MOROCCO 2- MARRAKESH
Trip Start Jun 17, 2012
28Trip End Sep 25, 2012
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Where I stayed
Altlas Medina Spa Hotel, Marrakesh
Marrakesh is very different from sleepy Fez- here you have hundreds of modern hotels, few very old at all, in what must be a booming area of development, with everything looking very 21st century until you get into the medina.
First we visited one of the Palaces in town- very Arab and interesting in interior decor, but what we had come to see was the medina and main square- every tourist’s favourite place to get lost in. Actually, getting lost was not as easy here as in Fez, as every alleyway here seems to lead back to the main square.
Unlike Fez, most of the passages and alleyways within half a km of the famous Djemaa el Fna square were wider and aimed more at attracting the tourist dollar rather than being where the local people lived, worked and shopped, as in Fez. Maybe we would have found it less touristy had we had time to get further into the medina back streets?
Djemaa el Fna square was wonderful- snake charmers, monkeys, (yes, Christine ended up with a couple of monkeys draped over her which cost a couple of euros to get removed!) donkeys, fancy carriages and food and juice stalls fought for the tourist’s attention, and at night the whole place became even more frenzied as the square was also transformed with hundreds of street stalls and temporary restaurants to eat at.
Interesting were the mechanical version of the donkeys we saw in Fez- front half a conventional motor bike and rear has two wheels and a tray for goods.
Wonderful spice shops where the owner conducted trade through a hatch in the middle of his sloping and colourful array of spices- many of amazing colours. Many medicine shops where you could cure anything with some dried plant or animal potions.
We set out with the thought of taking home a Tagine- you know, those funny shallow pottery stew bowls with the pointed lids, but after eating tagine cooked food on a regular basis we decided not to. It seems that the long slow cooking in a shallow bowl dries the food out more than a conventional stew pan- little of what we had was properly moist with a nice gravy. However, although a bit dry, the lamb was always lovely- it just fell off the bone.
A well worthwhile €20 additional tour for our free day in Marrakesh took us out into the Atlas mountains and up a valley to a very remote and small Berber village where life looks as if it has continued unchanged for centuries, and a look round a Berber house where we were shown how to make their local sweet spearmint tea.
We were however warned we would be pestered by hawkers selling stuff, but what we didn’t realise is that they would then follow us on motorbikes to our next stop down the road! The whle mountain area is filled with minerals and fossils, and there are a number of fossil shops on the roadsides. For about NZ$10 we brought three golf ball sized boulders which had been cracked open to display their magnificent hollow amethyst crystal interiors- seems as if they are very common in this area.
Camel rides on offer, of course, and some great houses out in the country, often surrounded by mud brick huts. Also out in the countryside, a shame to see fences festooned with wind blown plastic bags- the last time we saw this as bad was in some of the Caribbean islands.
A great photo of the local traveling barber shaving a customer, and another of the local dentist about to pull a tooth without anesthetic. Or were they just great actors?
Back to the hotel pool- this was a lovely hotel- have a look at http://atlas-medina-spa.hotel-rv.com/
And then back to the Medina square for a final colourful evening, before setting out the next day for Casablanca.