Winter and Summer in Marrakesh
"Arriving in Marrakesh - January 2005"
Wow! what can I say about this fascinating city that will do it justice?
Marrakesh had long been on my top 10 places to see list. So looking for somewhere special to celebrate my Birthday, I decided it had to be Marrakesh!
I was particularly looking forward to experiencing the excitement and drama of Djemma El Fnaa Square, wandering around the souks and learning about the history and culture of the city. It would be my first visit to Africa too.
Pre- departure I'd been given mixed advice. Most had loved Marrakesh, but there were those 'friends of friends' who'd had bad experiences!, and questioned my sanity for travelling alone to Marrakesh! Fellow VTers who'd travelled solo were mainly encouraging.
Well, I loved Marrakesh from the minute I arrived!
Anyone planning a visit for the first time, and have worries/ concerns after hearing 'horror stories' please keep an open mind- I'm sure you'll have as great a time as I did!
I always find it magical to arrive in a new place when it's dark. Speeding through the streets to my hotel, I tried to take in all the un usual sights.
My first sight of the Koutoubia Mosque, floodlit against the winter sky, people bustling around, men walking or cycling with the pointed hoods of their jellabahs looking quite sinister at first, caleches winding between the cars and mopeds, the illuminated fountains and shops/cafes of Ave Mohammed V.
After checking into my hotel, a quick 'welcome Meeting' with our Panorama rep over my first (of many) mint tea, a quick wash n brush up, and I was heading for Djemma El Fnaa by taxi, just over an hour since arriving at the airport!
I'd intended my first view of this legendary arena to be at night time, so I wasn't disappointed!
Djemma El Fnaa was even better than I'd anticipated!
My taxi dropped me off opposite the Koutoubia mosque, and soon I was walking through the crowds of one of the streets off Djemma el Fnaa, as I got nearer, I could hear the incessant drumming sounds, people chattering in all languages above the call to prayer.
In the distance I could see smoke rising, above kerosene lamps, which I could soon smell, along with the fumes of passing motor cycles, and donkeys!
Within minutes, I was standing in the chaos of Djemma El Fnaa- and I LOVED it!!
"An assault on the senses!!!"
Marrakesh assaults all your senses, individually and collectivelly!
Some of my special memories are:
My first view of Djemma El Fnaa at night, the bright blue painted house and pots in the Majorelle Gardens, the reflection of the ornate doorway in the pool at Ben Yusseff Medersa, the carved and painted ceiling in Dar Si Said, The bright coloured dyed silks, a glimpse of the High Atlas Mountains.
The tanneries (say no more!) , mint tea, charcoal grilled food in Djemma el Fnaa, spices in the souks, leather bags and babouches,kerosene from the lamps that illuminated the entertainers in Djemma el Fnaa. Petrol fumes from the many mopeds, the horses and donkeys that pulled the caleches or ricketty carts, the many perfumes and aftershaves of fellow travellers!
** During my summer visit the most pungent smell was of stale urine from the many caleche pulling horses-pheeew!!!! it wasn't difficult to find where they were stationed!! **
-Mint Tea, Orange juice, freshly cooked food in Djemma el Fnaa, fresh bread and creamy butter at breakfast time, sheeps testicles!!! and tender cooked lamb, with cumin and salt 'dip', The hot spicy Hunja- a very welcome drink on a cold night.
The musicians in Djemma el Fnaa, the clip clop of the horses pulling the caleches, rifles being fired at Chez Ali, the call to prayer from the mosques, the blend of languages and dialects heard around Marrakesh, the trickling water of the many fountains and pools.
The soft leathers, a massage, people crowding around whilst watching performers in Djemma el Fnaa.
"Second Visit - August/September 2006"
My next visit to Marrakesh was in the Summer of 2006, at the start and end of a Moroccan Tour
It was quite different to my experience in January - I arrived in the daytime to find it very hot, humid and overcast, and even busier!
I spent one night at Riad Al Mamoune, before catching a bus to Ouarzazate, where I spent a few days, before joining a tour group. During the tour, we returned to Marrakesh for an overnighter, before travelling to Essaouira. After a night in Essaouira, we returned to M'Kesh, where the tour ended. I stayed on for a further 3 days.
So, I got the chance to see some new places, and revisit some of the places I'd seen in Jan 05.
I'll be adding new tips and photos, and updating my other tips (** = updated info)
I think I preferred my 1st visit in January, it was cooler, less humid, and felt like there was less hassle - there didn't seem to be so many outstretched hands for baksheesh at every encounter! (also I was just based in the one hotel, whereas my Summer visit I stayed in 3 different hotels in the city, to-ing and fro-ing)
Having said that, I did still enjoy exploring new areas, and re-visiting some of my previous favourites. I even managed to find the Badia Palace this time!
I think I might have seen Marrakech at the right time, before it becomes even busier and more commercialised/Westernised - looks like it could be heading the same way as Turkey, with International hotel groups and businesses setting up shop.
Originally (Naively), I thought this might be good for the Moroccan people, with better job opportunities etc, but I've since learnt that any getting jobs will be on a very basic wage/ poor working conditions etc