After finally arriving at Marrakech airport we proceeded to get our bags. It was very quiet in the airport, there weren’t many tourist at all. We got outside and walked up to the first taxi, which was one of many. Russ asked how much it was to our hotel. He said “400 dirham”. We walked away from him saying you have got to be kidding. Then we went up to another car this driver said “200”, we said “No - 150”. The other man came up and started shouting at the driver, then others came along and joined in. I said “what is going on, what is the problem?” They ignored me and carried on. After a while things calmed down. We later realised it was a well orchestrated charade to get us to pay more. We did wonder why no one was getting in the taxi’s. That was our first lesson.
Having paid 150 dh ( it should have been about 70) we got to our Riad accommodation which was in the heart of the Old Medina. The hotel was old with very traditional Moroccan decor. Water fountains, tiles and lanterns. Beautiful intricately calved wooden furniture.
The first day we went to the Medina square. The snake charmers had their cobra’s and puff adders there. We approached one group of snake charmers. I took a photo then a guy came up to me a put a water snake around my neck. Then he said it won’t bite and put its head up and down on my palm. Thank goodness he was right it didn’t bite. Then out came the hand for money. Second lesson. (Don’t take photo’s of things obviously or you will have to pay big time!). We were walking in the Old Medina with its many passageways, when a man came up to us and said “go to the tannery it is the last day of the festival.” He called a young boy up and said he is going to the tannery, he works there, he will take you. Which he did. It was a bit of a walk through winding alleyways that seem to go in all directions. We were shown around the Tannery amid the stench of pigeon droppings which are used in the process of softening the hides. Then we were taken to a shop where all the leather goods were hand made and hand stitched. So many vibrant bright colours of bags, shoes, pouf’s, purses etc… We bought a poufe, paid more than we should have as we didn’t realise you have to bargain more (usually less than half the price they start at) and that it is part of their culture to do it slowly and chat and smile while doing it. (Mmmmm so they say, more like they are aggressive with high pressure). Some parts of Morocco are totally dependant on tourism for their income. There are lots of hagglers and beggars in the streets who frequently try to get you to buy from them or give them money , or pay them for taking you somewhere supposedly. At first I was polite and would say no, this did not work they just asked more or said “Why Not” and would get aggressive. So then I started to ignore them completely with No eye contact (Third lesson). It felt like I was being very rude but it worked. They left you alone.
We went to the Mojarelle Gardens, where it was cool and refreshing to be amongst the shady tall bamboo that was in the Garden. The garden had many varieties of Cacti that I have not seen. They did look striking in the garden the way it was done.
The next day we went on an amazing Hot Air balloon ride. The pilot had a good sense of humour, saying that we might run out of gas. It was so quiet and still when we were up there. Not scary at all. We landed without any hitch.
A delicious lunch awaited us. Bread, traditional round cakes, fruits, Moroccan tea. Then it was a short drive to where we went for a Camel ride. Two of the female camels had babies which tagged along with us. They were like kids playing and running ahead of each other. Causing the other Camels to cry out and move faster. As soon as I got off mine, she promptly laid her head down.
We met up with Matt and caught the train to Casablanca. Had a lovely meal at the famous “Ricks Cafe” where the film Casablanca was made.
Saw the beautiful Al Hassan ll Mosque the third largest in the world.
We had booked a beautiful traditional Riad Fes Aicha that was in the heart of the old Medina.
When we saw where it was we thought Ah OOh right! We all looked at each other thinking the same thing. This will be tricky to get in and out of with all the little narrow alleyways we will get lost for sure. Fortunately I had booked a tour with a professional guide Mohammed from Medina Tours . He was fantastic and organised some other tours for us. Without him we would have had to put up with the aggressive street people and kids. The First tour he took us to a lake up in the hills.
The hills around Fes have very rich soil where they grow all types of crops, They looked like a beautiful patchwork quilt. One of the main produce in this area is Olives. As far as the eye can see are Olive groves. As we went past them we got a whiff of the rich aroma of the pressed oil. We went to the village of Mcknes to see the Roman ruins just outside of the village at Volubilis. They were situated on top of a hill with a panoramic 360 degree view. It would have been quite an awesome sight back in time.
Next we travelled to Meknes, this place was how I had pictured Morocco to look. Brightly coloured buildings with women dressed in vivid colours. The women all wore gorgeous bright coloured Abaya’s and scarves. Bright pinks, oranges, reds, greens, blues… Instantly I wanted to have abaya’s in all these colours. (Funny how excited you can get at having a coloured Abaya). Mohamed took us to the Old Medina Square, where we had a traditional Moroccan lunch in a restaurant on the terraced roof. It overlooked the Old Medina Square and the city. Very relaxing just watching the goings on of the people in the square. We went on to have a look at the Royal stables which was huge.
The Second tour was of the Old Medina in Fes. With over 400,000 people living there it is a maze of alleyways. It is the biggest in the world. Our guide MoMo took us to where the ceramics such as tiles, plates, bowls, targine, tables etc are made. Such a lot of work goes into making these tiny little tiles.
Also we visited where they do the weaving, and the tannery. The oldest university in the world still operates in the Old Medina.
The Third tour was Chefchaouen The Blue City. Wow what a treat it was to go there. The city was painted in blue to keep the mosquitoes away. The colours in the markets were stunning against the blue’s. We wished we had stayed there as it was very much what we expected Morocco to be like. A wonderful 70 year old man took us on a tour of the markets. He has done tours for years and is well known and respected by the locals. He made us laugh with his jokes.
We were so exhausted after all our tours. So the next day when we got to Tangier we pretty much slept and stayed in the hotel. Very little sightseeing apart from walking along the cornish and me going to the old Medina looking for the Jalaba for me and a friend. Went for drinks at 5 O’clock then dinner and bed. As Matt so aptly said ” It wasn’t a holiday it was an experience!”.
The next day we set off for SPAIN!