Photos and Words by Taylor Simpson
It’s not every day you find yourself getting off the train from Marrakech having arrived to a new and unknown city in what is then complete darkness. There is a sense of adventure and reluctance as we approach the cabs lined up outside the central station in Rabat, Morocco. Knowing no Arabic and only a bit of broken French, we have already accepted the reality of unsuccessfully bartering for everything in Morocco- including your taxi ride. But we have become okay with this fact, chalking it up as what will hopefully be a funny anecdote to our journey. Little do we know that a missed train, annoying seat mates, and a grueling walk hauling our luggage is only the beginning of our adventures in Morocco.
We are desperate, like most vagabonds, for a hot shower (turns out Morocco is cold in December, like every other part of the Northern Hemisphere), real food, and a bed. At the time, I am confident we can easily achieve all three as I did the careful research and booked our accommodations weeks in advance…
The taxi driver drops us off outside the ancient city walls and motions us to walk through the gates and continue on foot. Having somewhat successfully navigated the souks in Marrakech (thanks to maps.me) we don’t hesitate or ask for directions- mistake! To our surprise, the winding streets are empty and silent, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle during the day. Our search for the tucked away and secluded Dar Zen turns into what feels like the longest 30 minutes of our three month stint abroad. No cell phone service, internet access, or locals to give directions, we are left to wander the tiny alleyways and dead ends of the old city alone.
After retracing our steps several times and mentally saying a few quick prayers, our phone flashlight finally illuminates the sign above the sunken yet exquisite door- “DAR ZEN.” We feel triumph and a sense of relief when the caretaker answers our knock and greets us with a warm welcome and the classic Moroccan mint tea we have come to love. We are told the story of how this classic riad was transformed by its French owner, who was overtaken with the beauty and inspiration that comes from Morocco. We are the first Americans they have ever met. In no time we have accomplished our three goals and rest peacefully in our little oasis amidst the chaos.
Starting at $95/night