12 October 2013

Around and in Marrakech

Our second day in Marrakech started with a trip out of the city to see a Berber village.

On the way we were told that, broadly speaking, the flat areas of Morocco were inhabited by Arabs and the hilly areas by Berbers. So that is why we headed out to the hills.

This was a was a part of Morocco that attracted weekenders escaping the city for some greenery and cool waters so the route was lined with shops, restaurants and camels to tease money from internal tourists, plus the steady number of external tourists like ourselves. Also there to greet us were some pretty insistent street traders who appeared by magic whenever the coach stopped and who then followed us as we took in the sights. They really did not know how to take no for an answer.

We were first driven up a gorge and then back down again to see the many bridges across the ravine. The height of the bridges indicated how high the river rises when at full strength but this was the end of the Summer and there was little of the river left.

The Berber cottage was a little mill fed by a cut from the river. And having fed the mill the water went on to the kitchen where it ran past the fire before returning to the river.

The cottage was, much as expected, composed of several small separate rooms. It was all on one level and I suspect that was partially because the mud construction would not support anything more.

What was a surprise was the television sets. I liked them as it suggested that this was a real cottage rather than some pastiche of one prepared for tourists.

It did not take long to see everything in the cottage and we were soon back fighting our way through the paddlers to the coach and on for lunch in one of the grander restaurants nearby. Personally I would have liked a couple more stops just to take pictures but our guide had other ideas.

This general picture of the area around the Berber village shows how the river creates a green line through the dry landscape. Right next to the river a number of Summer cafes had sprung up to take advantage of the flat land and the visitors.

After lunch we were taken back to the hotel. There was a horse and cart trip to Jardin Majorelle arranged but that sounded too tacky for me so I gave it a miss.

I took a taxi there instead.

Not only was that a great deal cheaper but it meant that I could stay as long as I wanted rather than leave when our guide decided it was time to go back, which turned out to be not long after the group got there.

The garden is small and, if challenged, you could probably walk all around the edge in under two minutes. Of course the point was not to walk around it quickly but to do so very slowly to take everything in.

The garden's main claim to fame these days is that it was owned by Yves Saint-Laurent until his death in 2008 and his ashes are scattered they.

The gardens dates from French colonial time and was designed by a French artist, Jacques Majorelle, who gave his name to both the garden and the shade of blue that dominates it.

It is a very structural garden with several main features, some with water.

The shock, and brilliance, of the garden comes from the sympathetic clash of colours with the blue structures, tropical green plants and many bright pots.

Despite being busy, this is one of Marrakech's main tourist spots, there was a strong sense of calm to match the beauty. I stopped for a drink to soak in both.

The gardens shut abruptly at 5:30pm when it was still light and I was still fresh so I decided to walk the 3km or so back to the hotel. Actually I walked a slightly longer route but a U-turn soon corrected that!

There was a quicker route back but I chose to go in to the centre of the medina rather than skirt around it. I simply failed to see the point of having some down-time in the hotel when I could be out exploring the city.

The medina was still buzzing and enticing. It was tempting to find a cafe and settle there for a while but heading back towards the hotel was a better plan.

That plan got interrupted by a road on the map that was not there on the ground and a park that demanded exploration.

This was the Cyper Park, so called because it had some internet kiosks scattered throughout it. It was a very formal and varied garden with plenty of space for some serious strolling.

I managed to catch this garden just before closing time so just as I got to the far end I was turned back by a whistle-blowing attendant. The sun had all but set by then so it was time to move on anyway.

The last surprise on the way back to the hotel was a section of old wall. As with the rest of Marrakech it was a fetching pink and as with all such walls in Morocco it had irregular holes punctured in it.

From there the hardest part of getting back was crossing a busy road. The rules were somewhat different there and they did not have pedestrian crossings. Instead people just walk out in to the traffic which slows down for them. It looks a little scary but it works. And I had seen it work before in Tunisia, Dubai and London.

We were fending for ourselves that night and I chose to go to the cafe that I had seen near to the hotel. The same brilliant idea had occurred to about a dozed of our group (of 37) and to lots of locals. The place was packed. It also did good food and juices. A wise choice indeed.

Reflecting on the day over my Spaghetti Arabica it was easy to see that the free-time in the afternoon and early evening was the best part of the day. It is often thus.

1 comment:

  1. The Cyber Park with all its internet terminals is a great way of providing connectivity to all and sundry, not just those wealthy enough to have internet at home.


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