Madness and mayhem

Trip Start May 12, 2005
Trip End May 14, 2006

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Thursday, March 2, 2006

What to say; Marrakech truly has it going on! Lots and lots of tourists, but that was fine; a perpetual cross-roads/melting pot which just soaked everyone up, adding to the atmosphere. Djeema el fna, the main square, is the city's centrepiece....a constant hive of activity. By it is crawling with snake charmers, henna artists, ripoff artists, orange juice carts, dried fruit/nut merchants, monkey's wearing nappies, apothecaries, touts, costumed dudes posing for photographs.... as the shadows lengthen the activity heats up, the night markets' food stalls start getting wheeled in/constructed. Small crowds gather around groups of acrobats, musicians, storytellers and thespians. As darkness approaches the crowds grow, the food stalls billow tantilising smoke, the steamed snail merchants start beckoning and it all happens. Really just one of those experiences which isn't captured by superlatives and defies description; if you get a chance, check it out.

We harp on about food, but Morocco really has it going on in this department. Soups and breads; simple, hearty and cheap. Fried roti kind of breads, drizzled with honey for breakfast or with vegies folded in for snacks throughout the day. Fried fish ; on the go cheap snack, sardines still our favorite, gotta be carefull of the accompianning fried peppers, sometimes they kick like a Moroccan donkey. Pastisse; sweet/savory chicken or pidgeon "pies", taste as bizzare as they sound, but pretty damn good (Tom must take the credit for experimenting with these). Massive pots of steaming snails, on the edge of the night market, paid a few visits per night from Mark. Chipolata sausages served with warm flat bread and fresh tomato puree, these stalls are responsible for the bulk of the markets smoke production (fortuitously, sausage grills are easy to find outside of the nightmarket). The food stalls in the night market do a dazzling array of dishes; calamari, kebabs, salads, couscous, sheeps heads.. negotiating the energetic and good-natured spruikers is half the fun. Tajine resturants serve up reliable and massive claypot creations. As is that wasn't enough, the french legacy in Moroccon extends to a love of pasteries and sweets; our favorites include vanilla slices and macaroons. Hungry yet?

Donkey Central
The quintissential beast of burdern, the donkeys of morroco do it pretty tough. Very widespread, these tough little critters are an integral part of transportation and logistics in morocco.

The maze of souqs (bazars) north of "el Fna" bamboozled even Clare's internal compass. Simply vast, diverse and entertaining we were tempted into sending a parcel home and indulging into some shopping. Between us we purchased 8 pairs of shoes; Emelda eat your heart out!!!! Away from the souqs, commerce still thrives. At times you'd be fooled into thinking that Marakech is one big market place; wherever we walked we stumbled upon mini spice souqs, vast vegie markets, blokes auctioning tea-towels, etc.. Basically a large part of our time here was devouted to aimless market wandering.

palace and gardens

Visited two grand palacesone afternoon. The first was stripped of its grandeur when the imperial capital was shifted to Meknes in the 1500's. The second was refined, intricate and very large. Can't remeber the exact names of each palace, might slip this in later.

The Jardin Majorelle are now owned by Yves Saint Laurent ans are suitably sumptuos and over the top. Fantastic array of cacti which Mark took way too many photos of. Good little afternoon excursion enhanced by stumbling upon a vast vegie market on route back to the medina.

Ella and Tom
A massive stroke of luck, one of Clare's bestest mates had a quick visit to Marrakech planned which coincided with our stay. Right on cue, the weather cleared for a brilliant day and the high atlas mountains (biggest peak over 4500m!!) which rim the southwestern edge of Marrakech revealed their splendour for the first time. Spent a full day together wandering and eating. Really nice to catch up with Ella, she has been in London for ages, so it was a real treat. Also really nice to meet Tom. Swapped travel stories, squeezed in a couple of cheeky beers, checked out their amazing riad and the stunning views from the rooftop. Tom and Ella chose a fantastic stall at the nightmarket where we stuffed ourselves before one more round of snails. Also had a little bit of an off-beat excursion during the day. Walked to the tanneries where we were handed a bunch of mint to ward off the stench. Got a tour from Ahmed (took his small tip very graciously); goat, sheep, cow and camel skins are tanned by hand in a number of different foul smelling concoctions, one of which was mixed up with pidgeon poop (Ahmed had great pleasure in telling us this).

the people

At total odds with our initial expectations, the Moroccon people continue to be supremely friendly, honest, helpfull and above all fun (it sounds terrible to be suprised, but we'd heard a few horror stories). Really cheeky sense of humour, very switched on and chuffed to recieve some stick as well as give it.
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baxteros on

Alright Folks,

Heading to Marrakesh in June. Just wondering if you could advise on a good riad to stay in or any other good quality cheap accomodation.

Can you recommend any places just outside Marrakesh to visit for a night or two!!

Any info is greatly appreciated!!

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