For those of you that read my weekly blog you’ll know that Morocco has been on my “must visit” list for some time now. Last year I had to make the difficult choice between Japan/Bali and Morocco. I know…I have a tough life what can I say?! 🙂
And so, this week we find ourselves in beautiful Marrakech. Depending on who you ask I believe Marrakech to be the jewel of Morocco.
Since my trip last year I’d been planning on making Morocco, and more importantly Marrakech my destination of choice this year, no if’s, and’s or but’s. Well, it’s just one of my big trips this year as I still have a couple more in store, so stay tuned.
Like with most countries each city has its own vibe, somewhat different from the others and Morocco is no different. Since I was a young boy I’ve always had a fascination for Marrakech, and word that always springs to mind for me is “exotic”.
The very thought of exploring Marrakech and the Medina (ancient walled part of the city), with the different sights, sounds and smells brings out my adventurous spirit (not that I needed a lot of encouragement). 🙂
If you love to travel you’ll know what I mean when I say “there are no bad destinations…just bad planning”.
For me, the planning of a trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. I always begin with flights in and out of my destination with the various airline combinations, once this is satisfied I turn my attention to the accommodations. What can I say I’ve become a creature of luxury and so spoil myself on finding the best places to stay. This visit is no exception!
Marrakech is combination of Arab, Berber and French cultures all intertwined to bring you a distinctly intriguing experience.
Just take our Riad (guesthouse) as an example – Le Jardin de la Medina is situated within the Kasbah neighbourhood.
I truly feel like I’m in nestled in a 1950’s French colonial photoshoot for Home and Garden, however just outside its protective walls I’m in a distinctly Arab alleyway with all of the sights that you would expect to see and a mere 15 minute walk from the Jemaa El Fna Square in the center of the old Medina.
A Riad is differentiated as such by having either a pool or fountain or both, fortunately for us we have both. Many an afternoon will find us under the shady palms by the pool.
The mornings have been cooler (25C or so) but the afternoons are closer to 38C or warmer. And although considered the low season due to the extreme heat of the afternoons is still very active and lively with lots of tourists wandering the Souks (markets) and alleyways.
This incredible square is awash with snake charmers and their distinctive Tabja (moroccan cedar flutes), hawkers looking to lure tourists on their tours and African t-shirt sellers all jumbled together into collision of colors, sounds and smells. Although for most foreigners another big attraction is the fresh orange juice sellers and their myriad of vendor carts.
However, there are many faces to the Jemaa El Fna Square…
At dusk the Square transforms itself into one of the largest mobile restaurants on the planet with over 100 food stalls, mostly small sit down establishment all vying for your patronage with seating for 6 -12 people.
The restauranteurs can be pretty aggressive, but given the competition this is a friendly sport where the smallest thing may differentiate them between them and their neighbours, so they’ll latch onto any little thing and speak to you as if you were their long lost relative… This type of theatrics can, for many can be very intimidating. Don’t worry it’s all part of the experience! 🙂
For me my favourite moment of the day is the evening call to prayer from the surrounding mosques…
Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine sitting a rooftop patio or restaurant within the Medina, you’re enveloped in the most incredible blue-purple dusk light, with the soft Saharan breeze caressing your face and the muffled sounds of the Souks below enjoying the evening trade. Out of nowhere comes the melodious and mournful cries of the Imam as he calls his brothers to prayer. Such a beautiful and poignant moment each day to savour…
Marrakech is a friendly and harmonious city, where the various local cultures and residents all get along well. The locals speak a combination of French, Arabic and English and unlike many tourist cities if you say “no thanks” to their offer they always are polite and friendly.
There is no doubt that Marrakech has become part of the jet set lifestyle, and definitely a place to say you’ve been, but I’m glad I finally made it to this incredibly diverse and vibrant city.
For me, the best part was not staying in one at one of the many hotel chains, but to get local and find a Riad within the Medina that was within walking distance to everything that I wanted to visit and see.
Next week, I’ll share more of our adventures within the city and surrounding areas.