As usual it has been impossible to write the blog due to lack of internet … or internet that allows me to upload pictures. So … I am going to try a different approach … I will just write it and upload it whenever possible.
We arrived into Marrakech late on Tuesday 10 March. We were very pleasantly surprised with our hotel which is out on the edge of town and we soon realised that it was a great oasis from the craziness of the medina in the middle of town.
The next day we played the first game of the Moroccan Grand Slam with John beating me 6:1,6:1. Fortunately over the four days that we stayed there I managed to improve and managed a 6:5 set towards the end. It is the first time that I have played on clay and I love it. I am keen to head to Spain now just so that I can keep playing on clay. Small things!
We had a pretty relaxed day and were lucky enough to meet some lovely guests from Ireland, France, Australia and Belgium. Sometimes you just get lucky and click with people and over the next couple of days we had a great time with all of them.
In the afternoon we headed into the Place Jemaa El Fna which is the main square from where all of the souks radiate from. Our first stop was an organic apothecary where we bought skin products for John and some argon serum for my hair. Then on to the craziness of Place Jemaa El Fna where all of the snake charmers, orange juice and nut and dried fruits vendors sell their wares. I soon figured out that I had to put my camera away as they spot you from a hundred metres away taking photos of them and they race after you asking for money … if you refuse they abuse you. I found it all a bit aggressive on the first afternoon but soon worked out how it all worked.
We wandered around the souks pretty aimlessly. I was very nervous because I had heard so many stories … “don’t ask anyone for directions” “barter really hard” “watch your bag” etc etc. Consequently I didn’t really enjoyed the first evening. However, we did find Cafe Des Epices … a lovely cafe off one of the smaller squares. We had a great cup of coffee and crepe there and chatted to some locals and foreigners.
We wandered back into the souks and ended up chatting to one of the local guys who was quite charismatic and classed himself as a “healer”. I think he did a bit of reflexology, massage … etc … thought he was a psychiatrist! Anyway, we ended up having dinner with him and his son in a very typical Moroccan cafe. Quite ok. Then we raced our way through the souks … no easy task … to meet up with out lift back out to the burbs.
Next morning whilst having breakfast we ended up hooking up with some other guests who were heading out to the manufacturing area. Delphine, a pocket rocket goer from Luxembourg who is in finance for her main job also has a corporate clothing brand called Queen of Brussels and does pop up shops in Luxembourg, Brussels and Paris. So off we all went miles out into the burbs right over on the other side of town.
The first place we went to was fabulous. A French lady who did mainly home wares but had a couple of great bags and hats. I bought a bag and Gwen bought a hat. After that it was a bit downhill as we had difficulty finding the places that Delphine had on her list. We walked for miles around the area but seeing as there are no street signs, it makes it very difficult to find anything.
John and I didn’t really care as we enjoyed chatting to the others. He spent most of the day chatting to Marcus, a young Australian fellow who works in finance in London. I chatted to his wife Gwen who is a fabulous strong willed French woman. They have a 6 months old baby, Margo who is gorgeous and was behaving herself for the babysitter back at the hotel. Delphine led the charge but after about three hours of just wandering in and out of different home wares places we decided to head back into the city. The boys headed back to the hotel … John to do whatever and Marcus to look after Margo.
Delphine had people in the souk that she needed to catch up with so we went with her and wandered. Didn’t end up buying anything but enjoyed the afternoon.
Then we headed to the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens where there was a very nice shop. I bought Matilda a couple of pairs of rafia shoes that she had asked for … but that was about it.
That night we hooked up with Katie and Maria … a mother and daughter duo from Dublin … and walked about 15 minutes to a hotel nearby for a great meal with lots of laughter and insight into a crazy murder case that is currently in the courts in Dublin. Very “Days of our Lives”. Ha! They were seriously into it.
The next day once again we took it easy and opted for our free hammam and scrub …. we gave it a three … out of ten. Ha! Just enough to make our skin crawl from dryness. We headed into the souks on the 3 pm shuttle and our first stop was lunch up in one of the rooftop restaurants in the souks. It was by far the best meal that I have had so far in Morocco and cost $15. We got trapped talking to one of the guys in an apothecary but as it turned out it he was quite interesting and I loved the photos I took there. John had a shoulder massage that was useless. While he was doing that I went out and bought a pair of baboushes to wear as slippers … rather groovy but I am sure they will fall apart in five minutes.
Whilst wandering we came across a sign for Terraces des Epices … a westernised restaurant that I had read about. We found it pretty easily and I was thrilled to find that there were about 10 great shops underneath it, so I sent John up for a coffee and did a quick sweep of the shops which culminated in me buying a dress that I am hoping will be handy in Egypt. The cafe/restaurant was a great spot and we enjoyed black tea … which is hard to get, and coffee. After that we headed into the main square Jemaa El Fna where we bought fabulous huge tasty dates, dried apricots and sesame coated almonds which are way too moorish. It is really quite interesting. Everyone tries to make a buck out of you but once you have bought something from them and had a pleasant trade they are fabulous when you go back. This was the case with the date seller. After we tasted it all and munched through the almonds, after dinner we decided to go back and buy some more and he was so excited this time … weighed them properly and then thru in a huge handful because now we were his friends … my friends, my friends.
Evening in the square is a whole different scenario and quite a hoot. It was serious theatre as we walked around the fifty odd food stalls, basically all selling the same thing but acting out different forms of theatre to try and get you in. When they do rope a couple of people in there are huge hoops of clapping and laughter welcoming the new guests. We shared a plate of mixed seafood which was really rather delicious. The salads looked great but I have too much respect for my stomach to eat salads in Morocco. Cooked food only for this little black duck.
As the shuttle wasn’t due for a couple of hours we decided to get a taxi back to the hotel. I was determined not to get ripped off so bartered hard and got a guy to accept my price pretty quickly. Unfortunately this turned into a huge fight amongst the taxi drivers. Our guy got in the taxi (so did we) and other guys came up and abused the hell out of him doing the f… you sign to him. All over 10 dirrham … all over $1.30! When we got back to the hotel we had our free bottle of wine that we were promised as part of the booking and had an early night.
Saturday was book out day from the hotel and a lady was waiting for us with a hire car that the hotel had organised. The car hire is $50 per day but we had to pay cash. Then she asked for a passport as security and of course I said sorry, no way. John handed over his drivers licence but she said he would need it with him. As it turned out we left no security. She was a delightful lady and drove us back to her office so we would know where to drop the car off. She also gave us a satnav free of charge which was great. Note that I only put the prices of things in case someone is planning to come to Morocco so that you can get a rough idea of the cost of things.
So off we headed into the traffic which wasn’t too bad as we were at Guerliz which is the modern part of town with very wide streets as it was designed by the French. We were both a bit nervous as they are all either talking on their mobiles or texting and just wander all over the road. Add in motorbikes that do the same thing and it is quite nerve racking. However, after about 10 minutes we were in the country and there was a great road to the Ourika Valley. We stopped at the tourist information and had a great chat with one of the local Berber men.
This is how argon oil is made … from the nuts of the argon tree. On the left the nuts have been roasted before being ground. This is used for eating and cooking. On the right the nuts are raw and this is used for oil for hair and cosmetics.
Above is our nut vendor and here is just one photo of the thousands of shoes available for purchase in the souks.