Friday, 19 November 2010

9 Nov 2010 - Marrakesh

After our brief tour of Casablanca we were on the road to Marrakesh just after 1000.   It took us five hours to cover the 170 miles, and we arrived just after 1500.   This was our first sight of the “real Morocco”.   Rabat and Casablanca had both been modern cities and in the main looked much like a modern city anywhere in the world.   On the other hand Marrakesh looked just like we expected it to be.   It is known as the “Red City” because of the colour of the buildings, most of which are very Arab looking single story.

Our first stop was the hotel.   There was a complicated system to transfer our suitcases from the coach to the hotel room.   The hotel staff, supervised by Hassan and his assistant, would take our cases from the coach to the lobby.   We would book in, another shambles as we crowded around reception to fill out hotel forms.   We would then have to tell the porters which room we were in, and they would (eventually) deliver the cases to the room.   In fact most of us took our own suitcases to the room.   One member of the group who relied on the “official system” had to wait more than an hour for their suitcase.   After unpacking and a quick wash most of us gathered around the pool to wait for the tour of Marrakesh.

The first visit was to the Souk, our first opportunity to visit one.   We were led by the local guide, and did not have much opportunity to see what was on offer, or what it cost.

We spent half an hour exploring the colourful passages, with their exotic sights, sounds and smells.

It was a short distance to Marrakesh Palace, where we had a local guide to show us around.

Once more we were fortunate to have a very good guide, who spoke excellent English.   Only parts of the palace have been renovated, including this lovely courtyard and the harem.

Next was Djemma el Fna, the famous square of Marrakesh. This traditional market is the largest in Morocco.   The large square is covered in open air eating places plus many stalls and entertainers.   There were dancers, musicians, snake charmers and various performing animals.   All had their own little group who pounced on any tourist pointing a camera at them and demanded a tip.   

It was late afternoon when we arrived, and the place was soon lit up.  The noise is deafening, but the whole thing very exciting.

We were warned by the local guide not to be tempted by the cheap meals at the open air food stalls.   Apparently you can get a meal for as little as 2 euro, but the hygiene leaves a lot to be desired.  One of our party did take the risk, and paid the price for the next couple of days.

After the official tour we had an hour or so to explore on our own.   We found a table on the balcony of one of the restaurants which surround the square.  The tables were packed with tourists who needed a little rest and a drink between exploring the square.

It was still early evening when we left to catch the coach back to the hotel and an early night.   Some of our party remained to enjoy the delights of Marrakesh by night.   More than one would have to bear the consequences in the coming days.

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