Personal Journey: A warm and welcoming weekend in Marrakech

Writer Anna Lipowitz gets a second henna tattoo, one already done, in Marrakech, Morocco.
Writer Anna Lipowitz gets a second henna tattoo, one already done, in Marrakech, Morocco.
Posted: February 10, 2014

When I felt the plane lift off from Philadelphia International Airport, I knew I was embarking on an incredible adventure. My destination was Milan, Italy, where I would begin my semester abroad. Little did I know that a weekend trip to Africa would be in my future. On April 29, 2013, my friends and I boarded a plane to Marrakech, Morocco, for one exciting, moving weekend.

I fell in love with Marrakech: its beautiful, charming people, the endless piles of dried fruits, nuts, and spices, the warm, soothing scents emanating from tea stands, the gorgeous, colorful lanterns lighting every roof. The liveliness of the street musicians and snake charmers was incredibly enticing, as was the approachability of the vendors. Marrakech is unlike anything I have ever seen, and the people were the friendliest I encountered while abroad.

Of course I had to participate in such tourist activities as riding camels through the desert, shopping in the souks, and eating plenty of couscous, but the most memorable experiences were with the people I met. Near the end of one excruciatingly hot afternoon, my friends and I decided to take a cab rather than walk to our final destination. Fortunately, we caught a cab with an enthusiastic driver who, instead of just transporting us, accompanied us to authentic markets where merchants gave us private showings of handmade carpets, leather, and tea. He went out of his way to be our guide and asked for a minuscule amount of money in return. As we quickly learned, he was not the exception - his kindness, helpfulness, and curiosity were common traits of all the people I met.

While I explored the scenic Majorelle Garden, a man from Saudi Arabia sought me out to express his condolences for the bombing in Boston. He told me he is sorry we live in a world in which we must fear one another. Not only did this man express sympathy for the people of Boston, but he, like many vendors I met, apologized for the tragedy when he realized I was American.

By the end of the day, when I reentered the medina, people I met the day I arrived greeted me by name and asked to keep in touch. It was my first visit to an Arab country and I never felt so welcomed. Many referred to me as their friend or sister, not only because of my reaction to their sincerity, but also because I told them about my grandfather's background: He was Syrian.

Marrakech gave me a better understanding of the world and helped me branch out of my comfort zone. I am so grateful for the experiences I had and the generous people I met.


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Anna Lipowitz, a senior at Gettysburg College, resides in Ardmore.

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