A Travellerspoint blog

September 2008

Marrakesh Revisited (2)

Medina & Souks

sunny 35 °C

Riads in Morocco are private houses converted in hostels, there is an inner patio with a fountain, Muslims must wash their hands and feet before entering their house and this ritual is observed before praying five times a day. These houses have a ground floor and then two or three floors more with small rooms. Houses are narrow and so are the streets, which lead from one lybrinth to another. Streets are also very narrow with high walls on both sides and in many streets it is not advisable to venture after seven O'clock in the evening.

Riad Dar Badra is situated in the old town, ten minutes walk from the famous Koutoubia Masque and Place Djamaa El Fna and the Souks, markets which are full ofsmall shops sitting cheek by jowl, full of hundreds of different articles, perfumes, spices, jewelry, clay pots, carpets, lamp shades, clay pots and ceramics and many more things. Haggling goes on all the time, the shopkeepers block your way, shake your hand and literally force you to enter into their small shops to have a look around. It can be a hassle if you do not have the patience. And even if you buy something, you will never know if you paid the right price or not. I bought a straw hat, the vender wanted 150DH, I offered 20DH and he accepted with such alacrity that I knew I could have paid even less. And indeed, a few hundred meters further in the market I found the same hats selling for 10DH.

We wanted to go on a day excursion to the waterfalls, the tourist office Rep wanted 300DH pp, and before I could start bargaining, he himself was willing to accept 200DH. Another thing to remember is to keep small change handy, coins of 5 &10DH, notes of 20DH. Otherwise you will get nasty surprise of not getting any change. If you have to pay 3DH for a glass of fresh orange juice in Jemma El Fna, don’t pay with a 50 or 20DH note. In Morocco there are four prices for everything, one for the locals, another for people from the north (Tangier and Casablanca since they have more money) yet another for the foreigners living in the country and non-resident Moroccans who come to visit, and the fourth for tourists. So a watermelon which may be only 0.60DH a kilo, could cost upto 2.50DH to a tourist. I bought a kilo of fresh oranges for 0.66DH a kilo for which the vender demanded 20DH a kilo. So bargain over everything, whether you want to buy or not, but not over a glass of fresh orange juice. It cost only 3DH for god sake.

For Muslims September is the holy Ramadan during which they must keep fast during the day, they have to eat before sunrise and again after sunset. Because of this the opening and closing hours of many places of interest were changed.

There is a hop on and hop off tourist bus service (130DH pp) but if you are a good walker, many places are within walking distance and you can enjoy the atmosphere of narrow streets, the Kasbah and Souks too. Or you can hire a horse carriage and do the sightseeing at a trot, observing the motorcycle and taxi drivers committing kamikaze through the chaotic city traffic or see men urinating against the city walls. Sounds and smells of El Maghreb.

In the last five-six years Marrakech has seen a remarkable urban development, modern houses outside the city walls, new shopping center on Avenue Mohammed V with the inevitable McDonalds and KFC, wide and shady Avenue Mohammed VI with four & five star hotel complexes. The city has extended a lot with the affluence of tourist revenues.

Tomorrow I am leaving for Mexico with my son Alex, so I will continue writing from there about Marrakech and Essaouira which we also visited.

Posted by The Islander 03:20 Archived in Morocco Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Marrakesh Revisited

Morocco and Medinas

sunny 38 °C

My wife and myself went to Marrakesh. The weather in Germany in the present month of September was getting cold, our old bones were yearning for sun and sea, some good food and rest. We searched the internet for some interesting place to go to, we wanted to go to Palma de Majorca but the hotels were full, Ibiza was the same and the flights were expensive. We contemplated on Cyprus and Fuerteventura. All inclusive trips were either for three days or seven days, and we had twelve days. So surfing the web, I stumbled upon Ryan Air's offer to Marrakesh.

The flight cost nothing but the taxes, luggage charges, credit card fee (20 euro for each person using the same credit card at the same time. Daylight robbery) came to 104.00 euro return. Although we lived in Malaga (Spain) for more than 20 years and Morrocco was just a hop over the water, my wife never wanted to visit it. She has something against the Muslim countries. But this time she was willing to go. The reason was warm weather and some rest, she read and re-read other bloggers' views and was satisfied that it will be alright to go. So we went and enjoyed it thoroughly.

The flight from Dusseldorf took three and half hours, with two hour difference in time, we were there in late afternoon (17 hrs local time) in bright sunshine, hot and dry, which lifted our sagging spirits. The airport is new, small but clean and we went through immigration without any hassle. The old city centre is barely ten minutes drive by car and we were dropped at the door of the Riad (hostel) Dar Badra by 17.30hrs. We had booked accomodation in this Riad on the internet, it had very favourable reviews by visitors who had stayed there. The rate for a double room en-suite was 35 euro per night (breakfast included) and it consisted of a sitting area, another room with a double bed and seperate bathroom. A very well decorated clean room. We stayed there three days.

On our arrival, we were greeted by the owner Dominique, an engaging & charming french woman who has been living there for more than five years. She speaks English and her maid Fatima speaks Spanish. Dominique welcomed us and we sat down in the inner patio and Fatima brought us hot mint tea, typical Morracan drink. Aromatic and refreshing. My wife has an affinity with strangers and in no time, all three women were engaged in friendly talk as if they already knew each other.

Posted by The Islander 12:21 Archived in Morocco Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Camino de Santiago

An interrupted Journey

sunny 31 °C
View Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Spain) on The Islander's travel map.

My sincere apologies to the readers of my travel blog for abruptly discontinuing writing about my journey through the villages and cities of Spain which I and my wife traversed last June 2008. Something happened to me, depression, apathy (and I love writing) or some kind of anxiety; honestly I do not know what, which became a block and I had no feeling to touch the computer (which I did not touched for more than two months).

We went to Spain and reached Santiago, which is a fabulous city, we enjoyed the food and wine on the way, but the journey was not fulfilling. Hundreds of books have been written about Apostel Santiago, many persons have written about their experiences en route to reach this holy place but we did not feel the same thrill. What we saw was the greed, selfishness, even arrogance of fellow travellers. They lacked the spirit of pilgrimage and humbleness, they were ordinary people, French (most) Italians (many), Germans (many) and some Americans, all for one reason or other, were on the road to Santiago. In one Alberge some one had written in Spanish an apt description of the fellow travellers:"hay mas gilipollas que peregrinos en El Camio".

I will write about our journey but at some other time. I will write about the wonderful places, the sights and sounds of rural Spain, a country I love.

Posted by The Islander 11:50 Archived in Spain Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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