Respect the culture!!!
I am refering to the ladies exposing their shoulders and chests in Morocco. Granted I don´t mind showing my stomach at home, but when you are in a country that has other attire customs please respect them. I saw so many women completely disregarding the Moroccan culture and exposing their skin. Just respect it a little, I´m not saying wear a veil and dress in black, but please respect their culture keep your shoulders, chest, stomach and upper knee area covered.
We used EL GATTIOUI Abdelkbir
Grand TAXI n* 222
Cell phone 061 24 25 96
It was an old Mercedes Benz with dark blue courtains in the windows. No AC, but the guy was great adn very friendly.
He can take you to the sea or to the mountains. You can also use him for 10 Euro to get you to or from the Airport.
Upmarket Italian restaurant
I ate at Portofino Ristorante Pizzeria one evening during my visit to Marrakech in February 2007.
This upmarket Italian restaurant forms part of the Hotel Islane complex (where I was staying) and is located on Ave Mohamed V, right opposite the Koutoubia minaret. It is a 5 minute walk from Djemaa El Fna square.
The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere with candlelit tables, dim lighting and soft background music. It was practically empty when I dined there, and the few other diners that arrived during my meal were western tourists. The high prices, relative to local cuisine, means that this restaurant is probably out of the price range of many of the locals.
The menu includes a large selection of pizzas (50 - 90 Dhs), as well as pasta dishes, seafood options and beef steaks.
Starters include ham and melon, avocado shrimps, shrimp cocktail and salads, while desserts include fresh fruit, ice cream and tiramisu.
No alcohol is served, so choices of drinks include fruit juices, canned soft drinks, 3 brands of non-alcoholic beer and hot beverages.
I took a seat by the large glass window, with an excellent view of the Koutoubia minaret lit up at night, and watched the throngs of people passing by en route to the Djemaa El Fna.
The service was very friendly and efficient. I opted for:
Cocktail of Shrimps - Cost: 65 Dhs
A nice (but rather expensive) prawn cocktail. Served in a glass dish, with four lettuce leaves topped with a generous serving of small prawns in a thousand island dressing and garnished with tomato and lemon. Accompanied by a complimentary plate of sliced crusty bread topped with diced tomatoes and herbs.
Grilled sea bass - Cost: 130 Dhs
This dish was highly recommended by the waiter, who insisted that it was excellent. Having had sea bass for the first time on a recent trip to Portugal, I decided to give it a try. When it was brought to my table, my meal consisted of one plate containing rice and sliced vegetables (carrots, avocados, cauliflower...) and another containing what appeared to be a large mound of salt. The waiter used a knife to chip into the salt, and it crumbled away to expose a large silver fish beneath it. He then skinned the fish and proceeded to slice four large pieces of white fish from the main skeleton, placing them on the plate with the rice and vegetables. This is apparently how sea bass is cooked and served in France and Spain according to my waiter. The meal was accompanied by tartar sauce and thousand island dressing. The fish was very tasty and, thanks to the waiter's handiwork, contained very few bones!
Schweppes Lemon - Cost: 20 Dhs per 330ml can
Very good Italian food in an intimate setting, but far more expensive than the local cuisine. Recommended!
The real thing.
I wanted to see the real thing. The famous souks.
I had a detailed book with different maps...
but they all get useless in Marrakesh.
They work perfect in the new parth , were streets
have names...but here in the ravel of little streets.
We were too exited anyway. We just walked by our
impulses. Oh , look at that , and then turned
left and right...and then here to there.
Just get lost , don't be afraid ,
take a taxi afterwards. ;-)
Marrakesh in three days
"Intro to Marrakech"
Every year, my wife Bethany and I celebrate our wonderful marriage, now on 22 years, with a trip together. In prior years, we've made trips to Tuscany , Dublin , London and Sardinia . This year we decided to leave Europe all together and head to Marrakech , Morocco , in North Africa .
We'd been to Tangier , Morocco , a couple years ago, taking a ferry over to the northern tip of Africa during a trip to Spain . It was a nice visit and Bethany and I had talked ever since about making a longer visit to Morocco , either to Marrakech or Fez . This year, with Ryan Air making daily trips in and out of both cities, we decided to go for it over the President's day weekend.
The flight to Marrakech was early Saturday morning (6:30 am) and landed at 9 am in the country's largest city, with a population of more than a million. We'd booked a room with an agency that put us into a Riad (large, single family home with open courtyard in the middle) that was owned and renovated recently by a Moroccan woman who had apparently done very well for herself. Although we spoke little French and no Moroccan, we were able to communicate well enough with the Riad's manage, Sibo, the things we needed. Sibo was an excellent help to us.
Our Riad, which had about six bedrooms for tourist, was located centrally in the medina (old, walled city), about five minutes on foot from the large, famous Djemma el Fna plaza in Marrakech, at the edge of the souk (open market). Since it was still pretty early in the day by the time we got settled in, we immediately went out to explore the old, meandering along the edge of the open market toward the first of the museums we'd taken in that day.
"The souk ... sights, sounds and (um) smells."
It's easy to give a clinical description of what the souk (open market) is like in Marrakech: it's a series of covered streets and alleys in which every square centimeter has a shop that's often no larger than a room or closet in America . Merchants were selling everything from tourist trinkets and knives to western clothing, leather goods and live turtles. There was also food for sale, Moroccan clothes and dozens of other commodities for sale. The atmosphere is very hard to capture in words: the market is loud, bustling with merchants, everyday Moroccans and tourists. The merchants are shouting at the passersby trying to get them to notice their goods while the pedestrians dodge and weave. Add to that the donkey karts and moped-driving kids speeding through the crowds of people and you can get an idea of what's involved. It's loud, smelly and chaotic on a scale most westerners would find disturbing. Stopping and looking at the goods - a necessity - is fraught with the very real danger that you might end up in a bargaining session for something you don't even want.
After getting through the market for the first time, we ended up at the Marrakech Museum , a former Koran school dating from the 16th century. We bought a ticket for the three local museums (a former palace, old ruined mosque complex and the school) and started in at the school. When we entered, a very helpful gentleman offered to give us a tour which consisted of him repeating the same seven English phrases he knew over and over for 30 minutes as we toured the school, its dormitories and the associated mosque:
"It had 900 students.
Rich lived upstairs; poor lived downstairs.
Students prayed 5 times a day.
Students went to school for five years.
You get the picture. I thought the tour was part of the museum experience and was included in the price; how wrong I was. Once the tour was over, the guy holds out his hand and asks for 10 Euro. I have him 2 Euro and some change. From the look on his face you'd have thought I'd slapped his mother. But after pouting for a few seconds and observing its lack of affect on me, he was off after the next couple walking into the museum. I made that sound negative, but it really wasn't. But the school and the nearby palace were beautifully adorned with mosaics, intricately carved white plaster and painted cedar panels that were amazing.
It was great visiting these museums, but from that point forward, we'd always tour the sites on our own, walking quickly away from anyone wanting to "help" us. After the walk through market, during which we only bought a Morocco national team soccer shirt for Stewart, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. After dark we went out for dinner, finding a decent restaurant south of the big plaza.
The following day, Sunday, we got up and hit the museums south of the big square. There are probably 20 sites that the guide books describe as worth seeing in Marrakech. Saturday, we'd seen four of the decent sites north of the big public square. Sunday we headed south of the square on foot, trying to find out way through the maze of alleys and streets. We got dead ended a few times, but eventually found our way to the Dar Si Said Museum , an old palace that featured art, textiles and antiques from various Berber tribes, among other things. We then hit another former palace (Bahia Palace), and a ruined palace (El Badi) from the 12th century.
At that point, we wanted to visit the real highlight of the Marrakech museum circuit, the 16th century Saadian Tombs. These featured the crypts from the Saad family, rulers who'd come to Morocco from what is now Saudi Arabia . These crypts and the rooms they occupied are considered some of the most beautiful and elaborate designs and buildings in Marrakech. (see pictures)
Following that, we got a nice lunch and headed back to the hotel through the acrid smoke from the diesel vehicles and two-stroke scooters, stopping at a local travel guide's office to organize a trip over the nearby Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara Desert for Monday.
"Over to the Sahara"
Monday, we got up early as the one-day excursion over the mountains into the Berber villages and outer Sahara desert started at 7 am. We met up with a nice English couple, Stef and Norm, who were taking the same van with us over the hills with our guide Mohammed. Mohammed's English wasn't good, but fortunately Norm spoke good French and was able to translate when we needed it. Moroccans speak several languages -- Moroccan/Arabic, Berber and usually French.
We headed over the mountains at dawn, stopping a few times to snap some pictures. At the very top of the pass before heading over to the Sahara side of the Atlas (13,000 plus ft at the highest) we stopped for tea and bargaining with guys selling all kinds of questionable goods. I bought a nice silver (?) bracelet from the owner of the restaurant. He started out at 800 dirham and I offered 200 - 10 minutes later he took my 200 dirham, about 18 Euro.
After that we headed down the Sahara side of the Altlas mountains and did what I'd call a drive-by viewing of Ait Benhaddou, an 11th century Berber village that's been named a UNESCO world heritage location. However, after viewing it from afar, the driver packed us up and headed off to the next spot leaving us all a bit disappointed.
We then drove to the town of Ouarzazate to see the nearby Kasbah (castle) from the 13th century. We had a great guide there who told us the history and the Kasbah, the region and something of the politics of Morocco . This Kasbah was at the cross roads of the trade routes heading north, southeast to Timbuktu (literally) and northeast to Marrakech. It was owned by a famous family until 1956 when they sided with the French colonialists against the Moroccan royal family and were deposed. He also explained why woman and men are separated during prayer in a mosque, with the men toward the front facing Mecca and the women in the back. He said that if the women were on the Mecca side, when they all knelt and bent over to pray, the womens' butts would distract the men. Made sense.
After lunch, we insisted on going back to Ait Benhaddou, we found a "new" town across the river from the old village and our driver got us a guide from among the locals, who then took us down to the river where camels and donkeys were ferrying people across the muddy, knee-deep river to the other side where the old village was. The four of us took camels across the river guided by a dreadlocked clone of Bob Marley. I quietly sang "Rasta Man ..." and made our guide smile.
This village was mostly abandoned but for seven families still living there on this UNESCO site. The buildings had high mud and straw walls and little windows. UNESCO had clearly spent some money restoring some of the buildings that had deteriorated, and laying down some rock on the footpaths between the buildings. I won't try to describe the place -- the pictures will have to do it. The guide took us to the home of one of the families still living there that, for a few dirham, would let us take a look around their place. We walked quietly through their rooms, all separated by a common court yard, and went to the roof where we could get a view of the house in context with the whole village. Goats were kept in a room on the roof, presumably for milk, and the lady of the house came in while we were there, carrying a huge bundle of straw and foliage for the beasts. (I tormented Bethany by suggesting I'd give the old lady 10 dirham for a piggy back ride - I kill myself sometimes).
The thing that was really cool about this family, this village and the Berbers in general is that they're basically living the same life now that they would have lived 100 or 1000 years ago. Other than electric lights and a few satellite dishes on the roofs, their daily lives consisted of subsistence farming and selling their hand-made goods to supplement their incomes. They seemed perfectly happy and healthy without the trappings of modernity. It's like walking into the Old Testament and having a look around.