Morocco, the land of the Sahara desert, Atlas Mountains, Casablanca, Marrakech, souks and sunshine… For Christmas 2017 my friend, Guada, and I decided to escape the dreary cold and wet winter of Ireland and head south in search of sunshine and tan lines. Being both from the southern hemisphere (Guada from Argentina and I from Australia) the idea of a hot Christmas was a welcome and totally normal idea. So we packed our carry-ons full of summer gear and headed off to Agadir.
We reached Agadir at 2.30am and slowly made our way through customs. A few hours earlier we had organised for a chauffeur company to drive us the 2 ½ hours to Marrakech. As we walked out of the airport we were meet by 2 men; one dressed in modern western attire, the second in a full length cloak and pointed hood…. To our ignorant relief our driver was the one in modern western attire. But as we soon learned the full length cloak and pointed hood is a traditional outfit in Berber culture, and after a few days, as we became accustomed to seeing them everywhere, my friend and I both wanted one for ourselves…. but at 2.30am in a new country, with no other people around, it just kind of freaked us out.
We jumped in the car with our driver and head off in the middle of the night along the road we hoped was for Marrakech. I had popped a sleeping pill as we left Dublin and had fallen asleep almost the moment I had sat down on the plane, so I quickly fell back asleep on leaving Agadir, while my friend desperately tried to stay awake in case we were being kidnapped. We speed along the blacktop and arrived in Marrakesh at about 6am. We had booked to stay in a traditional Riad in Marrakech’s Medina, but at 6am when we rocked up on the doorstep bags in hand the night-man refused to let us in telling us we could not check in until later. Thankfully after some words from our driver, the night-man let us leave our bags and our driver took us for breakfast at one of his local haunts. Our driver treated us to Harcha and Msemen, typical moroccan flat breads served with honey, cheese or eggs, and our first of many proper mint teas. After breakfast our driver dropped us off at the train station where he promised we would find somewhere to sit for a few hours and use the free WiFi while we waited for the banks to open up to exchange our money. I have to say, he was a pretty amazing driver, and we looked forward to more of this open and genuine hospitality.
We spent our first day in Marrakech visiting the Majorelle Garden ( Yves Saint Laurent), Jemaa el-Fnaa (square) and Marrakech’s famed souks. We looked, we shopped, we ate and we drunk mint tea. Completely exhausted we were back at the Riad and passed out by 8pm that night.
The next morning we were up early and on a mission. We had decided to go to the desert for 2 days the next day meaning that we only had one more full day left in Marrakech and we were determined to make the most of it. We started the day at Saadian Tombs, it was a peaceful and in the far corner there was a local man creating new mosaics for the tombs. From the Saadian Tombs we headed to the vastly different but impressive El Badi and Bahia Palaces. Before accidently finding ourselves on an impromptu tour of Marrakech tanneries while in search for the Ben Youssef Mosque. After lunch we leisurely made our way through the souks again before strolling through the gardens surrounding Koutoubia Mosque and ending the day in Jemaa el-Fnaa square.
Morocco continues in ‘The Sahara’….