Marrakech or Marrakesh is interesting to say the least. I wanted to show you this image above first because as you can see the roads are polished and modern, getting off the mini van you feel like you have stepped onto a street in Los Angeles, forgetting you are in an African country. This is probably a great way to end the adventure tour, after so much trekking and being surrounded by the hubbub of rural markets along dusty roads or simple villages in the remoteness of the mountains. I think ending the trip in a contemporary place allows the traveler to reflect back on the awesome holiday as a whole and it also makes you really appreciate certain comforts that us westerners take for granted. For example, all through this tour our group found it difficult to have to endure cold showers almost every day due to there being not enough hot water and yes we did jokingly moan about it but looking at the bigger picture you realize that not always having hot water to bathe in may be a reality to some Moroccans. So although Morocco is developing fast and it is really up and coming, it’s still a real eye opener and culture shock to not have hot running water, to see exposed and entangled wires buzzing with angry electrical charge every time the elements aggravate it on house walls or to buy something from a local who’s pop up stall is merely a blanket on the ground with his merchandise sprawled all over it. Or perhaps there is no central heating in the hotel you are staying at and you need ten thick blankets to keep warm due to your delicate western body being unable handle the cold nights because it is so used to radiators. It’s times like that, that you look back on and smile, it makes you appreciate a culture so different from your own and as a human being you learn a hell of a lot about yourself and how others thrive in societies you may consider beautifully strange.
You don’t see the culture shock when you first arrive in Marrakech, it’s very modern, clean and has all the mod cons. It isn’t until you visit the main square you think to yourself “Ah Ha! This is the Morocco I know!” Marrakesh is like two worlds encased in one. As you walk to the main square you are surrounded by sophisticated shops and cafes and sleek pavements & roads and then suddenly you step into the noise and eccentricities of the main market. This was our last two & a half days in Morocco before we said our farewells to the group of 16 people who had become a little family to us. These last couple of days involved a short tour around the souk and mainly pottering about, eating lots of food at the food court, bartering for gifts and enjoying the odd street performances.
Marrakesh is a true “year round” destination. Spring and autumn sees the city at its best with almost guaranteed sunshine and bearable temperatures (days are warm and nights are not too chilly). At the height of summer, daytime temperatures can reach a sweltering 38C and shops and restaurants often close during Ramadan and in August. Winter can be warm and blissfully free of crowds – but remember that temperatures drop dramatically at night, it really does get a little chilly during the evenings so I would suggest taking a shawl, cardigan or light jacket.
The Medina of Marrakech is like a shopping heaven, so many wonderful stalls and a diverse range of goods from leather bound books to plastic singing camels. Some delightful finds of Berber silver and gorgeous tribal jewellery of every colour imaginable are sold here. I purchased a stunning Berber bracelet (with much bartering & laughter involved) and Jon bought himself a couple of hand made woollen hats for next to nothing. In all of Morocco you need to be up for bartering for “Best price” otherwise you will be over charged, however please be reasonable, shop owners still need to make a living & support their families, so don’t be stingy! The Medina itself is busy and loud and you have to have your wits about you. However I felt safe, but found spending too long there a little exhausting, especially in the heat and I did end up with slight heat stroke, luckily Peace, a lady from our group is a trained nurse and had Electrolyte tablets in her bag, within an hour of taking them plus some rest I was feeling great and headed back into the Medina. Electrolytes are definitely a first aid must for my next adventure trip!
Within the Medina and food court people do pester you for money or to sit at their table and eat their amazing cuisine so be prepared for that and don’t be persuaded into a shop or food stall if you didn’t want to be there in the first place. I must say though that the street food is incredible and extremely cheap so go by what you want and not what the seller is telling you what you should have! Out in the main square, after viewing some spectacular jewellery with me, Jon decided he wanted to be involved in handling a snake alongside the snake charmer coaxing a cobra to move with the sounds, I was pretty impressed with Jon’s courage, after all that cobra in front of him is poisonous! This is something I am usually up for however since I have already handled snakes before, I let Jon have this one. In regards to street performers, do enjoy watching them but unless you are willing to pay for glancing over at what they are doing then perhaps try to learn how to watch out of the corner of your eye. These street performers are persistent and can be rude to make you part with money. Be wary of the men with monkey’s on chains, they will approach you wanting a seemingly innocent hand shake, but this is a ploy to make the monkey crawl up your arm and sit on your shoulder. To get the monkey off, you have to pay. Be quick when taking photos so the performers don’t see, otherwise they will hound you for money. This all doesn’t sound pleasant however you do have to realise this is how they make money to support their families so try to be understanding and fair. If you want to stand and watch a street performer then be nice and give them some of your loose change. One performance we saw that blew my mind and made me laugh out loud involved a man bopping up and down to some music with a rabbit and chicken on his head unfortunately because it was dark by then we do not have any decent photos of this man, he exists now only in our memories.
Be careful when walking through the Medina, there will be men lurking about attempting to talk to tourists who look like easy targets or who appear lost. These men will try to coax you to follow them so they can show you the Marrakesh tanneries. If you have already seen the Fes tanneries then you will be less tempted to follow. Be warned these men will take you through a maze of back streets until you are completely lost, they will take you to some tanneries which arn’t that great but in order to get out and back into the Medina they will aggressively demand money to guide you back. These men did approach Jon & I but we were already warned of this scam and paid no attention to them. To be savvy with some other scams widely used in Marrakesh main square and the Medina click here. I think over all it was a wise idea to have our group visit Marrakech last, not just for it’s modernity & easy access to most things but also after visiting numerous places in Morocco that gave us a bit of a culture awakening and awareness it provided us with the skills and knowledge to handle certain negative traits that come with Morocco, if you have your wits about you and you have researched the culture of any country in the world then you will be prepared & responsible and therefore will not be an easy target or fall into a horrendous scam trap. By this point in the trip we had a pretty rough idea on ‘how to blend in a bit more like a local’ or how to avoid certain things and how to say the right thing in a specific situation. I know that if I ever go back to Morocco I’d be pretty equipped to travel there without the aid of a tour guide or group and I’m pretty impressed with my new found knowledge of the Moroccan culture; the good & the bad.
At night the main square is stunning and so much is going on! If you decide to holiday in Morocco you can opt to base yourself in Marrakech as there is plenty to do and see within the Medina and main square, food is readily available as are other necessities plus most hotels offer day excursions to Essaouira and even camel trekking in the Sahara Desert. I do have plans to go back but in the form of a retreat holiday with my best friend. This retreat is called ‘Desert Dance Healing‘ and involves a pit stop in Marrakech before heading out to the desert for some Yoga, Belly Dance, Camel Trekking, travelling through the Atlas Mountains, Meditation and much more.
This amazing 16 day adventure around Morocco has really ignited my spirit, I came back to the UK full of electric energy to just follow my path and have the confidence to make changes I desperately needed, I am a much happier person because of this trip. It’s people, it’s colours & culture and it’s architecture took my breath away. Our tour group has to be the best bunch of people I have ever met and I am sure if I ever go on a tour again it won’t compare. Usually in a group, there are some you just clash with; although I didn’t get to know some of group members as much as I’d like, I will say in general there was a beautiful friendly and positive vibe being shared by everyone, there wasn’t one person I disliked and we became good friends. I have kept in touch with some of them and sadly a few disappeared but who knows, maybe I will meet them on a beach in Bali or on a street in Japan one day?
And so this blog post concludes our Moroccan adventure! Soon I will be writing about our time in Croatia & Montenegro…
We are also off to Nepal in March for two & a half weeks and Bulgaria in August or September for about ten days to visit my Mum, so lots of travel writing is on the cards this year. We may also plan a short trip abroad for my 30th birthday in October, we were thinking maybe five days in Portugal or Prague? I am sure we will plan something nearer the time!
I also just want to give a shout out to Intrepid Travel, this company is awesome and they offer so many incredible adventures around the world. I would also love to say a big thank you from my entire heart to our amazing Tour Guide Yahya Bouziti, he works for Intrepid but is also a certified mountain & desert guide involved in other projects as well so please do check him out and what he offers here, you won’t be disappointed.
Here are all the previous destinations we ventured to on this 16 day adventure tour:
Day one & two in Casablanca
Day three/Afternoon in Rabat
Day Four/Morning in Meknes
Day Four/Afternoon in Volubilis
Day Five: Fes
Day Six: Midelt
Day Seven in Sahara Desert
Days Eight & Nine in Todra Gorge
Day Ten in Ait Benhaddou
Day Eleven in Aroumd/Ifrane
Days Twelve & Thirteen in Essaouira
Days Fourteen & Fifteen in Marrakesh
We flew back to the UK, midday of day sixteen.
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