Travel to Marrakech, Morocco

The modern façade of the Marrakech Menara Airport casts gorgeous lace-like shadows

The modern façade of the Marrakech Menara Airport casts gorgeous lace-like shadows

Long flights on cheap airlines can be a "plane" in the ass — but the excitement you feel upon arrival makes it all worth while.


Our overnight flight from Chicago to Madrid, Spain wasn't terribly long. But like our previous trip on Air Iberia, it was a sleepless one.

This time, however, the woman hopped up on medication who spoke loud enough for the entire cabin to hear her was replaced by a group of boisterous, flash photo-snapping Spanish nuns.

I couldn’t believe it — we were in Africa!

One of the nuns had a confounding method of sleeping: She knelt on the floor facing her seat, a pillow set beneath her knees with her face pushed into the bottom of the seat.

Every now and then I glanced over a few aisles ahead, where our friend Vanessa was sitting. The guy sitting next to her was watching a strange soft-core porn movie on his laptop.

The layover in Barcelona was five hours, but our connecting gate to Marrakech was revealed a mere 30 minutes prior to departure. We were informed that our gate had been moved to the opposite end of the terminal. We ran from one end of the terminal to the other — only to be told our plane was actually leaving from where we had just come.

Once aboard, Wally, Vanessa and I collapsed in exhaustion into a brief bit of fitful sleep.

We awoke to a coy wee German boy named Otto, who was playing a game of peekaboo with us. He held a deflated white balloon, which he would dangle in front of us while we feigned being unable to catch it.

Eventually Wally grew bored with this ruse and caught hold of the balloon, and as it snapped back, Otto squealed excitedly, “Nein! Nein! Nein!”

Bienvenue à Morocco!

When we arrived at the Marrakech airport and exited the plane, a warm breeze washed over us. We were surrounded by clear blue skies and sun. I couldn’t believe it — we were in Africa! (Even if it was the most northwesterly part of Africa.)

We entered the faded pink stucco terminal from the tarmac. Inside, the ceiling was low and contained columns covered with beautiful zellij, brightly colored tiles with intricate geometric patterns.

We filled out our immigration forms and waited in line to have our passports approved and stamped.

A brief walk brought us into the modern expansion to the airport, where the terminal expands into a brilliant white canopy that soars overhead. The tendrils of arabesque-etched panels pierce the ceiling, casting a mix of light and shadow across the floor.

We could feel the excitement in the air as we picked up our bags and were met by our driver.

Moments later we were passing the ancient sun-baked ramparts of the medina — the original walled city, en route to our Moroccan adventure. –Duke