Arriving In Marrakech
Alright it wasn't quite the Marrakech Express, but a relitavely easy flight from Madrid in less than 2 hours ( â‚¬96 for four of us inc. bags was pretty cheap I thought). Another early start though as we had to be at Barajas for 8am. Departed at 9-50 and arrived just before 11,as we gained an hour with the change in times zonnes. Stepping off the plane I wasn't struck by the heat the way I thought I would be, obviously the couple of days conditioning in Madrid had worked :-) .
On entering the arrivals the first thing you queue up for is a thermal body image :-O .Immigration was straight forward, though the women in the passport booths seemed more interested in talking to each other, and we got our passports stamped with and entry date and entry number( would soon know that off by heart along with my passport number as we checked into hotels)
Fairly new and impressive airport, and we got outside and checked things out.
There is a bus that runs to the city centre bus station. costs 20 Dirham, but with four of us travelling the taxi guys said they would do it for the same price (i.e. 80) so we went for that optiona as it saved us the walk and trying to find the hotel. Stayed at the SuiteHotel just outside the Medina walls. Will review it seperately, but I really liked it ( will review it seperately, but I thought it was great for travelling and of all the hotels we stayed in it was my favourite).
Kids had been great trapsing about Madrid and then with another early kick off that day,so we let them loose in the hotel swimming pool for a while. Had read up on Marrakech before going and a lot seemed to close down during the afternoon, so we had some time to kill. Not a massive pool, but one of the easiest I found for getting into, not that sharp intake of breath as youenter the water.
Had a bite to eat from the bar menu there, and learned the French for turkey( dinde) as it's the replacement for ham in a cheese and ham baggette ;-)
Time to head out and explore. Short walk to the walls,where we had to cross our first main road. Half OK, as the traffic was stopped in one direction,but you still had to time it between the cars. This was obviously just a practice road :-D . Direct road past the casino was closed and we had to walk round a curving road to get to the top. Here we cut through the park leading up to the Koutoubia Mosque. This is your main landmark :-), any time you are lost just head back to here and start again.
Crossing the next road though, the Ave Mohammed V, was a completely different experience. after a short while you realised you just had to go for it and dodge through the traffic and hope they would stop.
Just outside the Medina
Took the direct road down to the Jaama El Fna square, past the Post Office, and it was fairly quiet. had a walk around and there were a few people selling stuff and a couple of snake charmers, but not much else going on. Time to venture into the souks(market stalls), and we entered by the offshoot of the square to the right.
The souk was covered, but it was still warm in there. It wasn't crowded as we were still early,3pm, and we played safe byy just heading straight down. The place was great, with all sorts of stuff on sale from little shops bulging at the seams. Decide to carry on, and started taking a few twists and turns, but reckoned we were on the right track. WRONG. Ended up out of the souk somewhere completely different.
Park to Koutoubia Mosque
Tried to work our way along the but ended up at the Palais El Badi. Unfortunately it was closed, for whatever reason, and there were soldiers stationed out side it. walked along the walls,where loads of storks had built nests, and stopped to buy some drinks. Talked to the guy that owned the spice shop next to it and he pointed us back in the right direction, and we weren't that far off the mark.
Getting back to the Koutoubia it was a lot busier, as was the road. walked back into the Jamma El Fna and a lot more stalls and people were there. A lot of food stalls in the centre were already up and the rest were in the process of being set up. It ws all a lot noisier now as well. took another walk around and all the time it was getting busier.
Though it may be a square full of pedestrians and stalls, doesn't mean there isn't any traffic, and had to dodge more than a few scooters and horse and carriages. It was all getting more heightend, and there were the Berber tribesmen if different groups drumming away. Wife and daughter decided they might like a Jilaba to wear because of the heat and spent ages in a shop trying on various ones, but ended up not buying one . It can be done, and a result for me :-) Daughter would have got one, but she was very specific in what she wanted, and the one she really liked wanted it to a lot looser fit, but they didn't have any bigger sizes.
Meanwhile my son and i went out and circled the square watching the action. The noise was cranked up and the smoke from the food stalls filled the air.
Marrakech Post Office
stopped at the guys that had the monkeys on the chains, and found them pushy and aggressive. tried to stick one of the monkies on my shoulder and I had to end up yelling at him to F Off.
We all met up outside the Balcon Cafe Glacier where went up and got a table on the balcony, by the side, overlooking the square and watched the throng from above. Two of us went for the Tagine Chicken and the two went for the lamb couscous. Got to say the service was sloppy and we waited ages for drinks, and when we finished the meal were left for ages before getting more drinks and ice cream. As we were sitting there the tempo of the Berber drums, that had been going constantly for the last three hours, changed and there was singing and dancing going on about them.
Jaama El Fna during the day
When we finished our meal we went down to have a look, and again taken by just the whole atmosphere. Despite this being a square full of stalls and people you still have to be on your toes to avoid traffic, particularly the scooters and horse and carriages. Decided to head back to the hotel and grab a couple of beers before calling it a night, and when we got back to the roundabout outside the hotel there was a police van, with two officers,parked on the pavement and there it remained for the of our time in Marrakech. Hadn't been there on our way out, but as well as our hotel there were 3 others close by and the other casino was near as well. No idea why they had it stationed there, never felt under any threat at all in Marrakech.
Had a bit of a long lie, just because we could amd the people that do breakfast did so.
let the kids play with snakes
Headed out and decided to walk round the outside of the walls for a bit and then headin through a different gate. Got onto the Ave.Mohamed V and headed in past the town hall. We still had the balance to pay for our trip to the desert, so we went to find the office,which was relatively easy and we complted the arrangements for the following day. Headed back into the Jaama El Fna and it was practically empty again and went to one of the streets off it and went to a cafe for drinks. I was already discovering, despite having a bottle of something constantly in my hand, that it is well nigh impossible to drink enough. I also discovered I didn't have the 'right' type of clothing. Even t-shirts are to much in that heat. went into the souk and found a stall that sold lightweight shirts and got a loose fitting one.
Into The Souks
Had to haggle over it, all part of the fun, with him wanting 250 Dirham and me telling him it was to much and he asked me to name a price and I said 100.My second offer was 120 and which point he remarked the ''Those are Berber prices'' which my wife said later that the guidebook we had mentioned that phrase and it was the shopkeepers way of saying you were trying to rob him :) . Ended up paying 170 for it and, as like in Jerusalem ,I still had the feeling I came off worse. Later our son haggled over a new pair of sunglasses and he thought it was great fun.
Decided it would be a good time to send some postcards and bought some and went to the post office to try and buy some stamps. It was an automatic ticketing system and I took mine and it was 417.
Down the lane
The place was busy and they were calling 338 and 339. Said to wife and kids to go back to hotel and we would go for a swim. I got bored waiting and decided to go to the souk and walked about and ended up buying a couple of fridge magnets :-) I headed back and passing the post office thought that since I still had my ticket I would go in on the off chance, only to find they had got as far as 368. No chance of me sticking about so I went back to the hotel to join the rest of them.
As an aside,most of the post offices ( a lot of shops don't sell stamps ) ,Poste Maroc seem to be open from 9am to 14-45, and I went into one the folowing day,that was part of a shop, when we were at the Kasbah and got them no problem without having to wait at all .
Loads Of Shops
Back at the hotel, I decided it was to early to be kicking about the pool and wanted to go to the Jardin La Menara and my daughter was up for it as well. The other two didn't want to come as by now the temperature had risen to 48C :-O .Walked up and got to the gardens, which reall consisted of groves of trees, and went round to the pond and the pavillion. headed back to the hotel and by the time we got there we WERE ready to throw ourselves in the pool to cool down.
On our way out that night I wanted to head for the station to do a recce for Sunday when we would be leaving for Casablanca. Didn't look that much on the map, but even at 6pm and carrying no rucksacks it was a long walk. It was roasting as we walked down the centre of the Ave.
Storks On The Palace Wall
De France but the weird thing was when there was a slight breeze it was even hotter. Went into the station and checked out the set up and the trains and were then going to go to the Jardin Majorelle. Wife had bought a guide book,which was reasonably reliable over the pice for Morocco, and it had said the best time to see the gardens was in the evening, but not that they shut at 6pm. We got a taxi back up to the Jaama El Fna and saw our first car smash, and further up the traffic was held up where someone had been knocked down and was still lying in the middle of the road.
Back at the square we were walking about and it started to RAIN :-D Great big massive drops of rain, and folk were gathering up all the stuff off the pavements and folk were heading off.
It only lasted for two minutes, but by that time it looked like there were only tourists left in the place. Given that we weren't sure how the weather was going to hold we decided to go to The Marrakechi restaurant at the side of the square, and the enterance right at the start of the side street that runs off it. OK it was more expensive, but it was a case of you get what you pay for. Windows overlooking the Jaama El Fna meant you could see everything The staff were great , really friendly and efficient, and as we sat with a beer ( big YAY!!! for a restaurant you could get beer in ;-) ) , two dancers and an older woman came in. The dancers bit I got, but the older woman walked about with a tray with candles balanced on her head I didn't understand.
Could they fit any more in
A nice relaxing evening and really good quality food and when we were finished walk back through the square to the hotel and a wee nightcap there before getting ready to set off at 7am the following morning.
As we would be returning to Marrakech after Merzouga, we split our gear and the hotel let us keep three of the rucksacks in the baggage room until we came back, so that we only had to take one with us.