Travel Bug: Marrakech

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This city taught me colour.- Yves Saint Laurent

Marrakesh is quite simply a must-see. At some point everyone needs to experience the people, the music, the food, the landscapes, the sights, sounds and the lifestyle. I’ve never been so relaxed and yet so overwhelmed at the same time.

Every street of the old Medina quarter is an assault to every sense. Intense aromas of food and perfumes entice tourists and locals alike to the various eateries and street-side stalls, entertainers bang traditional drums, horses clatter down the narrow alleys and the hot sun flickers between the roof slats of the endless souks. All the while you need to be aware of mopeds potentially running you over. Intense right? Yet off the main alleys and up onto the rooftops, riads and cafes offer rest-bite from the excess of the main streets, the densely built architecture shelters outer areas from the noise. Alternatively the many gardens and palaces are a colourful safe haven, showing off the wealth of the few in contrast to the many that live and work within the Medina.

Away from the city, various excursions can take travellers towards the beach towns or alternately into the high Atlas Mountains and to the desert beyond as we chose to do. The journey was downright terrifying! The combination of crazy driver, clapped-out minivan and sheer drops on crumbling roads gave a full on rollercoaster ride for 4 hours each way! Despite this the views were incredible, especially on the return journey when the layers of distant mountains cast different colours in the setting sun. The ancient fortified town of Aït Benhaddou (filming location of Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones to name a few) was a short drive from Ouarzazate in the foothills of the High Atlas. Rich in traditional architecture, the town was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

The near total reliance on the tourism industry means that travellers from around the world are strangely protected and encouraged providing the source of primary income to the local people. Hence, I never felt unsafe, never worried about my belongings or being separated from my boyfriend, although as in many parts of the world, I did feel safer travelling with a guy! All that said, you WILL get shafted at every opportunity. The local sellers love a good haggle, usually quoting extortionately high prices to start (expect to get at least 1/2 off the original price!)

Equally, if people are reading this post shortly after it’s published I know many will think us to have been crazy, or at least brave to have travelled to Northern Africa on the brink of what might soon be an all-out war in this part of the world. And yes, I did admit to being a little nervous before leaving, considering the recent Egyptian/Russian crash, but it was all fine. Plus as a wise lady said shortly before we left: “At their age, they’ve got to live”. So we did, and it was amazing!

Although we only stayed for 3 nights, I could quite easily write enough to keep you reading for twice that amount of time, so this is more of a ‘in a nutshell’ post, with more to come later including advice, recipes and specific places we loved. Besides, a city so intense and beautiful can often be described far more effectively using pictures than words.

The Medina

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The Atlas Mountains

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The Desert Villages

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The Palaces, Gardens and Craftsmanship

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