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Africa » Morocco » Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz
March 15th 2018
Published: March 15th 2018
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Iberia Business ClassIberia Business ClassIberia Business Class

It looks crowded but you put your feet up under the tv so it's more spacious than it looks. Seats were more comfortable than Qantas but no comfy PJ's like Qantas.
Monday, 12 March – Marrakech

Despite the fact that we flew business class on Iberia, which was excellent, neither of us slept any better than in economy. Usually we take Restavit to calm the senses when in cattle class, but we didn’t bother this time because we thought that lying flat would give us the sleep we usually don’t get. However, even with earplugs and eye mask, we were too aware of the aircraft noise and movements around us, and I was wishing I’d had the Restavit to dull the senses. Will get that rectified before our next flight in May.

Arrived in Madrid for our 3hr layover and had showers in the lounge to freshen up, before boarding another flight to Casablanca. From there we caught a taxi to the train station, waited another hour and caught a very full train to Marrakech. The two older women next to us chatted non-stop for the entire 3 hours, in Arabic, and that guttural language had me wanting to strangle them after an hour! I was able to pull my travel pillow out and lean up against the corridor window for an hour of sleep, but poor Dwayne stayed awake the whole time (he was hardly going to lean on the chatty women) and when we arrived in Marrakech at 4.30pm, we were both dead on our feet. We’d been transiting for 28 hours.

Luckily our apartment was only 750m from the train station so we checked in, bought some breakfast stuff and water, and fell into bed at 7.15pm. I also think a chesty bug has invaded my throat and lungs due to all the airplane A/C and lack of sleep, so I’ll be doing my best to keep it at bay.

Tuesday, 13 March – Marrakech

Awoke at 10am after a good 15 hours sleep.

Decided to have a lazy day so I coloured my hair, manicured my nails and did some washing. We ventured out for lunch at Amal, which is a social enterprise run for the purpose of training women how to earn an income. It was good to see one of the waitresses with Down Syndrome so they are walking the talk. My “salade de legumes et de fruits” was interesting – kiwi, orange, apple, pear, pineapple with lettuce, tomato, olives, corn, beetroot, cheese and balsamic vinegar. I wasn’t a fan of the combo but their homemade mint lemonade was the bomb! We made sure we stopped by the local patisserie for a chocolate éclair and Africana (chocolate mousse slice). They’re all about $2-$2.50 each. Very yummy!

Morocco is an interesting mix of African, Arabian and French influences. Unlike Turkey, where it was difficult to tell the foreigners from the locals, Morocco is very distinct and you can spot foreigners a mile away. Most women wear hajibs, although I’ve only seen one woman wearing the full burka. Arabic may be the main language but French is just as common and one language does not seem to dominate the other. It’s clearly more conservative than Turkey in dress, but we haven’t seen many mosques or heard one call to prayer. Everyone smokes.

There is a variety of food including Thai, Italian and Greek, as well as the local specialties. There are delectable boulangeries and patisseries thanks to the French. The prices are cheaper than Western Europe but not as cheap as Eastern Europe. English is uncommon and in fact, it’s probably the hardest place to get around outside of rural Germany. You need at least basic French – greetings, numbers and food names at a minimum. We’ve only heard two other groups on the street speak English so either we’re here out of tourist season or it’s not a huge destination for non-French speakers. I wouldn’t recommend timid travellers come here independently.

The traffic is chaotic, as I expected, and crossing the road is a game of chicken. There are plenty of zebra crossings but no pedestrian signals so it’s a matter of ducking and weaving between the cars and motorbikes. You need to keep your wits about you and know which direction traffic is coming from, as well as be ok with cars and busses passing close to you when standing in the middle. The first two times we waited for others to initiate and then we’d cross with them but now we just go ourselves. There are definitely rules so once you understand them and can be bold enough to use them, they usually work. Fortune favours the brave.

Wednesday, 14 March – Marrakech

I’m officially sick with the flu – head and chest cold as well as body aches. I blame the 3 pressurised cabin trips, 5 time zone changes and increase from 23F to 23C in three days for the attack. Only got 2 hours sleep but can’t come all this way and not see anything.

We’d read that taxi drivers will rip you off as tourists and that there’s nothing you can do about it. I can confirm this is indeed the case. We tried to catch a taxi into the Medina – the old city – but the taxis refused to use the meters and their flat rates were atrocious. What should be a 10-15 MAD journey, was being quoted as 50 MAD. There was no bargaining with them either. After flagging 4 taxis and having the same problems, we gave up and walked the 2.5km into town.

The medina is like a grand bazaar with permanent stalls of food, rugs, leather goods, souvenirs and clothes for sale, amongst other things. The passages are narrow and there are motorbikes, small trucks and donkey carts whizzing up every aisle. You learn very quickly to walk single file on the right of the passage! In the middle of the medina is the Jemaa el-Fna, a square of temporary stalls that pop up each day and get packed away each night. We
Medina (old town)Medina (old town)Medina (old town)

You have to say left as there are motorbikes, small trucks and donkey carts coming up and down these streets constantly
saw cobras and snake charmers, women doing henna tattoos and dozens of food stalls. There are more English menus in the medina than outside but still not too many speakers.

We’d also read that boys or men will be friendly to tourists and offer to take you to wherever you’re going, and then ask for money. We did experience a couple of groups of boys offering to show us the way but we politely declined, even as they followed us around a couple of bends. The shop owners never hassled us to come into their stores though, and the ones we did go to had lovely people who taught us an Arabic word or two (don’t ask me to repeat them though.)

In the residential parts of the medina the shops give way to rows of doors, which are riads (B&B’s) behind walls. Their simplicity or extravagance is neatly concealed from the outside and it’s not until you step through the magic door that you are transported to a haven of zen.

We had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant because they had an English menu and I could eat everything on the menu. Whilst Dwayne enjoyed his filo pastry and goats cheese meal, my lentil and rice meal had too many spices for my taste. I don’t think Morocco is going to bode well for me, gastronomically speaking. I’ll get by, but the food is going to have too much cinnamon, cumin, eastern spices etc for me to love it.

We spent an hour in the Bahia Palace, which was built between 1894 – 1900 for the Grand Vizier and his harem. It’s just a shell without any furnishings and it’s quite small compared to a real palace, but it was intricate with ornate wood and concrete carvings as well as mosaics.

We did 12.5km of walking by the time we got home.

Thursday, 15 March – Marrakech

Had another bad night with only a couple of hours of sleep. I think Dwayne is coming down with a cold as well. The flu has progressed and I guess it will get worse before it gets better.

I wasn’t feeling particularly well so we went to the supermarket for tissues and lunch supplies and then came home so I could have a nap. That didn’t happen because our apartment overlooks a building site. Sigh.

The plan was to go out in the arvo to see the Majorelle Gardens but it’s raining so we stayed home, which is probably a good thing. We did venture out for dinner at a restaurant nearby where Dwayne indulged in a chicken and lemon tagine, which is the Morrocan speciality. He said it was nice but not amazing. He also had an avocado and date juice, although he had to eat it with a spoon so it was more like a smoothie. That was his pick for best dinner item.

We leave tomorrow morning for the Sahara Desert and whilst we’re going to drive via the gardens, the weather is forecast for continued rain so it may be a non-event. I’m glad I saw Marrakech but it certainly doesn’t rate up there in my favourites. It is an unremarkable city to me. I’d choose Istanbul over Marrakech any day.

Additional photos below
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16th March 2018

Dear Renae and Dwayne,
We enjoyed your travel this time and felt for you struggling with THE COLD!!
16th March 2018

Dear David & Shirley
Yes, having a cold whilst travelling is horrible but you can't come all this way to stay at home and lie in bed!

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