Wednesday, 23 September 2009


We had three days in Marrakech, up from the original plan of two days and to be honest it was one day too many. There is only so much of souks, souvenirs and kasbahs one can take in. The riad which housed us was excellent - a blissful retreat from the chaos outside; quiet, cool, comfortable; the hostess friendly and helpful. Hot showers and tea were the first things on our minds after the long overnight bus ride from Merzouga.

After getting recharged such, we hit the streets. The riad was in the old, walled city - the medina - a 16 sq. km collection of filthy alleyways coated in fresh horse dung, mostly unmarked with plenty of dead-ends and unintuitive twists. Yes, you got it, the world's smelliest maze. Then you throw in the crowds. The streets were barely four persons wide if you stood shoulder to shoulder, and there must have been at least a bazillion people walking down any given street at any moment, pushing and shoving. Then you throw in the frequent bicycle, moped or scooter travelling at a fair pelt (expecting people to jump out of the way), the occasional horse carriage or donkey cart, and even the occasional car (wing mirrors scraping either side of the street) and you get the idea of the brand of chaos I'm talking about.

The picture above does it no justice - this was taken early in the day in the main square, before the real crowds kicked in. And again, with insane and aggressive touting, you can see how this quickly became tiresome. The place really felt medieval, not just for the small streets and chaos, but also for the peoples' attitudes and the 'wild west' feel. I can understand now why many folks choose to spend a large part of their time in Marrakech in the safe confines of their riad - or in the new, modern and rather anonymous and dull New Town (think large boulevards and malls).

Anyway, we were adventurous, rubbed shoulders (literally) with the locals, got in (and out of) some scrapes, tried to out-tout the touts, saw the sights and usual tourist attractions of the city, etc. (the museum, menara Islamic college, palaces, main mosque, are all breathtakingly beautiful pieces of architecture). All in though, by the last day, we were pretty happy to be leaving. :)

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