The trip started in Marrakech which is quite sprawling,
incorporating both old and new areas. The focal point is
the tantalising Djemaa El Fna, the enormous main square.
Particularly at night, the place becomes a Mecca for food
stalls offering a variety of different dishes.
In different areas of the square are groups of people
encircling musicians, snake charmers, people with monkeys,
dancers and a whole host of other activities.
Leading from the square are the numerous souks, each
area specialising in a particular product – leather, carpets, and
metalwork – with the alleyways all blending into each other.
Wandering through the maze, and getting lost, is very much
part of the experience. However much you pay, and however
much you negotiate the price, the chances are you will find
the same thing somewhere else much cheaper.
Except for really expensive items such as jewellery,
money is the only negotiable commodity. This is also the
case in many of the restaurants. Moroccan currency has to
be bought in the country and, if bought legally, is the same
rate everywhere, even in the hotels.
At one time, it was very common to be pestered by
individuals wanting to show you around or trying to sell
you their merchandise. This has now become an offence
and, although it still happens, it is no longer as harassing as
it used to be.
Rather than staying in a hotel, one of the great charms of
the country is the riads, traditional and often ornate homes,
sometimes palaces, that have been converted into tourist
accommodation. Some are small and intimate, while others,
such as Les Jardins de la Medina, where we stayed, are bigger
and run as a hotel.
Once a prince’s palace, the bedrooms of the hotel
surround an enormous landscaped courtyard in which there
is an open air swimming pool. Situated within the walls of the
old city, we were obliged to drive through a ‘no entry’ road
into the Medina.
The only distinguishing feature in knowing what was
behind an otherwise dusty wall in a hot, narrow street, is a
door with a plaque. When one finds such a lovely interior
behind such unassuming walls it makes walking through
the streets that much more interesting.
Whenever the opportunity arises, it is worth looking
through an open doorway just to see what is inside. Many
times it reveals people’s dwellings; in some cases extreme
poverty; but at other times an opening gives access to an
Aladdin’s cave of items, in reality a shop.
Personal recommendation is the best way of finding a
restaurant to suit your taste and pocket. Guide books, if
current, are a great source. Unless you can be sure that the
person you are asking is reliable, asking the staff at your
hotel is not always the best way as we found to our cost.
Monkeys, a fire-eater and
musicians entertain at Djemaa
El Fna in Marrakech
Inspecting copper items in a souk
Web site created by Mark Griffin