Lost, Harassed, Shouted At, Threatened at Gunpoint and Hiding My Daughter's Bottom

Published: April 3rd 2013
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The Mouassine MosqueThe Mouassine MosqueThe Mouassine Mosque

The largest mosque in Marrakech
I got-up early to go for a run whilst it was still cool and to orient myself with Marrakech. I managed to find my way to the city wall without any problems, although I had to run round it for a while before I managed to find a way in. I also managed to find the Souks without any problems. At that time in the morning everywhere was closed. There was the odd donkey-pulled cart delivering goods or taking rubbish away, but apart from that it was all very quiet.

I really struggled to find my way back to the hotel. I had GPS, but with no data connection there was no map – just a waypoint to head towards. However whenever I was going in the right direction, I’d come to a dead-end or streets that gave no option but to go in the wrong direction. There were three women all sat down in one Souk and despite them being covered head-to-toe, I could tell that they were looking either bemused or amused as I ran past them for the third time.

The worst bit was when I went down a path that I was clearly not supposed
The SouksThe SouksThe Souks

Lost in the inner tunnels of the Souks
to and I ran into a group of police and soldiers who went straight for their guns as soon as I came around the corner and then all started shouting at me – in French! I might not have understood exactly what they said, but I got the gist.

Back at the hotel, eventually, it was apparent that there is no need for smokeless cigarettes in Morocco. There seems to be an awful lot of smokers here, and whilst having breakfast, it was apparent that I’d forgotten how horrid it is to sit near people who are smoking whilst you’re eating.

As it is not possible to get any Moroccan Dirhams outside of the country, our first objective was to get some currency. We’d bought Travellers’ Cheques, but nowhere seemed to take them. We’d tried the airport when we arrived, we tried the hotel reception, the bureau-du-change and two banks and we were still left with a pile of unused cheques. Luckily, there were loads of cash machines, so we just got some that way. Job done.

Whilst my wife and daughter took their pick from the sun-beds, I went for a walk back to the Souks.
Meat For SaleMeat For SaleMeat For Sale

Anyone fancy an animal's hoof for dinner
They were completely different this time, busy and full-on. It’s not for the fainthearted in here as everyone is very determined to sell to you as you walk past

You need to be very careful taking photographs. Even if you’re trying to take a wide shot of a large area, people who are in that area and see you will protest extremely vigorously. I got shouted out a couple of times.

Once I’d got out of the Souks themselves, I’d got the hang of the route from the Place Jemaa el-Fna back to the hotel. This is the main square, just outside the Souks, and is where you’ll find all the snake charmers, monkeys and women drawing henna tattoos. Bizarrely, despite it being full of people, there are still cars and motorbikes criss-crossing all over it. Mind you, the motorbikes even make their way into the narrow alleys of the Souks where they don’t exactly take it easy. The sound of horns is so constant that you start to filter it out after a while.

Beside the square is the Koutoubia Mosque, with a high, square Minaret, which is the highest in Marrakech and is also handy
Henna TattooHenna TattooHenna Tattoo

Temporary tattoo on my daughter's leg
to use to help get your bearings if you get lost. Apparently, it offers excellent views, but you can on go to the top if you are a Muslim.

After walking back to the hotel, my wife and daughter wanted to go shopping, so it was all the way back again. My daughter was getting a lot of attention. First of all she is blond. Second we had a bit of a disagreement over how long her shorts should be and I was over-ruled. She found it a bit overwhelming at first and was constantly going a very bright red colour, but after a while, unfortunately, she was quite enjoying it.

She had one of those henna tattoos done on her leg and we bought some genuine Dr Beats headphones (yeah right), which were a bargain at about £1.50.

Three times people offered to show us where to go and tagged along with us. One apparently remembered us as he worked in our hotel. It was a annoying and it took some effort to shake-them-off. It was handy that I had been in already and knew where we wanted to go, so once they realised that we were not going to go where they wanted to take us, they backed-off.

We didn’t go too deep into the Souks this time to avoid getting lost. One of our ‘guides’ suggested that we go to the Tannery Souk, where there was an auction on apparently, but we gave-up on that. The Meat Souk was a bit off putting, with all the meat hanging out with all the flies settling all over it. The trotters were also particularly repugnant.

We then had to run the gauntlet of all the boys and walk back to the hotel.


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