After a grand flight from Dublin listening to a 60 year old English man hit on an uncomfortable 20 something Moroccan I landed in Marrakech at 7.30pm local time thinking it would be nice to get a few hours in the evening for strolling around the old city. That was until I strolled into the immigration queue! After 2 hours of whining out loud I eventually made it through thinking that was it. Until the currency exchange queue that is. Another half an hour queueing. So I eventually made it out of the airport at 10pm having spent as much time getting into the country than the actual feckin flight.
I had read before leaving about the taxi hustlers outside the airport so was looking forward to a bit of craic. After being pulled from one taxi to another I was on my way to city and dropped off in the middle of nowhere, only to be approached by a group of kids offering to bring me to the hostels for a small tip. “You’re grand!”
A quick check in later I headed to the main square of the Medina with a couple of Canadian girls. After letting them know about a few scams in the square I’d heard about I turned around after 2 mins to see one with a henna tattoo half way up her arm and a local demanding a tenner for it. Christ. So I grabbed a kebab and walked back to the ranch as I had to be up early the next day.
I was up at 6am for some nice Moroccan breakfast and tea before jumping on the bus to Zagora in the south east of the country and close to the Algerian border. After a few laps of the city picking up some backpackers we were on the road up the amazing Atlas Mountains. All was going swimmingly until a girl at the front of the bus because puking because of all the turns. The people on the bus were a cool mix of Brazilians, US, UK and Germany so there was plenty of craic up the mountain. After a quick stop off at the summit we made our way to the UNESCO World Heritage site Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, which was used for movies like Gladiator and Tomb Raider. Pretty unreal spot! We had some local food at a restaurant in the town before hitting the road again.
The sunset itself was quite beautiful but the feeling of a bit too touristy raised it head again when I spotted the English lad carrying a full suitcase on top of his camel looking absolutely miserable. I thought he might actually feckin wheel the thing alongside the ageing camel.
The sun rose at 6am, so I watched alongside Bernie (I named him) the camel and had some brekkie in the tent before we all got back on the camels and headed to the motorway, crossed it and then onto the town. Ah…the real Sahara.
We were back on the bus in no time and en route to the CLA Studios or as it’s known as the Moroccan Hollywood. That was until we stopped off for some lunch and the local policeman warned the driver of an impending snow storm up the mountains, which seemed hard to believe as it was 15 degrees. Well Christ almighty when we got up the top of the mountain an almighty blizzard ensued! The bus in front of us pulled over with a problem with its breaks which had everyone on edge! I was happy enough to get down the mountain alive as the storm died off.
We arrived back in Marrakech early at 5pm, just in time to catch the Ireland – England rugby match which was bitterly disappointing to say the least. It was quite the scene as I was the screaming my head off alone in a reception full of stoned backpackers. After the game I met up with a Brazilian from the tour with a local from the hostel who took us around the old Medina and gave us some tricks of the trade of how to get the best deals. After another kebab I was wrecked so headed back to the hostel to chill while everyone smoked shisha. God bless the smoking ban.
I was up at 7 the next day for some delish brekkie before dumping the bags and heading out to see the city. First stop was the famous Koutoubia Mosque which is pretty amazing followed by the gardens nearby. After a quick stroll around I thought it was time to test my haggling skills so headed into the jungle or the Souk market. It was good craic bartering with the locals who always assured you had got a great deal at the end of each trade. With some souvenirs and sunglasses in tow I headed to the west of the town to visit some museums. The lad at the door of the first doubled the entry prices so I told him he could feck off so headed next door to the beautiful Dar Si Siad.
All this walking was taking its toll so I grabbed some lunch by the main square before heading down south to visit 2 beautiful palaces: Palais de la Bahia and Palais el Badii. The grounds of both were pretty spectacular and gave a great look out point of the ancient city. I went back to the hostel to catch the United-Arsenal game (shouting again) and then some last minute sun bathing/burning on the roof.
Although a short trip, Marrakech is a unique and beautiful city on the door step of Europe. A cheap and cheerful town with friendly locals, it’s worth the trip. That said you’ll need to keep your wits about you too. For any female travellers I’d recommend probably going with a friend if you’re of a nervous disposition but otherwise you won’t have a bother! The strangest thing of the whole trip was that there was not an Irish bar in sight!