I knew Marrakech would be interesting, colourful and busy but I wasn’t prepared for it to be so fascinating, so inspiring, so manic and oh so beautiful! I just can’t convey in words and images how it felt to be there – like going back in time on one hand but then on the other it looked like a stunning set for a Vogue fashion shoot!! I know it sounds mad but it was a place of wild contradiction!
We stayed in a wonderful central ‘riad’ – a traditional building/home where rooms are built around a central courtyard – so from the bright red walls of the narrow alleyways, the dust, the heat and the crowds you step over the threshold of your riad and suddenly enter a parallel world where the temperature drops, where all sound disappears and where no one seems to be around – it was heavenly and a necessary oasis believe me!
Venturing out of the calm of our riad was always an adventure as the alleyways don’t have any names – there’s no map to follow – and with the identical looking alleys twisting and turning into each other it’s disorientating very quickly and the walls are high so there’s no way of spotting anything over head that might steer you in the right direction! We always managed to make it back to the riad somehow but I swear we never took the same route twice and even at the end of our trip I couldn’t tell you exactly where we were based – strangely fun though!
Jemaa el Fnaa, the main square of Marrakech, (once we found it each day and evening!) had a split personality! By day it is a vast open square with the odd fresh orange juice van parked up, along with small groups around a snake charmer (yep, real, live, large snakes slithering around the floor in the main square!) so in all a calm atmosphere where you would stroll and take it all in … BUT somehow as the sun begins to set, and as if by magic, in a flash the square is covered in long tables, stalls of food and full on kitchens !! The atmosphere is ramped up a 1,000 fold as each kitchen and waiters try to compete for your customer – it’s frenzied, exciting and a unique experience to eat there! Needless to say that the food was traditional, fresh and very good – we would recommend Stall no.1
The Souk (market) was another crazy experience – literally a labyrinth of covered tight alleyways criss crossing a vast area with floor to ceiling goods for sale (fabrics, spices, lanterns, tassles, traditional shoes, plus an endless list of other wares!) and for David this was just that step too far as you really do get pounced upon … we would have loved to have taken our time strolling, looking, taking it all in but it was impossible to linger as the hard sell was relentless!
Back on the streets and again you do get approached a lot – I guess as tourists we were always looking a bit lost or indecisive as to which alleyway to take next … so just a light warning that everyone is incredibly helpful and they will say ‘I don’t want money – am happy to show you / give you directions’ but from our experience they always did want, expect and blatantly ask for payment once they’d helped and they won’t give up easily! Small negatives that we quickly caught onto – generally we did feel safe! Another thing though that did shock us, and you should also know and be very aware of, is that the locals DO NOT like being photographed … the traditional clothes, the fabric colours, the wonderful faces I saw at every turn I was frustratingly unable to capture … we have never been anywhere where a tourist is shouted and waved at as soon as you attempt to raise your camera or phone to snap a particular scene on the street on in the market – they literally looked out for people trying to take photos of them which is something we had never experienced before!
The feature image of this post, the cobalt blue wall and yellow pot, was taken at the spectacular Yves St Laurent’s garden – Jardin Majorelle – a beautiful assault on the senses as the colours, planting and scents of the flowers was a joy to behold and well worth visiting, as again you do need these moments of calm! All in all I loved Marrakech and would go again in a heartbeat as every inch of it was intriguing and I don’t feel that I took it all in … for David however it wasn’t his favourite destination as he didn’t find it in the least bit relaxing and at times rather frustrating … would be interesting to see if he felt differently if we went again knowing what to expect second time around! I’m working on it!