A few weeks ago, our daughter Laura had booked to meet us for 4 days when we arrive in Marrakesh, not wanting to ‘rough-it’ during this quality time, OurTour blog to the rescue again and I remember reading they had stayed in a nice camp just outside the city. Manzil la Torture (The Gourmet Turtle) it turned out to be just the job.
Saturday: The 2 miles of dirt track leading up to it reminded me of Zegora, but once inside the grounds all was clean, tidy & most things worked, which unusual for Morocco. A warm welcome from the French hosts who were attentive, helpful and arranged our trips to the Airport to collect Laura, our taxi’s and guide for Marrakesh.
Sunday: We collected Laura from the airport, the officials gave her a hard time because she couldn’t provide then with an onward address, but eventually let her in to the country. She’d been up since 2am so we all just chilled in the afternoon as the temperature slowly rose to about 28 deg.
Monday: After a little confusion about the time we were meeting our guide, we found him in the end and informed him we would like a 50/50 mixture of historical and market area, (Souk) so were marched straight up to the Palais Bahia for starters. This guide was better than the fella in Fes, he seemed to know everything about Marrakesh, even down to what the plants growing in the Palais gardens & medically what they were used for. Four hours later we’d been around the Palais, into a Stork rescue centre, a Koran school and down numerous market streets teaming with scooters, finally, and as if by magic, we are delivered into the main Fna square just as the rain started, time to find a restaurant !
We booked the taxi to collect us at 8pm, so had 2 hours to kill whilst it got dark, we were advised not to be too much later than that, as the Police station closes & the square is left pretty much to its own regulation, whatever that may mean, we didn’t want to find out.
Tuesday: The ‘problem’ with having a guide for the city is, you just can’t stop for long enough in the places you want to stop, if you pause to take a picture & he’s off down the alley 20 paces in front, to lose sight of him would be almost fatal. So we planned to re-enter Marrakesh on the Tuesday without the guide, so we could walk around at our leisure, to buy a couple of souvenirs & check out the main square, which we’d only seen fleetingly.
Here’s a tip from our guide which seems to be logical enough to be true: if you happen to get lost in the souk, to find a main road again, look for the electric cables clipped to the sides of buildings, follow them in the direction that they get bigger, as the deeper in the souk you are, the smaller the cables get. We didn’t need the tip, but could see it would work in principle. We haggled well for our souvenirs, feel we got a fair price, ate sandwiches on a (chilly) rooftop restaurant, saw the snake-charmers, orange juice and date sellers dotted around the square & dodged the men with the funny hats and tourist horse & carriage salesmen.
Here, as in most places in Morocco we have seen there’s sometimes a huge difference between those that have and those that don’t. The drive between the campsite & Marrakesh there’s a huge area of land developed into a golf course, next to it, a shanty village leant against the outer wall. Corrugated steel and plastic sheeting weighted down with stones act as homes for many, begging a way of life, hardship beyond my imagination. The other side of the wall, the decision of the day, “which club should I use, caddy?”…go figure. We are only voyeurs, but it’s sometimes hard to digest.
Old Marrakesh, on the whole is a busy, vibrant city. The Health & Safety brigade wouldn’t get a look-in here, no neoprene gloves or hair-nets. It’s UNESCO World Heritage wrapped, so it’s here for good. The little alleyways of the souk alive with people, tourists, carts & donkeys, but plagued by scooters. Every two minuets you need to move out-of-the-way of a speeding scooter, very often the rider is on the phone at the same time. The parts we’ve seen are cleaner than Fes, the roads and alleys slightly wider, the ‘Look-no-buy’ men, less ‘sales pushy’ and really is a delight so see. In the ‘New town’, you could be in any new city, Adagir, Tanger, Rabat, most of the new bits of major city’s look all the same, thank goodness for places like the old city in Marrakesh.