Having booked our honeymoon in January we were well excited to get flying by the time November rolled around.
We took the train to Manchester, stayed over and then flew to Marrakech!
We stayed about 15 mins drive outside of the city and could easily hop on the shuttle from the hotel to go wandering around the city.
We arrived a few days before Aid El Kabir, which gave us the rare opportunity to play spot the weirdly transported sheep. It is a Muslim practise that each family should have at least one sheep killed for the festival. As we took the shuttle from the airport to our hotel we spotted our first sheep: being transported on the lap of a man riding a moped.
Our first trip into central Marrakesh was "eventful": we did a spot of shopping (managing some mild haggling) and just as we were wondering what to do with ourselves next (looking a little lost and bemused) were approached by a local offering to show us a Berber Market. He began to take us through the maze of back streets until we were no longer confident of our ability to find our own way back. We were more than a little nervous.
Eventually, having walked past plenty of residential areas with everyone getting ready for the holiday celebrations the next day, we came to a tannery split across both sides of a road. There was a pungent smell and several wide wells filled with coloured liquid for dying the leathers. Our guide kindly recommended we could take pictures and encouraged us to sniff the leathery bits covering the floor, before introducing us to the owners of the leather shop.
We were taken downstairs into the selling room, seated in chairs on the furthest wall and shown a huge array of hand-woven rugs. Having been bribed with some of the worst mint tea we experienced during our whole trip, the sellers asked what our favourite colour was and proceeded to show us all manner of different yellow rugs. They demonstrated the rugs' flame retardant properties by holding a cigarette lighter to the edges and assured us that they were completely machine washable. After much protestation we managed to escape, having paid about £30, and clutching a meagrely sized red rug.
Having been reliant on our "guide" thus far we then had to pay him to take us back to the central square and his service as a whole. Relieved to finally recognise the market place we'd barely began making swift moves toward our return coach before we found ourselves trapped once again, this time by Fatima, a street henna artist who insisted Nom had a pattern done on her hand: "Just one, for luck". She then demanded £40 for the "privilege"; we paid £4.
In retrospect we can highly recommend the Moroccan Lonely Planet guide book, which retells what it calls the "faux guide" experience, right the way from the point of initial contact to the rubbish tea. It also advises that you do as the Moroccan's do, which is to completely ignore any calls from sellers and entertainers. This seems cruel but even a polite "no thanks" is a foot in the door for Marrakech's highly skilled barterers.
During Eid (which our hotel chose to explain this to the English Folks as "the Muslim Christmas") the vast majority of places were closed. We enjoyed being forced to stay in the hotel and make the most of the swimming pools and all inclusive bar.
|We picked up a copy of Grahame Greene's "Our Man in Havana" in the airport, which Malc read to me (over a g&t or two) while we were away.|
The Jardin Majorelle is a key tourist attraction. Formerly a private residence, it was designed by Jacques Majorelle and was bought and refurbished by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. An interesting mixture of Islamic and Western designs, its distinctive feature is its use of bold blues and yellows on everything from the plant pots to the exterior of the house.
Our decision to go all-inclusive was a huge bonus, as our hotel offered an extensive choice of food, including a few Moroccan specialties we were previously unaware of. Our favourite mealtime options included: beghrir (previously featured on this blog), the tea table (which offered fresh mint and dried rosebuds), custard slices, spaghetti, fried fish, balsamic squid, and beef carpaccio.
Our favourite market catchphrases: "changes colour like michael jackson", "it is time", "117 takes you to heaven", "bloody marvellous!" and "See you later alligator".
Aparently on Sundays the locals often head to the Menara Gardens not far from the city walls. According to the locals' stories in this building people had their heads chopped off and dropped into the pond below. The park was lively on a Sunday afternoon with people strolling amongst rows of olive trees, others selling food and drink, and animals standing for photographs.
Turns out that snail soup is highly palatable and worth buying a second bowl.
We left this parting gift for the hotel house keeping staff, who'd kept our room supplied with an ever changing display of folded towels.