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Wednesday 19 May 2010
Marrakech, Morocco

Everyone's a salesman!

We arrived at Marrakech around 8 hours later than originally planned on account of a delay at Paris because one of the engines on our EasyJet flight had to be repaired! I'd luckily managed to email our hotel, the "Riad Karmela", from one of the few working internet kiosks in Paris and they said it would be fine picking us up at 11pm instead of the original planned time!

Marrakech souq
Marrakech souq

Contemplating the sunset...
Contemplating the sunset...

On arriving, we were tired and bewildered, but I was so thankful we had arranged to get picked up from the airport as we were about to enter the heart of the old town. A turn down the wrong winding street in Marrakech and you would become prey to 100s of opportunistic locals shouting "This street is closed" and offering their "guide" services to lead you back to your riad - for a fee of course.

This wasn't my first trip to Morocco. I had been to Tangiers and north-eastern Morocco many times before so I was well versed in how to deal with street-hagglers. One of the reasons I had always wanted to visit Marrakech, apart from the mystery of the place, was to sample living in one of the city's many "riads". A riad is a concept unique to Morocco: from the outside all you can see is a small non-descript doorway, just like any other, along the narrow street with high multi-storey mud-brick walls on either side. There is no hint of what treasures lay beyond the entrance, and this is with good reason: for both security and as an Islamic gesture to others, it is frowned upon to show one's wealth publicly. Therefore from the outside, you think the place is like any other. Once inside, though, you enter a miniature palace with lush central courtyards, water-features abound and a fresh cool air thanks to the open-roof design.

Riad Karmela
Riad Karmela

It was such with our chosen riad, the Riad Karmela. Run by a Frenchman, Joel, the riad was everything I hoped it would be. The minute we arrived, despite being so late, we were treated by lovely, friendly staff and given complimentary Moroccan wine, appetisers including fresh olives, and delicious mint tea, all while sitting in the luxurious lounge which is superbly lit. Our tripadvisor research had paid off big time! Our room was exquisitely decorated too, stylised in Berber colour schemes, and sporting a very comfortable large firm mattress to lay our weary heads. We were happy campers. The morning buffet breakfast, plus rooftop from where you can sit under a moonlit sky listening to the prayer calls try to out-sing each other, all added to the atmosphere of the place. Definitely highly recommended.

Djema El Fna sunset
Djema El Fna sunset

Marrakech was both exhausting and thrilling. The riad served as a place to escape to and recharge ready to take on the next haggling attempt!

Gwen and I spent several days in Marrakech, enjoying the sites (and smells) of the famous Djema-el-Fna square and navigating the narrow corridors of the old souq. It was great fun, although navigating the crowded alleyways, contending with motorbikes zooming in the middle as well, takes a little getting used to and could sometimes get overwhelming.

We were thankful then to be able to escape to the seaside town of Essaouira which had pretty much the same sort of markets as Marrakech, but was definitely a lot more laid back. The quality of riad in Essaouira wasn't quite up to the standard in Marrakech, but the architecture in the old town is definitely comparable and a must-see!

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A jaunt around Marrakech

Travel blog by peterforan

Marrakech souq

Marrakech souq


2 weeks had passed after my epic South American adventure came to an end. Nary had I downed a pint of the black stuff before I was whisked away once more, along with Gwen, back to Africa. What adventures await in the heart of Morocco?

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    Marrakech

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    Marrakech

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    Marrakech

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