Marrakech, Morocco

Last stop Marrakech, 40 hours and 4 flights after Adelaide.

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The Marrakech airport is very nice and surprisingly easily to get out of. Many airports I have been to create a labyrinth of passages and security checkpoints, but not Morocco, here it seems they want you out in their cities rather than taking part in some insane bureaucracy.

We met our guide Brahim from Morocco Key Travel in the airport foyer, my name clearly visible on the sign he held. Looking at all the other drivers, I was amazed at how clearly written all the signs were. This is not your average tourist destination, there seems to be a professionalism you don’t often see anywhere in the world.

Brahim made us feel at ease right away with his smile and gusto. He explained to us as we drove that Morocco was quite liberal for a Muslim country, very easy going. “We are Berber”, he explains and that encompasses everything you need to know. We drive through the new city with modern buildings that pay homage to historical architecture. In the new city, Brahim explains, you can get everything including alcohol (we make a note to try the local wine at some point).

We park the car and walk a few streets to the edge of the Medina. Cars don’t enter the Medina for the most part due to the narrow roads and alleys, it is better to walk, cycle or take a motor bike (some of which drive very fast through the crowded alleys). We hire a local with a trolley (50 Dirham) to take our bags and guide us to Samira’s Riad. We move quickly through the alleys, past stores and restaurants, hooking left and right seemingly at random. The air was warm when we entered but in the tight alleys it is cool due to the high walls.

Samira’s Riad welcomed us in and gave an option of rooms. We settled in and took mint tea with Brahim and our hosts. We were soon joined by Youssef, a friend of Brahim, who would take us through the Medina to the main square and teach us how to navigate the labyrinth. As we drank tea and smoked cigarettes, we talked. Youssef told us that Australians are considered nomads, as those they have met are always travelling somewhere, rarely ever to home. This is true of us as we told them of our year ahead. We also told them that our desire for the day was to see the sun set, eat a good meal and sleep to reset our body clocks after the 2 days of travel. Youssef offered for the Riad to prepare a traditional meal for us upon our return from the main square.

Youssef took us slowly back through the labyrinth and showed us the landmarks to make our way back. He also explained that the smaller alleys always dead end which makes it easy to find your way back. Within a few minutes we began to understand the ease at which you can get around, and what at first seemed daunting was in fact quite easy.

The main square was bustling in the late afternoon with a range of restaurants, greengrocers, potted plant vendors, and beyond that a swath of performers and artists plying their trade. The square was a cacophony of drums, horns, singing, and spruiking. I have been to a few markets in the world but this was my first bazaar and it was alive and daunting.

We found a café on the edge of the square with a rooftop terrace to watch the sun set behind La Koutoubia minaret.

Through dusk we made our way back to the Riad for dinner. The dinner was grand, starting with a lentil soup and eggplant salad, followed by Citrus Chicken Targine with Green Olives, finished by fruit salad. The food was simple but tasted incredible. Cumin and Turmeric subtly mixed with the natural flavours of the other ingredients.

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The following morning we arose, had a breakfast of fresh breads, eggs, yoghurt, and crepes, with coffee before heading out for a walk through one of the nearby parks. That afternoon we caught the Supratours bus to Essaouira where we are staying for the next week.

Other Experiences in Morocco:
Essaouira
Marrakech to Imil
The Route of a Thousand Kasbahs
A Walk in the Dades Gorge
A Night at Erg Chebbi, the Sahara
The Middle Atlas