The Utter Madness of Marrakesh
As we pulled into the crazy bustling streets of Marrakech it was time to part ways with Ibrahim. He had been good fun but really up and down thanks to Ramadan. He was cranky and tired one minute and the next cracking gags. Like when Jared first tried his turban on, Ibrahim spotted him and said “Hello Muhammad, where is Fatima”. I lost it! After dropping the kids off he left Clare and I at the main square, Jamaa El-Fnah. And after asking what riad we were staying in, gave us rough directions through the old town (or Medina) streets and told us to look out for a number 7 over the door. Sounded easy enough.
We had a map on our iPhone as well so all was looking good. The streets were pretty crazy as it was about 630, an hour before break-fast for the locals. The market square area and tiny winding streets were getting busy. People yelling at you trying to sell you anything and everything, streets getting so narrow it was hard to walk without knocking into people and then a moped or three would come scooting past. We stood out like sore thumbs and would have even without our back packs. There really weren’t many tourists around at all. Young local guys kept asking us where we were going so they could be payed to help us find our accommodation and when we ignored them they just walked next to us so they could pretend they were directing us and ask for a tip anyway! It felt a bit risky pulling the phone out, but we had to check the map a lot. Eventually we arrived at our destination. Well, the destination marked on the map at least haha. Sadly, not a riad in sight. In the end we payed a young bloke a couple of euro to take us to our street. It was tiny, around a heap of bends and under a small tunnel. We never would have found it. We cracked up when we spotted the tiny number 7 above the door.
A riad is pretty cool. They are old two or three story family mansions with a couple of rooms with ensuites and big open courtyards in the middle. Our one even had a plunge pool and sun deck upstairs. The host showed us in just as the Ramadan break-fast alarm sounded from the nearest mosque. He showed us to the centre courtyard, said, “one moment please” and left again. Around half an hour later he returned and showed us to our room. We were pretty frustrated by this time and he spoke as much English as we do French so it was not a great time to be frustrated. But after a shower and a rest in our air conditioned room all was right with the world again.
We made our way through the maze of streets back to Jamaa El-Fnah. for dinner. By this time the place was properly mad! People trying to put monkeys on your shoulder for paid photos, a guy feeding his huge vulture and even a couple of snake charmers. We realised we didn’t have the energy for the place when I ignored a restaurant spruker who promptly called me an F-er. He didn’t count on Clare getting right in his face and telling him to apologise haha. We hid from the insanity on a restaurant terrace with some couscous, chicken tagine and live Moroccan music. Then headed back through the maze to our riad.
The streets were pretty quiet when we headed out after an awesome breakfast spread with three kinds of bread, eggs, cheese, coffee and burber whisky (mint tea).
We wandered to a really interesting old Koran school called Ben Youssef Medersa Koran School. Something like 700 years old. Clare went mad with the camera, but did get some cool shots.
Wandering back we came across another cool market square. Rugs, spices, furniture, leather bags; even one guys selling baby turtles and hedgehogs. We found a cool high terrace overlooking the square for a bite of lunch. We passed some cool sights on the way home. We loved the sweet bread stores, where the food is totally covered in bees. We arrived at the big mosque just in time to hear the call to prayer. No pre-recorded messages played here. The guy stopped half way through to clear his throat. Fair enough during Ramadan too as he couldn’t even have a sip of water.
After an arvo nap we headed out to meet the others and grab a couple snaps with the snake charmers. They were so crafty. Get you in with an offer of 20 Moroccan Dirham (roughly 2 euro), then pressure you for 200 after you’ve taken your photos.
Clare really wanted to break-fast with the locals. Called Iftar, it’s a meal that includes soup (Harira), dates and a hot tea or coffee. All for about 1 euro. We sat down at a market stall with about 30 Muslims and tucked in. It was all really tasty and a fun experience.
When we met up with the kids we tried one terrace restaurant that only had about a third of its menu available so settled on another right outside a big mosque where the men where all lined up outside praying. It was so cool to watch them all lined up facing east going through their prayers in time together.
After a feed of the usual suspects (couscous and tagine) we got amongst it. Dodging the blokes with the monkeys who practically throw then on your shoulder. Something Matty wasn’t prepared for when we sneakily guided him past one. He got such a shock he nearly threw the poor thing across the square when it landed on his back. The place just kept getting more and more wild. Dancing musicians, people singing and chanting, selling trinkets, toys, lamps; everyone trying to make a buck in one way or another. We got a shock when one of the cobras ran off on a snake charmer and have a couple of people a good scare before he could run and collect it.
After another great breakfast we took a very long walk to a very small Garden. We found the place pretty easily, despite being told by a few locals that it was closed and that we should follow them to a Riad, restaurant or anything else they though might interest us. On the long walk back we grabbed some supplies for a hike Clare had planned for us the following day. A smaller back pack and heap of snack food.
Back in the square then we decided to take on the market stalls for dinner, much to the delight of the guy out front spruking their stand and the dislike of the ten other guys yelling at us to eat at theirs. As we ate we did out best not to see their advanced hygiene techniques; like re-using people’s uneaten table bread or cleaning cutlery with their hands and shirt. (So weird that we ended up with quite serious intestinal parasites).
As we wandered on we pretended to stop at all the juice stalls calling out to us (which they did not find amusing and started swearing at us) before Clare got confused with the conversion rate and almost agreed to the guy at the dried fruit stand selling a small bag for 40 euro. There were a few beggars around and even a boy of probably three years old sitting with a cup held out while his mother watched him from a distance. Don’t think she was too happy when Clare bought him a huge glass of orange juice and a bread roll, but he was stoked about it!
When we called it a night it was time to say goodbye to Matty and Chloe. Had seriously been a laugh a minute hanging out with them!