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Published: August 7th 2007
I bet you look good on the dancefloor
The rather gayly dressed water sellers of Marrakech
It’s raining in England, nay, it’s pouring and I’m sure somewhere an old man is snoring. So what’s a girl to do? Only one thing for it, head south for some sun. Well, the trip was planned way before God unleashed his wrath on the north of England. But hey, it was good timing, a welcome break from the damp summer (Global warming, pah! Anyway, it’s all cosmic rays, not CO2, look it up!).
So off to Marrakesh for the weekend, a quick Squeezyjet flight far too early in the morning and we arrived (myself and friend Linda) just after breakfast in the Red city. It’s actually all pink, but they like to call it red, I guess it’s a bit more macho than calling it the pink city. Accommodation was in one of the many Riads (houses with a courtyard) of the city, ours was in the Kasbah area of town within the old city walls.
We drove through the city gates and into the Kasbah and to the Riad, we certainly wouldn’t have found it if we hadn’t been picked up, it’s a bit of a maze in there. The Riad was really nice, and they even
Djemaa el Fna square at dusk. A busy, busy place.
had a dog. Shame it was a bit of a rat, a Chihuahua, called Keko. But a dog’s a dog and I still enjoyed playing with him.
Marrakesh has a few main parts, the old area within the walls is mainly the Kasbah and the Souk area, divided by the main square, Djemaa el Fna. During the day the square hosts many snake charmers, acrobats and fortune tellers. Oh, and also lots of orange juice sellers too. Rows of them in fact, all the same and all next to each other. Mind you, I guess it’s the same in the UK, lots of coffee shops, all the same, next to each other in the high street. As the sun goes down, the food stalls move in along with story tellers and the whole square fills up with people.
Our Riad was about 20 minutes walk to the square. It was a rather pungent and exciting walk as well. Past a few donkey (car) parks which had their own appealing aroma and a few roads which seemed devoid of any form of traffic lights. We worked out the only way to cross was to hang around at the side
The Koutoubia minaret
Sticks out like a sore thumb.
of the road and wait until a local crosses and follow them. Once in to the square, you’re still not too safe as the locals seem to ride their motorbikes anywhere.
We took the easy sight-seeing method and got on one of those bus tours. Which given the heat was rather a good move. It took us all round the city, through the more modern areas as well. This area was not the most exciting so I was glad we stayed within the city walls.
Day two was a trip out to the Atlas Mountains, we hired a car and driver for the day. First stop was a weekly Berber market outside the city. If anyone knows the meaning of recycling, they do. The weekly market brings everyone together and they sell and buy just about everything they need here. Nothing is wasted, if you have an old tire you can bring it here to sell and someone might find a use for it. Makes our efforts look a little pathetic. The section where they sell the meat was not for the weak stomached, dead goat heads lying on the floor, but at least you knew it was
Fish and chips? Just some of the many cries you hear whilst perusing the souks.
fresh as they had just been killed that day.
Next stop the Ourika valley and the ski resort of Oukaimeden. I hadn’t realised there was a ski resort here and so when our driver mentioned it we got him to take us up for a look. It’s the premier ski resort in Africa and the rich Marrakesh locals rush up there in winter at the first sign of snow. It’s not quite the Three Valleys, but looks like it would amuse me for the day. The road up was a bit hairy and lined with cave houses where the Berbers spend part of the summer when it gets too hot in the valleys below. Once the cold weather comes, the poor move down the valley and the rich move up, their accommodation being a little bit nicer.
We then drove back down again and up the Ourika valley. This one is very popular for the locals to visit at the weekend. At the end of the valley is a series of seven waterfalls at Setti Fatma. This village straddles the river with lots of restaurants which are all reached via a selection of dodgy looking rope bridges.
A mosque by any other name...
Looks like Koutoubia but it's not. It's the kasbah mosque, down by the Saadian tombs.
in the village, you hire a local to guide you up to the waterfalls. It was a bit of a trek up, quite steep and over a lot of rocks, but not too bad. Once at the top there is a pool at the bottom of the falls which people bath it. Of course, the woman can do if they are fully clothed. After a brief rest, our guide asked if we would like to try a different route down, with better views. Only snag was the first part of the route, a 3 metre vertical ascent. Feeling adventurous we gave it a go. On reflection, it probably wouldn’t have been something the travel insurance would cover, but this was Morocco and things are a little more relaxed there. With a little assistance and a lot of adrenaline the rock face was scaled and we began the descent from the waterfall. I have to say it was worth the risk but don’t try that at home kids!
The last day we dedicated to shopping, souks, souks and more souks. They have a souk for just about anything and they all interlink in a vast labyrinth behind the main square.
No, not an 80's soap opera, but the tombs of the dead Saadians who once ruled Marrakech.
It’s quite easy to get lost, if only we’d remembered the breadcrumbs. Shopping is the usual haggling which after the first couple of times can get a bit annoying and in 45C heat, so the shopping didn’t last too long. However, I did manage to get myself a nice Jellaba, I’m sure I’ll find a use for it sometime.
Food wasn’t quite as exciting as I hoped, tajines and cous cous are about the only choices apart from kebabs. But we did try some Cactus which was good, tasted a lot like melon.
I’d been told it would be hot, smelly and busy and it certainly was, not for the faint-hearted. I can see some people would not like it, but I think it has a certain charm, definitely worth a trip.
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