To be honest, we’re a little apprehensive about visiting Marrakech. We know it’s a popular tourist town, and fear that will mean constant hassling from persistent hawkers, unreliable drivers, getting lost in the medina maze and stomach bugs.
We needn’t have worried.
Our first impression isn’t ideal. Taxis aren’t able to enter the Medina, the old walled part of the city and the one of most interest to visitors. We’re booked in at Riad Ta’aachchaqa, which is a little tricky if you’re trying to tell someone the name. So we’re dropped ‘nearby’ and met by a gentleman with a handcart.
He loads up our bags and takes off at a brisk trot. We follow him, thinking,’Here we go!’ He leads us into the maze of alleyways. We’ll never find our way out. Damn – should have remembered to make some chalk marks on the walls!
But after a few minutes we arrive at Riad Th’atfunnyname, hand over what seems rather a lot of dirhams to our guide and a few to his mysterious young assistant who appeared in time to push the handcart for fifteen seconds, and we’re admitted to our accommodation.
We love it. It’s cool, shady and the staff are friendly and helpful. Our rooms are brilliantly decorated with Moroccan flair.
Guided by our friend Bert, who once spent a couple of days in Marrakech and is therefore our local expert, we strike out for the Place Jaama-el-Fna, the square in the centre of the medina where we’ve heard it’s all happening, including dinner.
On the way, we run the gauntlet of the traders in the streets adjoining the souks and find the hassling problems have been much exaggerated. Of course the stall-holders invite us to inspect the excellent quality of their wares, but polite smiles and greetings are exchanged and we’re allowed to continue on our way.
Place Jaamal el-Fna is indeed not to be missed. During the day it’s the domain of snake charmers (not nearly as exciting as it sounds), fortune-tellers, henna hand-painters, acrobats and orange-juice stalls (the one thing we actually want).
At night the food stalls open up. ‘Come on, try our food, English-spoken, no dysentery!’
The hottest weather I’ve experienced is 46deg in Sydney. 45deg one day in Perth comes second and in third place is Marrakech. Two days out of the three we’ve spent here it’s 42 in the shade. And shade isn’t always easy to find.
Fortunately (due to an accident of online booking) we move to a different riad (Riad de la Belle Epoque). It’s also to be recommended, and has the advantage of air conditioning and a plunge pool.
Nevertheless, we can’t spend all day in a hotel room. The Jardin Majorelle isn’t far away.
The garden is a short walk outside the medina wall. It was the home of French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962), who settled in Marrakech in 1923. In 1980, it was saved from developers by the intervention of Pierre Berge and Yves Saint-Laurent to whom a memorial now stands in the garden.
With the mercury pushing the top of the thermometer outside, we’re very grateful to them.
We eat well, and for very little money. Yes, there is some stomach trouble, though all in all it’s worth it.
It’s a place we could come back to…maybe when the weather’s not so vicious. There’s enough to see and do to keep us more than happy for a few days. People are generally friendly and not only because they want our money. And even if they do, it’s not a lot of money to us.
Yes, we’re enjoying it.
Both have very kind, helpful staff. Those at Belle Epoque speak better English. My high school French comes in handy at Ta’aachchaqa.