Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 11 and 12: Ait Benhaddou-Marrakech

Some of the spectacular scenery en-route to Marrakech

Our Riad in marrakech. Initial delight was tempered by the lack of electricity during the evening, followed by no internet and then no water! Oh the third world!

Trolleys are the only way to negotiate the alley ways in the medina in Marrakech

Shoes shoes and more shoes. And yes, I paid to much for a red pair that I love

Natural, hand-dyeing of the wools for weaving into rugs and scarfs happens in the medina. I was tempted to buy some pigments, but didn't want a spill in my suitcase.

Lanterns hang on the wall near one of the souks in the market

Boxes for carrying gifts to the groom or bride, during the wedding ceremony. It used to go on for days, but the prohibitive expense means that most young people resrtict the celebration to only one day.

Monkeys in the box, awaiting their turn to please the crowd - at the end of a chain. No donations, here!

A business man leans close to hear his fortune told in the market

The market comes alive at night where stalls cook traditional Moroccan food to order.

Every square inch is taken up with sale-able goods.

Natural medicine is available at many stores. I tried the cold cure - it works like a Cold and Flu tablet on speed. Dried me up like an old witch - water, water please???

Spice mountains are also at the market in Marrakech

The concubines quarters, close to the owners bedroom

Tassles of all sizes hang from the roof in a souk

Fine stitching is a feature of many cloths, this one in the museum

Colourful locals, colourful fruit and veg

Berber dancers who busk in the square at marrakech, approaching a tourist

Finally, the Water Carrier

The Square on a quiet Thursday afternoon - the night comes alive as this ia almost the weekend for the locals

Pavillion de la Menara - I found where the locals meet! Olive groves surround the building, and more than a few young lovers were spied holding hands and talking ernestly amongst the trunks of the trees.

The celebrations with the other Peregrine group

We drove for several hours through the winding roads of the Atlas, bound for Marrakech. Again, the scenery is astounding, even through the threatening, leaden skies, and we stopped for photos in jaw dropping locations. The country changes so much! On arrival in Marrakech we cheked into our beautiful Riad hotel, the mirror, bed head, wardrobe and chairs were attention grabbers with intricate metal work inlaid with stone and I’d love to take them home. As soon as we were settled, we headed into the famous Jemaa el Fna, the great square, one of the largest public spaces in the world and unique to Marrakech. Every night it comes alive with snake-charmers, musicians, story-tellers, fire-eaters and hundreds of small outdoor restaurants, though to take a photo can cost as much as 200Dirham each – so the sneaky photography trick of buying a meal in one of the restaurants with a view from the terrace was employed. Everyone seems to be in on the “photography charge”, even veiled ladies. It’s a much easier square to navigate than Fes and the Great Minaret (third largest minaret in Morocco) serves as a handy land mark.

After breakfast the next day, we met our Marrakech local guide and set off on a morning tour of the old medina. We visited the beautiful 150 room Bahia Palace, a splendid mansion built in 1866 for a former slave who had risen to become Vizier of Moulay Hassan Government. The palace for his 24 concubines was handily located to the royal quarters, as was those of his four wives. He ruled Morocco whilst the king’s sons grew to majority. He was eventually ousted by the French who decided to take over the building for their administration. We explored the tranquil inner courtyards, fragrant with orange blossom, and the many salons and chambers that make up this elegant home. We continue to the Marrakech Museum, itself a former palace, which houses a fine collection of Moroccan art and sculpture – saw my first painting displays, some good, some awful, all abstract (yay!)- and we then walked through the streets of the old medina as we make our way back to the Jemaa el Fna. I found the place to buy the Marrakechi (black and white) and Berber hats (wool with geometric shapes) to add to my collection, and the castanets that may have to wait for our return to Marrakech in two days.

After lunch and more spy photography, I jumped the hop on- hop off tour bus to get a better understanding of the city, stopped at a few places and then returned to the Riad, a little tired. The rest of Marrakech seems to be made up of salubrious hotels made from former Riads, being the embassy houses of former foreign diplomats. All in all, Marrakech is a bit disappointing, perhaps from expectations raised by friends who have visited here, or perhaps because of the length of time I have been travelling. For me, Fes had a more exciting Medina, and the countryside is a better experience because of its people.
We celebrated two birthdays and the last night of the other Peregrine group with Pizzas and red wine (we are all a bit ired of the lack of variety in Moroccan food - at least as we know it.


  1. I was in Marrakesh almost 40 years ago so I really enjoyed this post. I imagine that it's become a little more tourist driven in those years. I also found Fez to be more authentic...even then! I thought it funny that everybody runs for money as soon as they see a camera. That's a little too tourist driven! Best, susan

  2. Back in Marrakech now, and enjoying the quiet in the Riad. Have still to buy the Fes and Marrakechi hat - not sure if I can brave the square! Thanks for your comment - keep them coming!



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