Marrakech: sight-seeing, people-watching and back in the souks

Last weekend I was in Marrakech. My friend and I arrived after dark and after storms, so we woke on Saturday morning unsure of what would await us outside.

This was the wonderful blue sky that greeted me as I opened the door of our room.

Blue sky above Marrakech © Carole Scott 2013
Blue sky above Marrakech
© Carole Scott 2013

I was happy and couldn’t wait to start the day.

First stop was to find our way back down to Jemaa el-Fnaa, as we had become pretty lost the night before. After many digressions into souk alleyways we made it and headed straight for the Cafe de France balcony, which gives a great view of life happening down below. It was to become a regular haunt in our short stay.

All along the rooftops are satellite dishes and people working/having a break
All along the rooftops are satellite dishes and people working/having a break
My Dad swears he recognises this face from his last trip to Marrakech!
My Dad swears he recognises this face from his last trip to Marrakech!
We had no idea how this cart had fitted into the souks in order to emerge from them!
We had no idea how this cart had fitted into the souks in order to emerge from them!
A helping hand...
A helping hand…
Another helping hand
Another helping hand
Ancient and modern together
Ancient and modern together

I could have stayed there all day – not only was the people-watching magnificent but the coffee was superb. Best of all there was shade for me and sun for Liz – the perfect arrangement! But the Ben Youssef Medersa, the tanneries and the souks were calling.

When I visited Morocco in 2002 with a travel company that still claims to be all about ‘small group travel’, even though we were in a group of 24 (begins and ends with ‘e’), our local guide promised we would visit the famous Ben Youssef Medersa (or Madrassa as it used to be – why the change, I wonder?). He failed to deliver on his promise two days running, so this architectural gem was top of my sight-seeing list.

I could quite happily have spent a few days contemplating life and studying in one of the tiny rooms off the courtyard. Here are my snaps. If you go to Marrakech, I would recommend it as a ‘must see’.

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Happy me in the medersa
Happy me in the medersa

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We had a lovely lunch break nearby and I couldn’t resist taking sneaky snaps. There are so many interesting, craggy and beautiful faces in Marrakech but it’s not a place where I feel comfortable asking to take people’s photos – it’s hard to get your hands on small change and many people who would make for the best pictures would need a little ‘thank you’.

So these are my sneaky lunchtime ‘world goes by’ photos.

Marrakech40 Marrakech41 Marrakech42 Marrakech43We strolled through the streets to go and visit the tanneries. My advice? Don’t bother! Before we could find the classic views of the vats of colourful dye we were gathered up into an impromptu tour of one man’s ‘patch’. It was interesting enough but the photos weren’t even worth keeping and I can’t say I learnt anything about the process that made it worth the smell. If anyone knows how to find the section that gives the classic views (I visited them last time I was there), do post a comment with info!

A bit more ‘souking’ followed – we weren’t necessarily interested in buying. Rather, wandering around the ancient alleyways is a major sight-seeing joy in its own right. Here’s today’s selection of pictures. There will be more tomorrow!

Marrakech20 Marrakech21 Marrakech22 Marrakech23 Marrakech24 Marrakech25Our final stop in our crammed day was the Menara gardens. Personally, I wouldn’t bother going again but I imagine if you went in the early morning or at sunset, the view would make up for the fact that this is a rather dull garden with a big resevoir and a building that frames pictures of the snowy mountains rather nicely.

Marrakech44 Marrakech45The highlight in these gardens was being ‘mobbed’ by a group of about 30 very enthusiastic school children who all wanted their photo taken with us. While we were joining in and finding it good fun, when their teachers arrived, they were horrified that the kids had ‘bothered’ us. They explained in French (and I was chuffed to understand) that the children were from a rural area and hadn’t met many tourists!

We forfeited the sunset on our second evening in favour of going for a beer in a hotel off the square. It was an expensive stop (about a tenner for two beers served with lots of gorgeous nuts and olives) but absolutely worth it, as it had been a hot day of wall to wall sight-seeing! If you find yourself needing a beer stop, then head for Hotel Les Jardins de La Koutoubia

Tomorrow – a trip to the mountain waterfalls with no photos, the Majorelle Gardens, rug-buying and some sunset pics.

By Carole Scott

 

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