Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A Week in Marrakech

After two and a half weeks of 'holiday' I am finding it a little difficult to settle back into real life!

Marrakech was everything that I hoped it would be: vibrant, colourful and exciting. Twenty plus years ago I took a holiday in Tunisia with a friend. I found that very exciting but as we were two young and fairly inexperienced travellers we were very careful about where we went and what we did. I always felt that I had missed out and hoped to return some day, if not to Tunisia then to North Africa. Morocco is only a short distance from Southern Europe but it is a world apart. The buildings, the people, the very fabric of life, are different.

We stayed in a lovely, traditionally decorated hotel in an area that is being heavily redeveloped and modernised. I was much more interested in the old walled town. The pulsating heart of the Medina is the Djamaa el Fna Square. By day it belongs to the tourists eager to have their photographs take with snake charmers or water sellers. Come late afternoon or early evening local men fill the square, crowding around story tellers and entertainers before they settle down at one of the many 'restaurants' that set up in the centre of the square for an evening meal of tagine and couscous. This water seller was very keen to show me his embroidered coat and leather pouch studded with multi-national coins. I told him that I had no money but he insisted I take his photograph. I knew that he didn’t believe me about the money (I was telling the truth, J had wandered off into the crowd with all our money!) but he smiled and said it didn’t matter. Every time we passed through the square after that I search for him but it wasn’t until our last day that I finally spotted him and was able to give him some money. He seemed very pleased and surprised that I had remembered him.

The souks are a shopper's paradise. If you can buy it here you really don’t need it! The maze of alleyways is filled with more sights, sounds and aromas than the senses can deal with. Whether 'window-shopping' or on a serious shopping spree, there is enough here to keep a shopaholic happy for days. If you are prepared to barter then there are plenty of bargains to be had.

The peace and tranquillity within the Palaces is in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of the narrow, congested streets outside. The marbled rooms and lushly planted courtyards offer cool relief from even the relatively mild heat of early spring.

One thing that surprised me greatly was how verdant the city is. Marrakech is full of gardens and in addition the streets are lined with trees, mainly ornamental oranges that bear blossom and fruit at the same time. I had expected a much more arid landscape.

The local people are good looking, with interesting faces, especially the older residents (I love old faces) unfortunately they are reluctant to be photographed. I usually try to respect people’s wishes in these matters and mostly asked before taking anyone's picture. Some refused to be photographed, some gave permission and others agreed if you were willing to pay for the privilege. Once or twice I forgot myself, and quickly snapped a scene that caught my eye without the sitters consent.

I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday and have come away with a good impression of Marrakech. The people were warm and friendly and the city was fascinating.

Links on another blog lead me to this site that has lots more pictures and tales of life in Marrakech.


Anonymous said...

what a great trip you had. I relate to the young inexperienced traveller bit -i wish I had been more adventerous on my grand European holiday 20 years ago - next time i go (if we can ever afford it)I'll probably have a walking frame to hang my backpack on!

lots of inspiration in those photos!

KV said...

Such a delightful travel commentary! I loved your photos of the pots, too . . .

Kathy V in NM

Possibilities, Etc. said...

You are an artist with your camera! I would love to do a painting of that last photo - great subject, color, and composition. My daughter loved Morocco when she was stationed at Rota, Spain during her Navy days.

Elizabeth said...

You capture Marrakesh so well!
I love it!
we go back to our little house there in 2 weeks.
Your insight and pictures are wonderfu;
Come to visit us when you are next in Marrakesh.
I loved the line about - if you can buy it in the souks you probably don't need it
too true