Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Momentous Marrakech Moments

I remember sitting in Marrakech Airport. The atmosphere is warm and stuffy. Jim and my daughter-in-law @pinklizzyg have just returned from spending our last few Dirhams on cokes and crisps - not the healthiest option but the cheapest.

We have had a great holiday. The Riu Tikida Palmeraie is good. It is not the best hotel I have stayed in but the staff are really helpful and friendly. The hotel is in the middle of nowhere and is set in extensive grounds which are really well kept. The swimming pool is about the biggest I've seen but some of the poolside furniture has seen better days. The gym has good quality equipment. The general opinion in our party was that the standard of the food and drink was the best they'd had in an all inclusive tariff. The downside is that because smoking is allowed in reception and the bars there is a constant smell of stale tobacco. I found it irritating but I have to say I was in the minority.

We have seen some wonderful sights. We have been on a tour of the Atlas Mountains and visited the famous Souk and both are unforgettable. The day we set off for the mountains the weather looked changeable. We were both concerned about whether we'd get any good photographs but we need not have worried. We were travelling in a four wheel drive jeep. Our drivers name was Ibrahim but one of our fellow travellers Derek renamed him Brian much to Ibrahim's and everyone else's amusement. The journey was hugely entertaining thanks to Derek and Ibrahim who taught each other various words. I was saying to Derek's wife Kate about something getting on my mammary glands and Ibrahim heard me and kept repeating over and over again 'mammary glands, mammary glands'. It was hilarious but a lesson in being careful before opening one's mouth! We had a couple of photo stops and were given the inevitable shopping opportunity and then made for the designated Berber settlement. When we arrived we were immediately surrounded by runny nosed children and a herd of goats. The children were shouting 'Dirham, Dirham' to which we responded 'no thank you'. We had been asked not to encourage the begging but it was very difficult to resist. However, the children soon disappeared and we began wading through the goats. This was quite an experience for a townie like me. Then we repeated the process as a young woman drove another herd straight at us! When we finally managed to look around we saw men standing about looking watchful. The women we saw were either leading their one cow and or leading their one cow and carrying huge loads on their backs at the same time. We were told each married woman is eligible for a grant by the government to purchase a cow.  This is to encourage them to be self sufficient and from what I saw they've clearly taken advantage of the opportunity. It made me reflect on my own comfortable lifestyle and I suggested to Jim that he remind me of how lucky I am when I begin moaning about my lot!

When we'd regrouped we were led down a sharp track and then we were invited into a Berber home for mint tea with bread and argan oil. The making of tea is a Berber ritual which is full of charm. Though they are paid to allow tourists in we were still made very welcome.  While I was watching the process I noticed that behind the old woman's back was a stereo system and a TV shrouded in a floral cloth. A real sign of encroaching civilisation as were the numerous satellite dishes on the ramshackle rooftops.The tea and bread were delicious and I felt privileged to have been the recipient of their hospitality. Our time there was soon over and we left for lunch in a small village. In the restaurant we sat with a family from Skipton. We swapped some personal information. The mother was a part-time teacher but was interested in becoming a counsellor so she asked questions about appropriate training etc. The time passed quickly and pleasantly. The meal was typical Moroccan fare. A mixed salad with bread, couscous and chicken tagine followed by fruit. When we finally left to make our way back to Marrakech we were replete. We both agreed it had been a brilliant day.  

The following afternoon Liz led us in a expedition to the Souk in Marrakesh - my response to that was wow! The first thing about the experience is the madness of the traffic. They drive on the right which always seems alien to me but they also drive really fast and what feels like an erratic manner. There are push bikes, mopeds, cars, trucks, buses and men pulling carts. One of the oddest sights was a man on a moped dragging a scaffold pole on the ground. Sparks were flying off the pole and the pole kept wandering across the road. This didn't seem to bother him or anyone else either? The pedestrians seem to cross the road in a leisurely fashion while the traffic zips around them - madness! 

We were dropped off just outside the Souk. The Souk itself is a series of market alleys and what a colourful scene. The smells, the colours, the sounds. Traders shout continuously at the shoppers inviting them to look at what they have to offer. We went into a watch sellers to buy a fake Rolex for Alan at his request. We had a brilliant time with the shopkeeper and we bartered him down to a third of the price. When we left we were all smiling.  We wanted to return to the square so we asked the way. The shopkeeper shouted to a passing market worker to take us. On the way he took us into a metalworkers, a cotton dyers and a pharmacy and all the time he kept saying no pay!  In the pharmacy we were given a demonstration of the various lotions and potions and Jim was treated to a short massage. If you knew my OH you would know how funny that was.  My grandaughter created a stir - you'll see from the photographs she is small with very red hair and in fact that was the only discomfort for me. I did feel extremely protective and finished up holding her hand. On a lighter note a young man asked me 'how many camels?' and he nearly fell on the floor laughing when I said, 'five hundred'.

When we finally arrived in Medina square we were assailed with the wonderful sight of snake charmers, musicians, storytellers and henna women but at the same time some of it was distressing. There were tethered monkeys and hawks with clipped wings surrounded by bedraggled pigeons and reptiles in tiny cages. Vendors shouts filled the air offering their wares and offering food. Fish and chips was shouted after us and after being asked where we came from it changed to ee bah gum, Yorkshire pudding and mushy peas! 

We ended the afternoon sitting in a roof top cafe drinking mint tea. Then we made our way to the bus pickup to return to the hotel. We'd all loved it and commented on how non threatening the experience had been despite the fact that we are not used to being swarmed on. On our return we had a drink in the bar regaling Alan with our stories and telling him how much he'd missed! 

The remainder of the holiday was spent sunbathing and reading with occasional alcoholic drink thrown in. If you have not been to Morocco give it a try. It really is a fabulous place and the memory of it will linger with me for a long time.


  1. Thank you for sharing your holiday - love the photo's - the colours came out lovely. Sounds like you had a lovely time and the people seem very friendly - nice to have you back though - and Billy missed you.

  2. Great read.  Fun and informative, it sounds as if you had a wonderful time.  The photos are a lovely addition too, very good

  3. Great to read all about your holiday.  Lots of fun and very informative, it sounds as if you all had a wonderful time.  What was the name of your hotel please?
    Lovely photos too, really enjoyed looking at those!

  4. Hi thanks for your comments - the hotel link is http://www.riu.com/en/Paises/morocco/marrakech/clubhotel-riu-tikida-palmeraie/index.jsp

  5. thanks Sheila it was a fab holiday but it is nice to be back :)

  6. Another great post B! Our eldest went there last year with World Challenge to conquer Mt Toupkal & he's still regaling us with stories a year later!
    Fab pics too - amazing colours!
    Thanks for sharing - it made me smile :-)

  7. Thanks for your positive comment Bob it makes a difference x

  8. Fab photos Babs, looks like my kind of place :) It's good to have you back though!!