Following on from a fantastic wedding (we have to say that as it was our own) Sally and I embarked on our shortest longish-haul trip ever - only 6 days in Morocco! Normally we'd have just bought our return flights and worked things out on arrival but as it was our honeymoon we decided to pre book and make the most of the short time we had away.
Sally found the most amazing Riad - I would have been happy with a dorm bed in a hostel but had to concede to a proper honeymoon with private rooms and an en suite bathroom! What we had booked though was in another league...link to website is below Tchaikana
I just had a note back from the owners saying that to encourage more visitors in June and August they are offering a 30%!d(MISSING)iscount - when booking just mention that you heard it from us! That is pretty good value to be honest and well worth the effort - the savings would almost cover the air fares.
This Riad is something else! Jean-Francois and Delphine have created the most amazing place in the heart of
the hustle and bustle of the medina! Not only is it immaculate, calm, what makes your stay all the more enjoyable is the hospitality of JF and Delphine. It feels as though you are long lost friends visiting their house and nothing is too much trouble from booking a restaurant to a taxi, to advising on shopping etc etc!
That should be enough of a plug but it really was an amazing place and very good value for money - also they hosted drinks in the evening for all the guests - only 5 rooms which was fun too. The place is possible to rent complete and would be the perfect setting for a new year’s party with friends - sleeps at least 12 in beds!!! (Nick is on commission - Ed)
So what of Marrakech - vibrant, cultured, and warm - nearly 38 degrees one day, noisy, smelly, loud, it had it all! A shoppers heaven so potentially my hell - but all in all brilliant (actually Nick was more keen to do the shopping than I was!).
Having been to markets before I was expecting the hard sell all day but the
stall holders were very polite and not at all offended if you just walked past and did not look inside their shops. Speaking French really helped as we could talk to just about everybody. Nick was told that he was French which pleased him greatly, especially as this resulted in his proclamation that he was in fact better at French than me even though I had lived in Paris for 3 months. This was true of all the locals we met - they were all extremely welcoming and friendly and nowhere were we hassled at all!
So the first day we had a nice breakfast on arrival then spent the afternoon wondering around the city taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the souks. We eyed up what we wanted to buy at the end of the week and started working out strategies for packing everything in our already full rucksacks.
That evening we headed out for street food. Typically it was raining so the activities in the square were somewhat diminished - that didn't stop the snake charmers, palm readers and all manner of other things going on. We settled for a typically touristy
food stall where the food wasn't particularly good but it was still fun watching people getting dragged in against their will.
The next day was set aside again for more exploring - following the lonely planet self guided walking tour; this took us past iron mongers where we saw some chairs that were a bargain price and just the right size for our balcony. Apart from the fact that they had no seats they are perfect!
Nick then mentioned he wanted to make mosaic seats for the chairs and thought that he was sure he could get some free broken tiles in the local tile outlet. Half an hour later, Nick had hunted out 5 mis-matching dusty old tiles and was sure the Monsieur, who could only speak Arabic (Nick loved the fact he could talk the language), was going to give them to us for five pence. Alas they saw the tourist colour of our skin and demanded £15 for what you can you buy at B&Q for £2 - heh ho, I thought that was funny!
More wondering helped make our decision for the next day’s activities (no it was not the
wandering that made the decision it was me puking my guts up and having to run to the toilet every ½ hr from food poisoning - Ed). We found a posh-ish hotel with a pool and did nothing except sunbath, swim and read books. It was probably the most expensive day doing nothing ever but well worth it as all the wedding prep had finally caught up on us both and we slept past 0830 for the first time in months. The "country club" had an amazing setting and the largest rose garden I have ever seen.
Fully refreshed and with Sal’s tummy back to normal, the next day we headed into the Atlas Mountains. An interesting bus/taxi ride out to Imlil (about 70Kms from the city) took us to a completely different environment. 1700 metres above sea level with Jebel Toubkal in the distance (at 4100 metres or so) - North Africa’s highest mountain - we could have been in the Alps.
Sally had chosen yet another brilliant place to stay - Dar Imlil Dar Imlil
The sister hotel of the more famous Kasbah but equally as luxurious and you
didn't have to walk up a huge hill to get to it. We also had use of all the facilities of the Kasbah so did not miss out! We were kitted our with Berber slippers, jalabas, free drinks, good breakfasts and we even got a hot water bottle in our beds - it was like being at my mums and dads house! We were also upgraded to the best room in the hotel for free which was a bonus. Kasbah du Toubkal
We did very little other than walk up to the Kasbah and have a drink - because it was free! A little pre-dinner sleep then a Tagine cooked by the hotel.
The following morning we got up early for a "Trek" up the valley. The route was pretty straight forward and followed a river with numerous waterfalls up steep sided slopes and wide valley floors up towards the base camp for the mountain, ok it sounds like Everest base camp but it was really just another tourist ‘shopping’ town that locals walk 1 hour to everyday to sell their wares.
We walked for around 5 hours there and back and
covered 16 kilometers with a gain of 500 metres. Our final destination was the village of Sidi Chamharouch which is the last stop before the refuge and final route up the summit! Next time we will try for the top as it is only another day’s walk from where we got to.
Having had a drink we headed back down for another sleep and then supper with our new English friend Liz followed by a game of Scrabble which Sally beat me in which was very good (much to Nick’s disappointment - Ed). The hotel even gave me the jalabas slippers as they were a perfect fit - never one to miss out on a freebie!
So the final day having dropped off bags back at the Riad and been instructed/guided on prices by Delphine we hit the markets armed with a list, a budget, and the promise of hours of haggling! The first attempt was somewhat embarrassing. We spotted a piece of iron work we liked and the price started at 400Dh (about £40). For too much for what it was and we knew the price should be nearer 100Dh (£10). I told Sally to
He was a bit slow!
open her bid at 50Dh to which the shop keeper said she must be a joker and asked us to leave his shop! Later we did get one for 125Dh so we had the last laugh and the guy was obviously trying to overcharge us - as they all do.
We continued around the souks buying items on our list and others not on the list - fast running out of space to pack them in - however we needed to pack the chairs in a box so could fill that space too. We bought a perfect iron table to go with the chairs, a lamp, mirror, lantern, door knocker, belts, coat hooks, fridge magnets, plates, and bowls - just as well we have a massive house to put it all in and our own front door for our door knocker.
The final evening was spent relaxing in a Hammam. Les Bains de Marrakech
Being scrubbed down in what to me looked like a dungeon was ok - but I got a bit bored after a while and wanted to get back to the Riad for aperitifs! (they were free - Ed). Nick also made
the mistake of putting the local cleansing black soap on his nether regions which made them sting like Deep Heat - apparently.
We spent the last evening in style eating at the famous Le Foundouk Restaurant Le Foundouk
We treated ourselves to the best fillet steak since Argentina and were stuffed by the end of the meal! It was a fantastic way to spend our last evening before catching the early flight home the next morning.
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