a single room, 100 for a double, sinks in the rooms but toilets and showers in the hallway. But it's a cut above the others in my price range, with its clean sheets and clean floors, its always hot showers and its vibrantly tiled rooms.

Tiles in the room.

And the rooftop! The rooftop is the main reason for my delight in having the Sindy Sud as a halfway point between my organization's headquarters in Rabat and the dusty southern village where I live and work. Filled with lush green trees and plants clustered around several seating areas, 'an oasis from the earth-hued, dusty grimy medina below. It is quiet. It is away from the crowds. Fellow travelers may make small talk, but they will never, ever ask you, "Ca va, gazelle?" It's a serene place to read a book while sipping fresh orange juice, waiting for the call to prayer to rise from the several mosques clustered in the Djemma square.

Many Peace Corps volunteers quickly develop a distaste for Marrakech, especially the Djemma area. The crowds, the cost, the touristiness of it all. Even more, the racism and sexual harassment shown to many of our volunteers is indeed often unbearable.

But I have a routine here that I've come to enjoy, one that takes me away from all that. My bus pulls into the station, I argue with various taxi drivers until one agrees to work the meter instead of charging me three, four, five times the actual price. I dump my bags at the Sindy Sud, peel off my sweat-drenched clothes, shower away the rigors of travel, start up my podcast downloads via the free wifi, and head out to feast on a 20 dirham falafel sandwich with fries. On my return, I make small talk with Hicham or Rachid while they retrieve my room key. I head back up to the roof, now cooled with the sun's setting, or retire to my room, to the novel concept of clean white sheets, and the distant hum of the crowd.

This is my Marrakech. Not the snake charmers and storytellers and dark bustling souk of the Djemma, not the bus tours or European restaurants and shops of Gueliz. Not even the western-style superstore Marjane, a beacon of light for expats craving curry powder or alcohol or "real" cheese.

Just a small, inexpensive, family-run hotel that feels more like a home away from home than any Holiday Inn Express ever could.

View from the roof into an alley of the medina below.

1 comment:

william lauer said...

You have nice taste in roof tops.