Yes, I know, I haven’t written a blog post on here for ag(ggggggggggggg)es. I have a good excuse though, that I’ve been concentrating on my newfound self-employment – I left my full-time job in January to start working for myself, making web-related things under the name Designed by Ross and have just joined a web design franchise called Plug and Play (I’ll be launched in Bristol very soon). Busy busy!
The great thing about self-employed life is the flexibility, which is why I was able to book a last minute break to Marrakech with Mum.
Primarily, I learnt two things from the trip: 1. I’m going to try, no matter what it takes, to avoid flying with Ryanair again. 2. The Moroccan people in the city centre of Marrakech are absolutely crazy!
The last minute package deal didn’t state the airline, and it was kept very quiet until the last minute, so had no choice in the matter, but at least I’ve gotten that ‘experience’ out of the way (hopefully never to be repeated). In short, after the feudal fight for queue position and airplane seats (which would be easily calmed by allocated seating), the aircraft taxied onto the runway and the pilot came on over the tannoy to say that it was having electrical issues and that, as a result, he would have to ‘turn it off and on again’ – which I found hilarious, being something IT support would say in response to a computer issue, like in The IT Crowd.
Anyway, one faulty aircraft and its replacement later – and two lots of seat ‘free-for-all’ battles – and we were Africa-bound at 500mph in a yellow-cladded container (mmmmm, yes, the decor was to die for).
Menara Airport is an architectual beauty, as you can see from the panoramic I made with my phone, and they seem to be building a huge additional section to it currently. Make sure you have a pen in your hand luggage though, as I now will always carry with me when travelling, as you have to fill in an entry form in immigration but there aren’t such things as pens-on-chains (I guess most other airlines would have warned us and probably supplied the forms and pens before landing, but that was a good learning curve!).
Fast forward to the second day, when a very cool morning led to the quick decision to travel into the Souks. The Souks are an ancient market area, summed up by this fantastic description I found online:
“[The Souks are] a honeycomb of intricately connected alleyways, this fundamental section of the old city is a micro-medina in itself, comprising a dizzying number of stalls and shops that range from itsy kiosks no bigger than an elf’s wardrobe to scruffy store-fronts that morph into glittering Aladdin’s Caves once you’re inside”
We did what the guide books tell you not to do and accepted the invitation of a local to show us around the Souks and I’m so glad that we did. It gave us an informed, whistlestop tour of the area and took us to hidden gems that we would have never been able to find by ourselves – some of the places we went into you would never know we there, as they were actually Riads hidden behind inconspicuous entrances.
The reason why the guide books tell you not to do this is that the local will pressure you for more money when it comes to paying up and this man just doubled whatever I was prepared to pay him – we waited until we were back to a main area, so that we didn’t get lost, then thanked him and I stood my ground when he asked for more (after all, if he was doing that all day he would be on quite a reasonable wage!).
The strangest sight was at the very start of our guided tour, when a brand new and shiny Bentley was pushing its way past donkeys and carts and locals on rusting bicycles. It looked so out of place and the owner was obviously exercising their power and wealth amongst all the obvious poverty and basic living – I jumped back to get enough space to capture as much of the scene as possible, managing to fit in a donkey and cart and a few scowling faces.
Just half an hour to 45 minutes of this was enough to tire us out and I had managed to get plenty of photos, so we walked back to the bus pickup area and went back to the hotel.
A couple of days later, after enjoying the sun by the pool, we went back into the city centre for the evening/night to eat out and experience the famous market gathering of Place Jemaa el-Fna. Mainly a daily shopping market for locals, it has slightly adapted to incorporate tourists via some sneaky tactics. These primarily involve placing animals on tourists as they walk past, then demanding money for this unsolicited service, and asking for money if a tourist points a camera towards them. The snake charmers were the funniest to watch when it came to this; most of them had 4 or 5 men surrounding the snake charmer, looking out towards the crowd in every direction, and if an ‘unpaid photograph’ was about to occur they would shout something and the poor snake was thrust under a round, wooden container!
We chose a restaurant/cafe overlooking the square and sat outside on the third floor, watching the square become ever more lively as the sun went down. Steam was rising from the food stalls, releasing some gorgeous spices into the air, and crowds gathered around mini-shows and storytellers. After a fantastic mixed grill and chicken dish, we went for a wander and stumbled across the most beautiful riad hotel and restaurant and had an impromtu Moroccan ‘afternoon tea’. This consisted of Moroccan mint tea, which was extremely sweet and so I absolutely loved it, and a selection of little cakes! Perfect!
Crossing the roads in Marrakech is an experience in itself. You basically have to just walk out to where the gap in between the oncoming cars/motorbikes/bicycles/horses and carts will be, otherwise you’d be stood on the pavement for an age if you were waiting for a break in the traffic!
I’ve almost got a whole series of photographs documenting the Moroccan motorcycle usage – from whole families of four on a single bike to one man carrying a heavy-looking sack between him and the handles and another playing with his smartphone whilst zooming past! Suffice to say, I felt extremely safe when I got back to the English roads!
Anyway, the photographs, here are a selection: