We were resisting the call of Africa for a few years but when Ryanair launched direct flights from London to Marrakech, we knew it is the right time to hit the road again and explore finally also the Black continent.
We knew we were going to Africa but we did not expect such hot weather in mid-March. Without any basis of tan on our skin African sun immediately burned us and while we were recovering it was too late to look for some sunscreen. The modern terminal of Marrakech airport will impress and also surprise you. As soon as we went out of the terminal we met with our driver, the employee of riad – guest house where we were staying. Short trip by car and you find yourself in the heart of Marrakech – the Jemaa El Fna square.
The next day we went into town early in the morning and all day long we just strolled through the old streets and were discovering Marrakech. We started in the city centre and across the small park full of date palms we got to the dominate of the square which is the Koutoubia Mosque. It’s actually 70 meters high minaret from which the locals are convening regularly to pray. We continued down to Medina which is actually one large marketplace. It’s got everything nicely divided by the craft – carving, a blacksmith, shoe making workshop, stands with all kinds of spices that are very popular with Moroccans. One of our other stops was beautiful botanic garden Majorelle Garden with a huge collection of cacti which was once owned by the French designer Yves Saint-Laurent. On the way back yo our riad we stopped for a dinner and call it a day on the terrace overlooking the city with a beer before bed.
Today we had planned to go into the hills finally and we agreed to meet our chauffeur after the breakfast. Marrakech is surrounded by Atlas Mountains and that was the place we were heading to. On the way to the mountains we stopped at a local vegetable market, bought a few things to eat, the girls went for a ride on a donkey and we continued on. Our driver made interesting program for the day and one of the stops was also riding on camels owned by one of his friends. The camel ride in hilly terrain was great because the surrounding countryside was really beautiful. About half-hour walk on the camels went alongside the dried up canyon and everyone enjoyed it a lot.
We had fun on camels and afterwards we moved to a nearby pottery workshop where we stumbled on some great pieces. The man working there was really skilled and it was a pleasure to look at things coming from beneath his hands. The pottery was a huge house in which the whole generations performed this craft. The house is surrounded by the high quality clay and that makes the material to be immediately to hand. The girls couldn’t resist and bought a few vases and jewellery boxes. We then continued steeply upward direction Atlas but since we wanted to avoid the main tourist route, our driver took us slightly higher in a place that tourists don’t know and where we were completely alone. This is also one of the reasons why like to be accompanied by the locals.
After passing the wooden bridge over the roaring river we have already started our hike on one of the peaks of the Atlas. Along the way we stopped at a small snack, stock up on water and we continued on. We had young guide who knew all sorts of shortcuts and with him it took us about an hour to reach the summit. View from the top was amazing and there were few parts where we could still see a snow. It was a bit surprise in this hot weather. After some time off we started to descend and on the way back to to Marrakech we had enough time to visit also the other side of the city. We looked around the city walls which Marrakech is surrounded by and walking along the main street Avenue Mohammed VI we came back to the city centre.
Our last day we ended up exploring the nearby town of Essaouira. Sleepy seaside town situated on the Atlantic coast is an oasis of peace and with its narrow blue-white streets you will immediately fall in love with. Nobody here is in a hurry, everyone just sits around, play games and loudly debates. In each of the narrow streets you will find at least one shop with hand-woven rugs and in the air you can smell the grilled fish, water pipes and aromatic teas.
If you are one of those people who like spicy foods you are in the right place. Coriander and chilli is here a part of every meal even where you would not really expect it such as pizza. We tried one and for us it was too spicy. From there we moved to the port where we went for a walk around the coast and dipped our feet in the waves of Atlantic. At the entrance to the port is a small market where you can try all sorts of goodies whose fishermen have brought freshly caught from the sea. This was the most western point of the country we could reach and after spending whole day in Essaouira we returned back to Marrakech where our short trip in Morocco ended.
Our first contact with Africa ended better than we expected and I must say that we were pleasantly surprised with Morocco. The gateway between Europe and Africa has so far been successful in preserving his own character to this day. Marrakech rightfully belongs among the most beautiful African city and with its monuments, gardens, restaurants and Jemaa El Fna square captivates every visitor. Not only the city itself but also the trips to nearby towns and mountains have a lot to offer.
If you want to start to explore Africa, Morocco is an ideal place…
Tip 1: When you come to Jemaa El Fna try their fantastic orange juice and for those who dare they have also tasty snails.
Tip 2: Go for a day trip to Atlas mountains and stop by at the local market where you can buy delicious fruits and vegetables.
Tip 3: The best place to relax in Marrakech is the botanic garden Majorelle Garden full of huge collection of cacti.
Tip 4: If you like beach walks head to Essouira where you can enjoy the walk on the Atlantic coast.
Total costs: 5 nights (Flight + Accommodation): £250.00
(Prices as of March 2009)
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