A Travellerspoint blog

Morocco

Back to Marrakech

sunny 29 °C

We wake late and have a lazy breakfast, last ones down. We take our time and get all cleaned up, packed and around to the bus. Jump on early and claim seats at the front so G is less likely to feel sick. Bit of chaos as some people want numbered seats, most don’t give a toss. Bus ride seems a little rougher this direction, a bit more affected by roadworks. A Pom has to stick his head out and have a spew, the road or the previous night, I could not say. We give him a motion sickness tablet and he is not seen again.
Dump our stuff back at the riad, and then out to the Marrakech museum. This was a grand home that had gone to ruin, since restored. The tilework detail is amazing, and is accompanied by great wood work and carved plaster – well worth a visit.
Marrakech Museum

Marrakech Museum

Museum Patio

Museum Patio


You also get into the Ben Youssef Madrassa, a former Koranic college nearby. Again, the detail that is found here is fantastic, and again you realise that the skills of the local artisans was not displayed openly, but are revealed behind rather plain facades.
Madrass in Marrakech

Madrass in Marrakech

Madrassa door

Madrassa door

Madrass, Marrakech

Madrass, Marrakech


We had intended to go to the Saadian tombs too which are supposed to be fantastic, but I stuffed up and they are at the far end of the medina.
Spend some more time wandering around, this time we get to the east side where there are some interesting bric a brac places with old Moroccan number plates, advertising, street signs and numbers. Get a sandwich for a starving boy before we wander off again. Buy some of our few items in Morocco, a pair of leather thongs for me and some of the black soap for L. That’s right, no carpets!
Stroll back to the Riad for dinner. Get a few things done before we are called down. Dinner is started with a salad, then followed by one of the nicest tajines we have had the entire trip. The lamb is falling off the bone and melts in your mouth – must have been cooked for ages. Desert is sliced oranges with cinnamon again, but really juicy sweet oranges. Very good. Off to get packed and organised for an earlyish start tomorrow. L is checking on the internet – that bloody volcano has started up again and is stopping flights in Europe – but no mention of Madrid being affected.
A few hours sleep before the alarms go off nice and early to get us going. Have showers and then hop on the net around 7 to check what the volcano is doing this time – our flight is still listed at 10:10. Downstairs, no sign of Ehmet – I have to wake him up to come down and get us brekky! The taxi driver is on time though and has a coffee while we eat. Ehmet wants us to eat all our breakfast, but we don’t want to miss the flight. Shovel it down, then off. Head out to the airport, at 7:50 all the streets are deserted. Get in, and it turns out Ehmet was on the right track – our flight is delayed until midday, and we have another 2 hours until check in. L, who did not sleep at all well last night, is not impressed by the sleep she has missed. So she is catching a few ZZZs as I write.
Marrakech Airport

Marrakech Airport


Next stop Madrid

Posted by lostagain 11:18 Archived in Morocco Tagged animal Comments (1)

Into Essaouira

Chill out

sunny 26 °C

After breakfast we head down to the Supratours station to head off. The good folk at Dar Sofia are looking after most of our bags until our return, so we are relatively lightly packed.
The bus trip is 3.5 hours so empty bladders before the off. Just as well too as most of the road is either patchy or being remade with a few small stretches of good road. By the time the road is complete it will be a much faster and more comfortable trip. But the locals complain that the road workers take forever to get anything done and the now new bits will be needing replacement by the time the current work is done. At one river crossing, Lotfi complained that the group had been working there for more than a year and a half on a simple bridge, and had to stop work every winter as the water came down.
Essaouira Skyline

Essaouira Skyline

Essaouira street

Essaouira street


In Essaouira the feel of the place is different. The first thing we notice is the buildings are painted white, unusual compared to any other town we have been in Morocco. The medina is much smaller, and has some streets that make the backbone of a grid system with little alleys and dead ends mixed in. There is a much more laid back feel to the place, picked up from decades as a surfing/windsurfing and more recently kiteboarding centre. We wander into the port and pick up the sights and sounds of the operating port. The fleet that goes out looks like a real rag tag bunch, but it is part of a long held tradition that this is what Essaouira does.
Fishing Boats, Essaouira

Fishing Boats, Essaouira


Nets

Nets

There are people in the port selling what appear to be the leftovers, small sardines, some Dorado and red mullet. There are also some eels including what looks like a leopard eel. What there is plenty of is seagulls, that wheel in the sky, calling and diving, and always crapping. I know it is said to be lucky to be hit by birdshit, but right here you are lucky if it misses!
Essaouira Resident

Essaouira Resident

And there's loads of them

And there's loads of them


We are in need of a bit of food, so we head to one of the grillades near the port where they cook the fish straight off the boats for you. Some of it looked good, but not all. We pick up some calamari a emporter, and head down to the beach to eat it. It is not that tasty, and we will look elsewhere for the specialities of the region. We walk for a while on the beach, tossing stones and watching as a kitesurfer tries to get going. We talk with the instructor who tries to interest us in a course, who explains he has been doing this around the world and that he had the same student when he working in Thailand! He is struggling to get the kite up in the ‘light’ wind (which had blown my hat 30 metres down the beach), and we watch for a while, but he seems to be getting himself in more of a tangle. The beach is less protected further down and there are some sails going full bore. There is also a wind farm in the distance to the south, this area being known as windy city, Africa.
Wind City Africa

Wind City Africa


Back into town and we wander right through. The area by the sea walls at the north end, the jewish quarter, is very run down and dilapidated. Otherwise there is plenty of rebuilding going on and lots of accommodation as the town goes from surfie hangout to an expected stop on everyone’s itinerary. We pick out a couple of possibilities for dinner, but when investigated, look like tourist spots. We settle on a little place with some seating upstairs, an unlikely looking place. But the owner has a set menu without choice for 55DM, about $7.50. And it is great. We have salad with a soft cheese for entree, a squash stuffed with beef for mains and a magnificent orange mousse with chocolate sauce for desert. Amazing! This is Elfarane at 34 rue Etaouahine (or Tahaouhen depending on your map 06 10 77 63 77), not far from the bastion in the sakla. Go there.
Satisfied, we head back to Lalla Mira.
The next day L is booked into a hammam, so G and I take the footy to play down the beach. It is a bit flat so we drop into a motorcycle shop to pump it up. Mistake. A loud BANG!, a stunned and sheepish mechanic and a shocked child. The footy is torn open, the bladder burst through the rip. No more footy.
Sad boy

Sad boy


So back to the streets to get a new one. Surprisingly, there is not a lot of footies available in Essaouira – an obvious niche market is there for the taking. We get a soccer ball instead and head down to the beach to play. I have to go in a couple of times when the ball gets taken by the wind.
We give L a couple of hours for her hammam then wander around Essaouira again. Nigel – do not let Kell come to Morocco or you will be taking home around 3 million stray cats and dogs which seem to be everywhere.
Strays for Kell

Strays for Kell

A lot of the shops are the same as found elsewhere in Morocco, but there is a definite beach culture influence, and sea faring has also meant that thick woolly jumpers are seen in the shops for the first time. There is a relaxed atmosphere and it is very pleasant to be on the wall as the sun sets and rises (ok, I never saw it rise). Get a fill in crepe until dinner. Look in a few art galleries at modern African art – some of it I like. Generally we stroll happily about the place.
Self portrait

Self portrait


Head back to Lalla Mira. G and I head down to have a hammam – ours is a do it yourself that comes with the accommodation. In the hammam you steam up for a while, then you are sluiced off and steamed again, all whilst lying on the floor. After a bit longer, you give yourself a scrub down with black soap with argan oil, and an argan oil shampoo. Last is another sluice off to get you ready to go. You can book in and pay (ladies and men, but at separate times) to have extra treatments including scrubs and massages – top cost of 180DM - 25AUD.
real men Hammam

real men Hammam


Fresh and pink, off to dinner is at a little place, Restaurant La Decouverte, where I order fresh John Dory. The catch must have been a bit light on as the fillets are only about 8 cms long. But very nicely cooked. A lovely (but un Moroccan) apple pie finishes off the meal. A stroll through for tired people, then bed...

Posted by lostagain 11:15 Archived in Morocco Tagged food Comments (0)

Around Marrakech

sunny 28 °C

Around Marrakech
After a lovely breakfast we are out and about. The first priority is the Majorelle Gardens. To get here, we get lost a couple of times then head out along the correct street. (Tip – just because the map shows a square going from one street to another , it does not mean you can exit after walking right across). We get out Bab XXXXX where the streets smell strongly of urine and walk for 15 minutes to the Gardens. These are an absolute respite from all the noise, traffic, hassles and chaos outside – as long as you can get rid of all the tourists! The gardens have some great calming fountains and ponds, and the mixture of succulents and more standard plants is well handled.
In the Majorelle Gardens

In the Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle fountain

Majorelle fountain

The form of the ponds is the only formal shape to the gardens, with the paths all wandering freely. All the plantings have a minimal amount of colour in restrained flowers and fruit, which allows the vibrant coloured background that Majorelle used to work so well. It is very relaxing to just sit back and take the peace knowing what is out there.
Majorelle garden

Majorelle garden

Majorelle succulent

Majorelle succulent

Majorelle blue

Majorelle blue


It couldn’t last forever, so we walk off to get tickets for Essaouira. Decide we are peckish on the way and drop into a local market and see a stall where a bloke is cooking omelettes. We ask for one with cheese, gets lost in the translation as 5 fried eggs with 3 slices of plastic cheese on top. Sounds bad? Tasted great eaten in the hand with a bread roll as served with everything here.
One for Kelly

One for Kelly


On to the Supratours office to get tickets for tomorrow – we get the last 3 on the bus we want. Catch one of the local buses back into the medina to spend the next 2 hours wandering the souks. The stall holders are really insistent and grab at you and stand in the way. If L is off by herself, they can get very persistent in questioning and refusing to let her pass. We then wander further out into some of the alleys where the craftsmen actually make the goods which is much more interesting and you get much less agro. Also out on Rue Moussanine? the shop owners are much more relaxed (bigger margins?) and quite happy to let you browse without ‘you like? Cheap price’.
preserved vegies

preserved vegies

Light, anyone?

Light, anyone?


The one thing that is getting me down about the souks is that motorbikes and scooters are free to drive about where they will. It is like having them in Northlands or not even that as the alleys are quite narrows and these people reach speeds of over 40 kph in some spots, and regularly dish out passing blows to pedestrians. But the worst bit is the chocking fumes that are coming out of the poorly maintained motors. At times it gets hard to see through the cloud, so you can imagine what it is like to breathe.
Head back to djem el Fnaa for some snail soup – I am the only taker for some reason.
Snails !!

Snails !!

After that it is off to another stall for some okay food, then grab some pistachio halva from a bloke who looks about 140 years old.
The young bloke selling halva

The young bloke selling halva


Have a bit of that for desert as we pack ready for tomorrows trip to Essaouira.

Posted by lostagain 11:17 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Over the High Atlas

Tizi In Tichka pass 2260m

sunny 26 °C

Xaluca dades

Xaluca dades


Stuffed ourselves with breakfast to get us off to a good start. Late start made later by us going on Moroccan time this morning.
We head out through the valley of roses, an oasis which is famous for its roses and all sorts of rose products. It is an oasis valley and all the little plots are surrounded by hedges of roses giving it the appearance of a green patchwork held together by pink stitches.
On to and through Ouazarzate. We cruise past the film studios and see some of the sets, Egyptian, Greek and Roman. Also be good for Arizona Bad Lands and Chinese steppes. Not exciting enough to stop though. Where we do go is Sidi Ben abbouliah, an ancient Kasbah built centuries ago by one family – it used to be the seat of the extended family. Remnants of the family have moved back in as it is a great monument of what these places used to be like. The family has also installed shops should you feel so inclined to purchase anything... After a good wander around and being blown by the wind, we head back out. On our way again and off to the fantastic journey over the High Atlas.
At Sid Ben Abbouleh

At Sid Ben Abbouleh

Sid Ben Abbouleh

Sid Ben Abbouleh

In Sid Ben Abbouleh

In Sid Ben Abbouleh


The high Atlas road keeps on presenting new vistas as each corner is turned. As in the middle Atlas, the formations are fantastic and a wonder to look at. G is not doing too much looking as the road is making him a bit travel sick. We have given him a tablet to try and help.
We head over the top through the Tizi Tchika pass at 2260m, much higher than we go skiing in Australia. Lotfi says this road is usually treacherous in winter and often closed. Thanks to some incompetent driving ahead of us (a tour minibus pulling over for a photo op when it was hard enough passing already) we nearly got to see an accident first hand. We stop at a panorama point where you can see the road stretching out below us, winding down into the valley. Just the realisation of how close it is to go so far down is amazing. As at all panorama points, there are plenty of people willing to sell us stuff. G is interested in some of the quartz eggs, and we bargain with the salesman to 20DM. I think he saw us coming.
Off the high Atlas into Marrakech

Off the high Atlas into Marrakech

High Atlas Road

High Atlas Road


The road is fast and winding and getting stuck behind some belching traffic does not help – the fumes do not agree with the less hardy Australians. Again a stop at a panoramic point gives some relief, as all the slow trucks get past us again and the shop keeper makes a motza.
Off again and into the final stretch into Marrakech. Yokhima Morocco have also sorted us out a place to stay tonight since we were not that organised. As his final help to us, Lotfi sees us squared away before fond farewells are given.
Goodbye to Lotfi

Goodbye to Lotfi

We are in Dar Sofia, and a great little out of the way place it is, although easy to reach as cars can get quite close. Settled in we head down to the bright lights and hustle and bustle of Djem Al Fnaa Square.
Djem El Fnaa

Djem El Fnaa

Fruits in Djem El Fnaa

Fruits in Djem El Fnaa


First things first – we have an orange juice before dinner – and at 50 cents it is great, although possibly a bit watered down. Soon after we are touted and go in for a meal at one of the stalls. It is nothing special but it is quick and relatively cheap. Back home and off to sleep.

Posted by lostagain 11:14 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

In the saddle again

more road trip

sunny 31 °C

In the saddle again
by the road

by the road


We head up to Erfoud to then divert across towards Ouazarzate. First stop in Erfoud is a clothing shop to get a shirt like Lotfi’s that I admired. Pick out one in a light green, and L some sandals. Grab a drink, then grab some money from the ATM before heading to the fossil (museum). About 15 kms from Erfoud there are some marble deposits from the Cretaceous and Devonian periods The marble is not high quality, but it does have masses of fossils embedded in it. There are trilobites, ammonites and the forebears of squids (don’t remember the name). The balck marble in some cases is so heavily populated with the squid that it looks like a mass extinction (no, i have no evidence to back that up). The man at Mnara Marble spent quite a time taking us through the process and works before showing us the products in the showroom. There was some great slabs there, but very little presented the way I like. I could see great possibilities for it though. I did like the single squids up to 2 metres long that had been chased out and presented individually. In the end we bought a few small trinkets as souvenirs.
Todra gorgeous

Todra gorgeous


On the road again we head west towards Todra Gorge. This is a single short chasm over one hundred metres deep and is extremely dramatic. It is hard to get over the scale of it. It is very popular with tour groups, which makes it all the more amazing that the approach road is a narrow potholed thing with very few places for two buses to pass each other. The road at the gorge itself is being redone with the river through there being diverted – quite a mess while it gets done. But a must see if you have enough time in Morocco and do not mind a lot of driving.
Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge


Head on to our stop for the night – the Xaluca hotel at Dades. Michele at Yokhima Morocce has done a great job getting us this one – it is easily the most luxury we will get on this trip. We get a dip in the pool before dinner, very refreshing. Dinner is a smorgasbord, a mix of euro and local, but also keeping it fairly safe. So filling, if not exciting. Bed beckons at the end of an exhausting day and we accept.

Posted by lostagain 11:12 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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