Morocco November 2014

A few day’s break in Morocco in November 2014. Despite only being back at work for a couple of weeks, it was time to go on holiday again. Mainly due to Julie having to book her holidays so far in advance and she’s unable to change them!

It was an early start on Saturday to catch our flight to Marrakech, which left at 7.30 am. The flight was okay and uneventful, albeit a little behind schedule. Upon arrival, we had to walk from the aeroplane across the tarmac to the arrivals lounge and passport control. Our first impression was just how warm it was. I don’t think either of us was expecting it to be as warm!

In Morocco

As is the norm in these countries, it took a good hour and a half to get through customs. They always seem so bureaucratic! After getting through passport control, we then had to run the gauntlet of all the taxi drivers vying for our business. Although it would have been a much quicker and easier way to get to the hotel, me being me and being an old skinflint, I decided that we’d catch the bus and walk to our hotel. Besides, it’s always a good way to get a feel for a place, although somehow, I don’t think Julie thought the same!

Once past the hoards of taxi drivers, we caught the number 19 bus into the town centre and into the hustle and bustle of Marrakech! I knew roughly where our hotel was as I remembered it from my trip here in 2009, although it was a little bit further away than I remembered!

After checking into the hotel, we went across the road to book our seats on the coach to Essaouira for the following morning. The girl on the desk at the coach station was really nice and friendly and welcomed us to Morocco and hoped that we’d enjoy our stay. It seemed to have been a rather long day after our flight and walk across town to the hotel. So in the evening we just had a little walk around the local neighbourhood we were in and ate in the hotel.

Off On An Adventure

The following morning, after breakfast, we caught the coach to Essaouira. I was hoping in one respect that it was going to be some old, rickety bus with a load of locals on board taking their livestock to market. But just as well, really, it wasn’t. It was a very modern air-conditioned coach; it did, however, have plenty of locals on board. After three hours, we arrived in Essaouira, where once again, we had to run the gauntlet of locals waiting at the bus stop wanting to carry our bags and take us to our hotel. But I’d seen our hotel on the way in, and it was only around the corner!

Essaouira port
Fishing boats

After checking into our 5-star hotel, we went out to explore. Our hotel was outside the Medina, just along the seafront. So we strolled along the prom to the busy harbour, where we found a lovely bustling place with shipbuilders building traditional wooden fishing boats which apparently, because of their seaworthiness, they sell all the way along the coast to places as far away as France. The harbour itself was full of little blue rowing boats all tied together in the middle of the water. On the other side of the port, the fishermen were selling the day’s catch and repairing their nets. There was a really nice atmosphere and feel to the place, albeit rather smelly, with the smell of fish guts rotting in the sun!

Off Exploring

The following day, after breakfast, we went to explore the Medina and souks and climb the ramparts of the Medina walls. Essaouira seemed to be mainly full of locals, with not very many tourists at all. Maybe because of the time of year. For lunch, we went back to the port and to one of the many little kiosks selling the day’s catch. You simply chose what fish you wanted from the display of freshly caught fish and shellfish. The man weighed it and told you how much it would be. After agreeing on the price, it was then taken away and char-grilled over hot coals and served with a salad, bread and a drink. The fish was to die for, so tasty and fresh and also so cheap!

Narrow Alley in Mellah
Narrow alley

 

Back To Marrakech

After two nights in Essaouira, it was back to Marrakech. Again, I decided that we would walk across town to the riad we were going to stay at. I knew roughly where it was as we were staying in the Jewish quarter in the Mellah part of town. After passing the main square of Jemaa el-Fna (that’s where the bus had dropped us off when we arrived from the airport), I was a little unsure if I was on the right road or not, so we stopped to ask a policeman if we were heading in the right direction. Well, that was a big mistake. He sent us in the completely wrong direction.

After nearly an hour of wandering around the back streets, we eventually found our way back onto the road we should have been on. But by now, poor Julie had had enough and just wanted to get to the riad. After another half an hour and with the help of a local, we eventually found the riad. Although I knew roughly where it was there was no way that we would have ever found it on our own as it was tucked away down a narrow alley which you would never have thought to go down!

Al Ksar riad
Inside our Riad

The riad itself was like a little oasis of calm in the mayhem of the Medina. As soon as we went through the unassuming wooden door, we felt immediately relaxed with its interior courtyard and garden with a small plunge pool. A lovely little place run by two French men, Damien and Olivier.

Off Exploring Again

Much to Julie’s annoyance, no sooner had we arrived at the riad than we were off again to explore the main square of Jemaa el-Fna and the surrounding souks.

Jemaa el-Fna square
Jemaa el-Fna square

During the day, the Jemaa el-Fna square is predominantly occupied by orange juice and dried fruit stalls, Barbary apes dressed in silly dresses (very cruel!), water sellers in fringed hats and red costumes with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups which they clang together to attract your attention. Women trying to get you to have a henna tattoo, market stalls selling nearly everything. Tooth pullers and snake charmers blasting oboes to calm hissing cobras, a reel cacophony of sights and sounds.

Julie Thought She Might Like India. I Don’t Think So

I think Julie found it all a bit too much with the constant hassle from everybody vying for your Dirham, particularly the women selling the henna tattoos. They did get a bit forceful with her. I got caught taking a photo of the cobras, which they’re not very keen on unless you pay them! So I had to stump up some Dirham for that, but you do have to watch out as no matter what you give them, they’ll always say it’s not enough and want more. You just have to be firm and give them what you want to and walk away!

After a few hours of wandering around the square and surrounding alleyways, it was back to the calm of the riad. Unfortunately, on the way back, I managed to trip over and graze my hands, which looked a lot worse than it was. I just took the skin off, although it was bleeding rather a lot and left a trail of blood back to the riad! Julie said it was because I was behaving like a Japanese tourist with a camera in each hand. Personally, I think it was because I hadn’t had a beer all day!! Back at the riad, we had a lovely traditional tagine for supper.

More Exploring

The following day, we went to explore the souks and got completely lost in the narrow lanes and alleyways. No matter which way we went, it all looked the same. Julie brought some Argon oil, and we were invited to take tea or Moroccan whiskey, as they call it, with the owner of the shop. The day was spent just wandering around the various souks and drinking tea (yes, I did say tea, you can’t buy a beer in the cafes) in the main square, watching the theatre of the Jemaa el-Fna square.

Jeema el-Fna Square at Dusk
Jeema el-Fna Square at Dusk

In the evening, we returned to Jemaa el-Fna Square, where once the sun starts to go down, it’s transformed into a giant outdoor cafe. Hundreds of chefs arrive with grills and set up tables and benches. They sell all sorts of food. As we walked around, we got a constant bombardment of waiters, all trying to get us to eat at their stalls. With sayings like “guaranteed no diarrhoea here” or “we’ve not had a case of diarrhoea in two years!” The air is full of steam and smoke from the food being cooked on the grills, a wonderful place to eat. Visually very pleasing, very entertaining and extremely tasty!

Time To Leave

Unfortunately, just before we came away to Morocco, Julie’s best friend Karen passed away after losing her battle with cancer. Julie wanted to attend the funeral, which was only right. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, so we decided to come back early. My thoughts are with Karen’s family and friends. Another young life lost to that horrible disease, cancer!

It was a good trip to Morocco, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. However, Julie said, “It was an experience, but doesn’t think she’ll be going back”. Me, however, it makes me want to see more of Africa, and I can’t wait to return on my bike!

Videos of Garry’s Moroccan trip from his YouTube channel.


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