Bonjour, مرحبا

مرحبا bonjour everyone! 

I'm chillen in Marrakech... actually I'm melting since it's about 104 degrees here plus I've built up some sweat dodging little motorbikes...  but anywhose, the city is a beautiful and chaotic place filled with both ancient wonders and modern luxuries. It’s essentially a city of two halves; the Old Town – or Medina – which embodies more of the traditional Moroccan side with influences from sub-Saharan African, Islamic, French and the native Berber tribes, and in contrast, the New Town which offers a more Western European vibe, with designer shops, fancy hotels and restaurants. 

I've been staying in the medina where I've been getting lost in its narrow alleyways and labyrinth of shops.  It's filled with amazing music, culture, food, and architecture--i think i've eaten a whole entire lamb since I've been here (sooo good and cheap!!) and gained 5 lbs from munching on so many dates.  I've visited Djemaa El-Fna (which is superr cool at night because it's filled with amazing food stalls and people putting on shows including traditional musicians and snake charmers!), Koutoubia Mosque, and Ben Youssef Madrassa

I've also been fortunate enough to be introduced to a wonderful and beautiful local, Myriam, by my equally wonderful and handsome friend, Danny,  who studied abroad in Marrakech. Myriam and I, along with another friend I made in the hostel (an Australian Asian so everyone thought we were brother and sister), grabbed drinks and dinner at Level Five Bar in the new city where we watched the sunset and chatted about the politics and social issues of the country.

From what I've observed, it seems like Morocco, which is a devout Muslim country (you can hear the call to prayer in the Medina) and also a former French colony is struggling with two somewhat opposing belief systems. For instance, how does a place become more modern and more progressive (aka Western), while still retaining its traditional beliefs? It seems almost contradictory, but it's something the people and the government and struggling with. Gender equality, high youth unemployment, and corruption are all relevant and contentious issues here. In fact, as the Arab Spring was in full force in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, the king of Morocco re-wrote the constitution as a way to placate the protests that erupted earlier in the year that demanded democratic reforms. Some of the reforms included:

There's still some debate on whether the King has actually given up any power since it at times seems more like a facade but ANYWHOSE, sorry, my political science nerd is coming out in full force but in short, it's a country still evolving, like many other places in the world (USA and France included.. I mean the secular laws in France are INSANE and the US is struggling to adjust to changes in behavior driven by the sexual revolution and second demographic transition-- highly recommend reading this NY Times article

ANYWAY, my original plans for what I wanted to do in Morocco have COMPLETELY changed... I'm hiking the Atlas mountains for a few days with some guys I met... (I really need to find girls to hike with...) hopefully it'll be less strenuous than the Lost City then going to the costal town of Essouria to attend a music festival... can't wait xoxo