Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Novotel Suites

Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, July 31, 2010

Without any direct flights from Northern Ireland into Morocco we flew via Alicante and while the majority of passengers transferred on to buses bound for Benidorm we found ourselves with another laugh-a-minute layover. Alas, our onward flight was with the delightful Ryanair and as their baggage drop does not open until two hours before departure, we sat in a small café nursing a coffee for as long as possible while doing homework and reading. Sarah became quite distressed in the café as upon turning the camera on to edit some video for the blog, it inexplicably died (lens mechanism jammed open and the camera was unable to function at all) :-( This is the second camera that has died on our travels, but fortunately we still have one working so all is not lost.

Ryanair operates a policy of non-assigned seating and so generally speaking, as soon as the gate is posted on the departures board, a line immediately forms at the gate. For our Alicante to Fez flight, the assigned gate was already in use for another flight which had been delayed and many of the Ryanair passengers had therefore formed a queue at the next gate? Derek and Alex joined that line for safety while Sarah and Lauren hung around at the assigned gate and were eventually joined by a small handful of other passengers. When our flight was called through the original assigned gate (where S&L were) there was a stampede and a near-riot when those that had been lined up for the best part of an hour realized that Sarah and Lauren and a few other late arriving passengers were now boarding ahead of them! A little travel experience combined with a divide & conquer strategy kept us a step ahead of the sheep!

Once on board, the flight was uneventful and we landed in Marrakech to an overwhelming round of applause from many of the passengers? Some people really need to get out more! …or maybe they'd heard the Ryan Air reputation and were just happy to land safely! Immigration was pretty smooth (although they stamped the last blank page in Lauren’s passport, so let’s hope we don’t need any more visas before returning to Canada) and we were soon on the bus into the city centre. The bus driver was kind enough to announce our stop and give us walking directions to the hotel. It had been a long travel day having left Londonderry at 7am and checked in to the hotel at about 10pm.

The hotel we found was a Novotel Suites, which ended up being a very reasonable price and was very well designed inside and out. Kudos to Novotel. Marrakech is a city on the edge of the Sahara Desert and consequently in the middle of the summer is rather warm! To beat the heat of the day we took it easy and lazed around the swimming pool until mid-afternoon before heading into the heart of the city, the medina. Despite not going out until 4:40pm, it was still a little too early and the heat was quite phenomenal. The locals seem to hold off until twilight, and for good reason it apperars. Strolling through the streets we made it to the main square where the edges are lined with stores selling a myriad of tourist tack. Just inside the square is lined with vendors selling spices, dried fruits, nuts and freshly squeezed citrus juices; the juice is quite delicious and at only 50c/glass we consumed plenty of it! The square comes to life at dusk, and as it was still early we found a rooftop terrace to sit, drink and watch the world go by. To the north of the square are the souks of Marrakech, small narrow alleyways packed with artisans selling all manner of crafts. The souks are thick with people, both tourists and locals and we strolled though the twisting walkways, soaking up the sights and sounds of the souks before heading back to the square for a street vendor  dinner. By the time we’d eaten dinner the square had come to life with all kinds of street entertainment; snake charmers, monkeys, musicians, acrobats, fairground type games, etc and vendors selling everything from mint tea to henna tattoos to tobacco to creepy wooden snakes!

The following day was more of the same but instead of street food we found our way through a maze of backstreets to the Earth Café for dinner. Earth café is known for its organic, vegetarian menu and our dinner was quite delicious; phyllo pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese, peppers and veg, a warm salad with goats cheese and a vegetable risotto.

There was time for one more dip in the pool on our last day in Marrakech before heading to the train station. The hotel assured us that there is no need to buy tickets in advance and as there are several trains a day to Casablanca we took their advice. Let’s hope that a) we can get tickets and b) that Moroccan trains are better than Indian trains…..
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