We spent a total of 4 nights in Marrakech, the first the night before our tour and then the last 3 when we got back. We did realise it would be a bit of a culture shock, which was pretty spot on. We stayed in the Medina which is the old area of the city, in a Riad, which is a traditional type of Moroccan hotel. The Riad advise to eat in house the first night you arrive which is a great tip as the initial impression you get of the Medina is fairly daunting. We booked a taxi through the Riad to pick us up from the airport, another great idea, as the place you’re staying in isn’t always accessible by car. Our taxi phoned ahead and we were met by the Riad owner and a guy with a pull along cart on wheels for our luggage, we then followed both through a maze of lane ways, full of people, rubbish and cats……makes you wonder exactly where you’re being taken! The beauty of the Riad’s is that the style of building has no exterior windows but is built around and opens onto a courtyard, so as soon the door is opened and you enter inside it’s like being in a beautiful calm oasis and the noise and craziness of the Medina is left behind.
Once we ventured out into the Medina it really wasn’t as bad as we’d first thought, although very full on and can be dirty and smelly in places. The thing you soon realise here is that tourism is the main source of income and everyone wants your money, from hustlers and beggars to people wanting to take your photo or give you directions, or the many many stall or store owners wanting you to buy the local handicrafts, it all comes at a cost. To put that into context tho, half of the Moroccan population is under 25 and a massive 44% of those people are unemployed, so life can be terribly tough, you then understand why everyone is after a piece of you. The basic monthly wage here is only around 240 Aussie dollars.
Not wanting to paint a bleak or bad picture here, the Moroccan people are lovely, very respectful and friendly with a great sense of humour. Even the first night we arrived we were following the taxi driver through the car park loaded up with our 4 big suitcases and he stopped at the smallest car in the parking lot and indicated it was ours, he had a huge laugh at the shocked look on our faces! We usually don’t go for souvenir’s when we travel or even the local handicrafts, but there’s lots of great things to buy here, ceramics, Tajine’s, spices, beautiful lanterns and amazing handmade rugs are just some, and yes we have a few small things packed in our bags to bring home. Larry and Rhona have headed off home with a Tajine in their back pack which cost all of $5 as well as some amazing spices from the guy that had the spice stall just outside of our Riad. The food here is also awesome, with salads, kebabs, Tajine’s and many types of pastries being the main traditional choices.
We spent our days wandering with no real plan, the sun shone each day and we didn’t need to wear our jackets until the evening, a nice change from Shap 🙂 Being a Muslim country alcohol isn’t always available, when you walk past the square’s and cafe’s everyone is drinking water or mint tea, which is the local speciality. We actually got our driver to make a special stop at a supermarket before we went to the desert so we could have a wine (or 2) with our meal. We did find a bar in the Medina tho that was set on a terrace with lovely comfy lounges, maybe a bit embarrassing that we became regulars in the space of 2 days, with the staff recognising us as we came in the door 🙂 we all treated ourselves to a Hammam one afternoon, very different to the one in Seville, but really great. We relaxed in a steam room and were then scrubbed clean with a loofah and a traditional black soap, then covered in a clay mask and left to sweat, followed by a massage – so good 🙂
The first night we ate away from the Riad we went to the local market that’s set up in the main square and full of stall holders all wanting your business, extremely full on and very busy, we finally chose one and had a great meal – Rhona was taking a pic of the man behind the stall that was cooking a whole heap of Tajine’s and the waiters got her up (and then me) to get her photo taken with the cook – lots of laughs and fun.
Advice in Morocco, being a Muslim country is to not show too much skin, so shirts with sleeves and shorts or skirts below the knee. For our last night we wanted to dine somewhere special and asked the advice of the Riad manager – he told us about a restaurant located in the ‘new’ part of the city where the food was traditional and there was music and belly dancers – sounded good to us, so he made a booking and arranged a taxi to take us there and return us to the Riad when we were done. Other than driving from the Airport and out of the city on our tour we hadn’t seen much of the new part of the city. So, picture this …….. we walk from the Riad to where our taxi is waiting, down the lane way past the local stall holders, women wearing burka’s, sitting on a crate selling bread and of course the odd stray cat or 2. Into the cab, leaving the Medina behind we drive down avenues lined with palm trees and fancy hotels and pull up at the entrance to the restaurant where the doorman opens our door and ushers us inside. We go upstairs and are shown our table, the restaurant is plush, low lighting, a DJ spinning some tunes in the background. There’s not a Burka in sight and the women are dressed to impress, tiny short skirts, cleavage and sequins everywhere you look, and lots of older guys with very young lovely girls! So bizarre!! We had a great night the food was awesome and the belly dancers sensational, some were balancing silver trays with tea pots and lit candelabras on their head while they danced, very talented ladies!
So now, we’ve left that behind us and are slowly heading towards home, on our Royal Air Maroc flight to Paris for an overnight stop and the onto Abu Dhabi for our final few days. As always, we’ve had an awesome time with Rhona and Larry, so special to be able to spend Christmas together and to be here to celebrate Rhona’s birthday, I did have tears leaving her behind 😦
We’re hooked on Morocco and will come back, but next time will stay longer and travel much further 🙂