City Visit: Marrakech, Morocco – Part I

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City Visit: Marrakech, Morocco – Part I

A walking tour of Marrakech, Morocco

After we had refreshed, and MrsWT73 had taken a small nap thanks to the early wake up and late nights of Spanish entertainment, we headed out for a walk around the old area of Marrakech. The Anayela riad was kind enough to supply us with a map and a Moroccan cell phone with the riad’s and driver’s number pre-programmed into it. Although we never ended up using it, it was a comforting feature to have this available to us in case we needed it.

The streets of Marrakech are similar to Venice, Italy. They are a complete maze of alleys, twists and turns without any logical sense or purpose of direction. As you approached the tourist part of town, lots of kids seemed to take great joy in sending tourists (including us) off in the wrong direction via their uncle’s shop or business, or “you can’t go that direction, the mosque is down there…”. The riad provided map was helpful, although it was a basic version at that. As we set off, we made it about 10 blocks before we got lost. The streets are not easily sign posted and its very easy to get turned around. Thanks to Google (offline) Maps, we were easily able to get to where we needed to be when we used it in conjunction with GPS.

We eventually found our porter on our walk, who apparently ran the local courier company with his collection of donkey mules.

We wandered through the various souqs towards the Djemma el Fnaa square. It was about a 30 minute walk. The area immediately around the riad was quite industrial and blue collar. However, we didn’t have any safety problems; even when walking back after dark. MrsWT73 did wrap her shoulders and wore a very long skirt in consideration of the Islamic Culture. Despite this, the people were also quite tolerant as there were quite a view skimpy dresses by other European travelers which didn’t seem to attract too much outward attention.

Eventually, the streets started getting a little more touristy and market oriented. We had arrived to the Djenmna el Fnaa square at about 4 PM, just as the heat of the day was passing. Temperatures were around the low to mid thirties celcius when we passed through on our visit.

Visiting Djenmna el Fnaa:

The Djenmna el Fnaa square is the main square and market place in Marrakech. The square has been operating since approximately 1020 and had previously been the location of public executions. The square has a UNESCO Hertitage designation. During the day, there are many commercial juice and souvenir sellers, along with snake charmers. As the day progresses, the vendors change more to food vendors that set up every night for the evening.

We passed through the square. MrsWT73 didn’t care much for the snake charmers and gave them a wide berth.

We ended up having dinner at Zeit Um Café; a touristy restaurant. I had a chicken tagine with lemon and olives for dinner, along with a Sprite. Most of the restaurants on the square appeared to be alcohol free; no beers or wine were offered for sale. What the place lacked for in food, it made up for in Djenmna el Fnaa square views. We ended up watching the square come to life for the evening activites.

The Night Market at Djenmna el Fnaa:

We took in the sunset from here as the square sprung to life. It was pretty special to watch this place get set up for the evening during a tradition that’s lasted for almost a thousand years.

After dinner, we took another walk around the square. The snake charmers seemed to head home for the evening as most of them were gone. Instead, there were several entertainers, and over 100 food stalls that had set up shop. They all had the same sales pitch as you wandered through, similar to the Zanzibar food market where all sorts of street meat was available (including goat’s head here – charming!). Our Moroccan guide later in the trip cautioned us to eat well into the evening if we were dining here at the square; the vendors were known to recycle yesterday’s food as the first sales of the evening.

We made it back to the riad safely, despite the distance and darkness. Although I was a little creeped out by the neighbourhood on our first day, I got less worried about it over time. It didn’t feel dangerous, just a bit dark and seedy.

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