0097 Marrakech vs the rest (Mor 008—revisit)

Marrakech Travel Blog

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The main mosque (I forget the name)

After my nostalgic visit to Agadir, I have some work related matter to take care of in Marrakech, so here I slide back and forth between Real Life and Adventure Life… taking care of work matters for a few hours and then sneaking back to my hotel room to grab my guitar and camera and go discover and have adventures. 

 As would be expected, memories of Marrakech come to the surface… I remember discovering this city for the first time in August, 1996 on a long stopover from Agadir heading to Spain.  After being in Morocco for 4 months, this was my first experience of an “Old Medina”, Morocco’s biggest attraction:  the cramped alleys of an walled city that still have that “frozen in time” feel with colourful bazaars, magical looking doorways and serene ryads—family palaces built around cozy little courtyards.

A market alleyway

 I remember enjoying the experience, although I found Jma Fnaa a bit artificial and overdone for the tourist.  During my time in Agadir I’d already started to get a taste for the authentic Moroccan experience, spending time with real people and seeing the real things that go on in the working class neighborhoods, away from the eyes of the tourists. 

 Now I’m coming back with new eyes and I’m going to see how my perception of this city might be different.

 Arrival in Marrakech

 I reach the Marrakech station and head straight into the old medina to look for lodging.  All the cheap hotels on the east side seem to be full, so I make my way over the Jmaa Fna where I remember there being another section of very narrow alleys and a lot of low budget hotels.

The medina
  Sure enough, just down one alley, I can see 5 or 6 of them—and the alley is packed with guys insisting to “guide” me to the hotel that’s just a few meters in front of my face.  I politely say no thanks and continue browsing while he follows me around. Finally when I find one that I like he just waits there and I figure, rather than having a long heated conversation about the fact that he followed me, he didn’t guide me, I’d just give him something to get him out of my hair.  Usually I would stand my ground against this type of extortion, but today I’m just not in the mood to start my visit with an unpleasant scene.

 I notice an immediate difference between touristy Marrakech and all the other Moroccan cities I’ve been to.

  Here it’s much more difficult to have meaningful interaction with people, because if someone approaches you, you automatically assume he wants money or wants to sell you something.  So, ironically, the places catering to tourists are actually the worse places for discovering Morocco.

 Now I don’t have anything against tourist traps, as long as there’s something there really worth seeing.  Niagara Falls, Angkor Wat, Tikal, Ephesus, Hassan II Mosque—sure they’re packed with tourists, but for a good reason… there’s something really amazing to see there and you quickly forget about all the other tourists around you.  Here in Marrakech, no offense, but I’m just not “getting” what all these people come to see.

Sure the old medina is nice, but quite frankly all the all the old medinas I’ve seen on this trip Tanger, Asilah, Tiznit and even Casablanca I’ve found more interesting—and none of them are tourist traps.

 I guess the real problem is expectations.  If I had come here with absolutely no idea about the city, I’m sure I would of thought that Marrakech is really cool city.  But coming with that notion that Marrakech is supposed to be the “Ultimate Moroccan Experience” kind of sets you up for disappointment.  And I find it really hard to get that out of my mind.

 Next Day

 The next day I have a bit more free time, so I head back into the old medina again to look for a spot to take my video clip.

I find that quite complicated—finding a safe place to prop my camera, pulling out my guitar, playing for a 20 second clip—all in the middle of heavy and very unpredictable traffic.  Finally when I think I’ve found the perfect spot, with a cool gateway and alley behind me, I get all set up… and someone comes and parks right in front of me…

Finally I settle for a quieter spot right outside the city wall.

The east side of the medina is much less touristy, more gritty—more authentic in a way… You’ve got the scrap metal market… the alley where they convert rubber from old tires into all sorts of creative things… And a very frustrating section where it seems there is no way out of the city… Still, I prefer this to the tourist packed area.

Next day I wander up through the quieter modern part of town, with it’s endless rows of shops and boxy reddish brown rows of houses. A pleasant, soothing stroll… Then I pull out my guitar in a shady park outside the bus station, strum a couple more songs, and decide to it’s time to big Marrakech farewell. 


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The main mosque (I forget the name)
The main mosque (I forget the name)
A market alleyway
A market alleyway
The medina
The medina
Marrakech is in my 2nd music video
photo by: sweetet