Manic Marrakech

I hinted in the earlier chilli entry that we’d been away for the weekend, so here’s the lowdown…


As is pretty much usual about this time of year, there was a feeling that we needed a bit of a long weekend escape to somewhere a bit warmer to get over the winter blues, and to maybe get a head start on some summer colour. This year’s choice ended up being Marrakech. Or Marrakesh. Or any other way you want to spell it. And this year we had the company of Rach and Rup too, so we wouldn’t get bored of talking to each other again.

An early Friday afternoon flight out meant we had time once we arrived to dump our stuff at the riad (hotel/house) that we were staying at and go and have a quick look around the medina (old town). Blam!  Straight into our first real dose of the chaos that is medina life.  Shopkeepers calling you in to their shop, a constant stream of mopeds making their way through the pedestrians wandering the narrow “streets”,etc.  And then it was time to find something to eat in the medina main square.

The main medina square gets filled with all sorts of things at different times of the day.  Over the time we were in Marrakech, we saw snake charmers, story tellers, monkeys, people fishing for fanta and coke, and of course the food stalls in the evening among other things.  The stalls are set up in the late afternoon by the locals and they are all trying to sell you their food.  And that too is chaos.  Over 100 stall holders all trying to convince you that their food is the best, freshest, cheapest etc.

But we eventually settled on one to eat at.  A vegetable tagine turned up that was pretty much carrots and swede.  At least we think it was swede. “Unidentified vegetable” might be a better description. And not really what we’d really call a tagine.  More a vegetable soup. Rupert had more luck with his kebabs though, so maybe tagines just weren’t this stall’s specialty So would we go back to eat at the square?  Quite simply NO! (Bec says it was a bloody rip off and pretty disgusting.  But we’re glad we tried it and had the experience)


Saturday was a slightly more relaxed wander through the stalls and markets of the medina, otherwise know as the ‘souks’ (Bec says – relaxed?….. mopeds, push bikes, taxi’s and carts coming at you from both directions down narrow streets, and not to mention people asking you to buy something or for some money…. not relaxed, more like bloody tiring!)  But an experience in itself and by the end of the break away we’d almost managed to get used to it.

We managed to find the Cashbah area and have a wander though the ruins of the old palace (El Badi palace), and then on to the new palace (El Bahia palace) as well, then to the Saadian Tombs. In the new palace there was a huge amount of intricate decoration everywhere.


Dinner Saturday was a bit more upmarket than the square, at a nice restaurant, though as it was in the depths of the medina it was pretty hard to find – both times!  We went there to book earlier in the afternoon, but it still didn’t make it particularly easy to find at dinner time.  The medina really is an ever changing maze, and a map really doesn’t seem to help much.

Sunday we took a taxi ride to the Atlas mountains, stopping on the way to visit a different kind of market.  The local weekly Berber market. One not so much (if at all) targeted at tourists.  What gave it away?  The lack of painted bowls and brass sinks maybe? Or the camel heads hanging around dripping blood maybe? The complete lack of a shortage of miscellaneous sheep, beef, camel and goat parts and offal laid out for inspection? I think D. All of the above… But an interesting place to visit, and our taxi driver/guide gave us a good tour and the low down on what it was all about and was going on.


Then we drove up to the mountains proper.  Snow on the top of them and everything.  Apparently they’re the highest mountains in North Africa, and they block the desert from taking over the relatively lush and green plains that lie around Marrakesh, irrigated by the snow melt from and rain caused by the mountains.  Or something like that. Whatever. They were impressive enough.


When we had driven as far as the road would take us we had a local guide take us on a walk into the mountain to a couple of waterfalls.  Most of it was pretty good, apart from one part where we had to mountain goat it up a small rock face with water dripping down it……  (Bec says during which she found out her fitness levels are fine, but her wimp levels are off the scale). Thank god for the guide (who must’ve been only pushing 20, and had obviously done the trail several times before due to his hop, skipping and jumping over the rocks) who was able to pull us up, with another guide helping behind to give us a shove when we needed it.  But the effort was worth it and we had a well deserved local lunch at the end of it. This time the ordered tagine of meatballs and eggs was delicious!


Monday we wandered out of the old town, and down to the new town.  The only good thing from our experience of the new town was Jardin Majorelle, a garden acquired and restored by Yves Saint Laurent.  Blue, yellow, painted pots everywhere to add colour to the garden.  As for the rest of the new town, its just like any other new town really… we much preferred the old, even if it is completely chaotic.

We spend the later part of the afternoon sitting up above square watching all the mobile restaurants being wheeled in and set up for the night.  Slightly disappointing as we were promised lots of donkeys descending on the square, but the only donkeys were of the 2 legged variety.  I’ll see if I can get around to doing something fancy with a few of the pics we took of that some other time.

My main course on Sunday night was another meatball and egg tagine from another more upmarket restaurant.  I have to say that I actually preferred the more rustic, robust one that I’d had up the mountian that must have cost about a third of the price, if that(?)!  (I’m salivating thinking of it now! I’m having to wait for my lunch to cool now, and all this typing about food is making me very, very  hungry!)

Everywhere you look in the old town there’s also a heap of colour. Whether from the displays of spices, vegetables, metalwork, the pottery, and even some the prepared foods. And everywhere there’s different smells form the spices, cooking, (mopeds!) etc.


As we’d found in Egypt, you can really see a difference in people’s status there.  There are some really, really poor people, living and working right beside those that are obviously very well off in local terms, if not in global ones.  But they all seem to coexist quite happily.  And although it was all chaotic, I’m not sure we ever really felt unsafe, even wandering back through the narrow old streets late at night.  I’m not sure we’d feel the same in London!

There seems to be 2 speeds of life there too.  Manic and hurried, then calm and relaxed at different places and times of the day.


Arriving back, what did we find?  That London had been hit by another cold front, and was freezing in comparison to the sun and heat we’d just had.

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