Wednesday 7 September 2011

That's Proper Foreign!

......was the phrase heard as we gazed down from the plane over the vast expanse of scrub desert that is Morrocco. For the past few years we have got cold and wet holidaying in England and France - and France doesn't really count as 'abroad' because we know the language, we know the culture, we know the way it all works and we know how cold the rain can be! So it was decided that to celebrate our Silver Wedding anniversary, we would have a family holiday somewhere different; hot, dry and 'proper foreign' for a change .... and Marrakech was certainly all those things!
So make yourself a cup of mint tea (or 'Morroccan Whisky' as the locals call it!), sit yourself down and join me in a whirlwind tour of Marrakech.

The hot dry air that slapped us in our faces as we left the plane at 7 o'clock at night was just the first of many suprises:
The traffic wasn't heavy, but it was interesting in its make up.....

Cars can't get down the narrow streets and alleyways of the Medina - the old town within the walls, so a man with a handcart trundled our bags to our guest house.

Some of the children that we talked with every day on our way in and out from our riad

We stayed in the wonderful Riad HadikaMaria, an 8 roomed guest house 10 minutes walk from the main Jemma El Fna square (or 3 hours and, eventually, the hire of one small boy as a guide to get you back on your first day!)

The courtyard gardens were beautiful.

The plunge pool was a joy when the temperature topped 40 degrees!

Our room...but, sadly, I never got serenaded by anyone under my balcony!

The rooftop terrace - the view was prettier at night as you couldn't see all the breezeblocks and satellite dishes!

The souk.

A tangle of narrow alleyways where you can buy anything and everything - for a price!

It's easy to get to get lost at first, but it's also easy to get the hang of the layout of the alleys once you dive in and get on with it. As most people are a bit wussy and tend to lurk round the main street, the further in you go, the quieter it gets and the chances of haggling down to a cheaper price are greater. A wonderful place!

We found possibly the world's largest padlock

Tassles - they just love tassles!I've never seen so many tassles, they were everywhere!

"Looking is free today!"

The best compliment that the shop keepers can give you is "You like Berber - strong! Bargain hard!"

Meet Nutty Gnome, Berber woman!

First-Born and Last-Born are also natural born Berber women! :D

"You want nice lamp? I sell you nice lamp - democratic price"?!

Never did find out what a democratic price was.

Last-Born the jewellery maker checking out the quality of the beads in her bead heaven.

*whispers* "You want spices? I sell you spices - I take you to my/my brother's/my sister's spice price...come, come!"

First-Born caught cumin-sniffing!

or you can go to the Dyers Market, a specific area within the souk, to see the yarn and fabrics being dyed - in vast vats of boiling water over roaring fires. How the men coped with the temperatures is beyond me!

....where we bought huge scarves at ridiculously cheap prices - mine was one of the blue ones you can see hanging up...and he showed us how to make it into a toureg turban - not quite sure I could do it again now though!

or check out the fresh produce.....

a bit like this kitten did!

Inside or outside everyone has something to sell

A little further away from the main square and souk the veg stalls were a bit more basic


Nightime in the Jemma El Fna.

A vast almost empty square during the day, a busy, bustling, endlessly entertaining source of food and snake charmers at night.

All the stalls are the same price and serve pretty much the same food - tagines, couscous, kebabs, salads, chips(!), almost too much to choose from. You sit on benches at tressle tables with your 'Morrocan serviettes' (squares of paper!) and order your food from the multilingual staff. It's quick, it's cheap, it's generally hot from being cooked immediately and it's good!

It's worth running the gauntlet of the stalls just to hear the comments they come out with to entice you to their particular stall - hillarious!

"Come, come - cheaper than Tesco"," my stall not just any stall M&S food", "lovely jubbly food", "Jamie Oliver eat here", "better than Asda price", " 'ave a butchers at what we got!", "bluuuuddy luuurvley food!" - how could we resist?

I'm guessing they watch British TV for all the food-related adverts then?!

So there you go. A brief tour of the heart of Marrakech - and I haven't even started on the mosaics, the carvings, the Majorelle Gardens, the Ozoud Cascades........! :)