First blog - jsut getting going
13.12.2006 - 17.12.2006 7 °C
We arrived by Easy Jet to Marrakesh and clear blue skies at about 11am on Wednesday 13th December. After waiting in a long queue to get cash from the only cash machine in the airport (you cannot get Moroccan currency before you arrive), we headed outside to get a taxi to the Medina, the old town. We were expecting an onslaught of taxi drivers trying to con us out of our newly acquired money – but instead were left to wander out of the terminal building aimlessly until we found a waiting taxi driver. After some minimal haggling (a taxi ride to the medina should cost you about 70Dh), we were on our way.
Arriving at the medina is a bit of a culture shock. The majority is pedestrianised, so the taxi drops you on the edge. A short walk took us to our first accommodation, Riad Omar, which we had booked online before we arrived. The room was fairly basic but nice and had an en suite, for 45 Euros a night. We dumped our bags, showered, and headed out into the medina.
Our first taste of Moroccan cuisine was at La Maison du Couscous on ????????? just along from the Riad. The food (tagine and couscous) was good, although we were soon to discover, pretty much the same as everywhere else! This was also our first taste of Moroccan mint tea – a small ornate teapot filled with mint leaves, tea leaves and sugar which the Moroccans pour from a height into a small glass – which was to become a firm favourite!
We then headed out to Jemma al Fna, the large square in the centre of the medina which comes alive at night, and the bazaars in the street around it. It is not a place for window shopping as you are bartering before you have even seen what is on offer! Not being a huge fan of bartering (or filling the house with souvenirs that don’t look quite as good once they are back home in England!) we headed off to find the Koutoubia mosque.
The mosque and its towering minaret stand in a square with gardens behind. This area of the city is much calmer than the medina and you are generally left alone to wander around. From Koutoubia we tried to walk to the Palace but a Kuwaiti delegation had got there first and the roads were all closed!
Returning back to the room, we found a bouquet of roses and a birthday cake with Happy Birthday Michelle in icing! The girl at reception had obviously realised it was my birthday when she looked at the date of birth on my passport while we were checking in. This was one of the nicest things that happened to us in Morocco and helped us to keep sane when the not so nice things happened!
We headed out to the square for the evening – looking forward to sampling some of the food from the barbecues. They are an amazing site, sending smoke out from the middle of the square with a constant turnover of people eating. The food was good (tagine and couscous again!), although expect to pay more than the advertised price as the bread and dips you can’t refuse are not free! Regardless though, its an enjoyable and relatively cheap way to eat. Another great find was the ginseng drinks (sometimes called Moroccan whiskey) from the smaller stalls in the square. However, entering into the square at night does bring with it the bad side of Marrakesh – the relentless hassle. From men with funny hats to beggars to girls who will forcibly apply henna to your hands to barbecue stallholders we were not left alone for a minute – everyone wanting our money. The only solace is a ginseng stall where the stallholder will keep people away from you (although not all do this) or one of the cafes on the edge of the square where you can hide inside and watch from afar. If you could be invisible, the square would be an absolutely amazing place – however, for those without a magic cloak, it can be quite tiring.