Monday, March 27, 2006

Days 4 - 7: Marrakesh

In my previous post I was vaguely complimentary about Agadir. Excuse the crudity, but compared to Marrakesh it's shite.

Woman walking down alley, Marrakesh

It's hard to describe Marrakesh without resorting to a range of cliches, waxing on about the "maze of mysterious alleyways", the "droves of wily hustlers", the "hypnotic music of the snake charmers". But there's a reason they're cliches: having arrived in the city's Medina (the old bit), we quickly became lost in the maze of mysterious alleyways, only to be fished out by a hustler, who showed us to our hotel in a wily attempt earn a commission. Luckily it was full.

We eventually parked next door, the Hotel Zitoun, a place - gasp! - not mentioned in the Rough Guide. Those who know me well will be shocked at such rash anti-Rough behaviour; it would be wrong to say I consult the good book religiously - I'm more like a zealous lunatic. But such daredevilry paid off: the room was cheap, clean enough and allowed us to foil the aforementioned wily hustler.

The Zitoun, and our subsequent guesthouse, the ace Mogador Hotel-Riad, was just around the corner from the famous Djemma el Fna, a huge open space filled with crowds of people, gathered round an array of performers, including, yes, snake charmers.

Djemma el Fna at dusk, Marrakesh

Wandering round the djemma you see all sorts: a man with a live chicken on his head dances and plays his two-string ginbris to a manic Moroccan beat; hunched old men in long robes slowly cross the square; juice vendors seated behind rows of oranges desperately invite you closer when you glance their way; lonely herbalists sit looking gloomily at their spices; tourist couples wander hand in hand, cameras swinging; bicycles, motorbikes and petit taxis haphazardly weave through the sparser areas of crowd, displacing people on all sides.

When it gets to dusk, even more people arrive and smoke fills the square as the cooks light up the fires. Soon the constant drum beats will be accompanied by mad yodelling as the call to prayer screeches out from the loudspeakers of the surrounding minarets. You really don't get that in Agadir.

Djemma el Fna, Marrakesh

Days 1-3: Agadir


Phu said...

Nice one, I'm gonna go travelling in a few months, and by process of elimination, I'm hoping to decide where I actually want to go. You just scratched another one of my list!

Nicole said...

Dude, sounds awesome. Am very jealous. Looking forward to seeing the pictures when you're back...

a.c.t said...

Sounds great. Might be visiting Tangier this summer for a couple of days from Southern Spain.

Marrakech property said...

Great pictures and great trip! And did you visit Djemaa el Fna, it is not only Africa’s busiest square but also home to the souk – Morocco’s busiest marketplace. During the day, Djemaa el Fna throbs to the rhythm of traditional instruments being played, snake charmers, dancing boys, magicians, acrobats, water carriers and storytellers, who combine to create a magical atmosphere. The souk, meanwhile, is a heady mix of sights, sounds and smells, where you can pick up everything from handmade leather goods and sportswear to jewellery, watches and furniture. The stall owners are friendly and, frequently, charming – bartering with them is a sport in itself. The authorities are very much aware of the city’s tourist pull and, although it may be respectful for women to cover up a little more than they might in other destinations, the area is well policed and the locals used to tourists.