Do you ever feel as though your mind (let alone your body), has been drained of all its energy and vibrancy and imagination? That the day-to-day hum drum of life is sucking the life right out of your over worked and over tired body, leaving your brain frazzled and unable to cope with yet another bullet point on the never ending to-do list? It’s exactly at this point that you should experience something new, something to distract you, whether it’s reminding your body it’s alive by doing a bungee jump (no, thank you) or experiencing a very different culture (yes please).
Marrakech was a last-minute getaway. After a busy and stressful year, Mr Daydreamer and I needed some time away together and, although Morocco was on our Must Visit List, we chose Marrakech because it turned out to be cheap to travel to, and cheap to stay in.
We arrived on Saturday evening after a fairly short flight (3-4 hours from Glasgow) and although passport control was a bit of a bitch, the minute our taxi took us out of the airport and into the chaotic city streets, I fell in love. It was as instant as that: love at first sight. All of my senses went into overdrive; the city seeped into every pore, infiltrating my thoughts and emotions that for so long have been centred around a Western culture. My ears pounded with the ‘vroom’ of the motorbikes (there are bikes everywhere, especially in the city centre), the fumes snaking their way into my nostrils, filling my nose, my head thick with petrol. My eyes, spoiled for choice, couldn’t be torn away – in particular, from the couple on a moped, their baby tied over the mother’s shoulder in a sling, the young family precariously dipping in and and out of the seemingly unpredictable and uncontrollable traffic – traffic made up of motorbikes and mopeds, taxis and cyclists, horse-drawn carriages and donkeys pulling carts of cactus figs (mouthwateringly good). My mouth fell open from the moment we stepped outside, and it remained frozen in an ‘O’ until we reached our riad, where I finally turned to look at Mr Daydreamer; he looked at me, our eyes unbelieving but our grins reaching from ear-to-ear. I knew instantly he felt the same way I did about Marrakech.
The rest of our trip was equally as intoxicating, the confines of our traditional riad being the only serenity in what is a muggy, hot and dusty red city. We couldn’t wait to explore; our first day was spent enjoying a peaceful carb-filled breakfast before going for a walk. We intended to stroll around and find our bearings, but before we knew it we were deep in the souks: it was exhilarating and made us feel entirely alive. It’s hard to explain how so, but the term ‘a feast for the eyes’ describes it well. There is so much to see, in every direction imaginable, that you can’t take it all in quickly enough. You desperately want to stop and breathe and people watch – but the minute you do, you run the risk of being sold yet another pashmina or bottle of argan oil (I bought two of each). The souk is a giant treasure chest, a maze lined with golden lamps, painted pottery, colourful spices and leather goods in every colour of the rainbow. I could have spent hours wandering in what was probably a very small circle, round and round and round, and still not have seen enough.
That evening we found the square, which came alive around 5pm with snake charmers hypnotising their slippery captives with musical pipes, the beat of a drum pumping our already hot blood. The din of chatter and people working and living rose higher, getting louder and louder as the sun set red over the horizon.
After the intensity of our first day (made even more intense by the 40 degree heat – glamour in Marrakech summer is near impossible), we were pleased to relax at our riad for a few hours the next morning, sipping ice cold water on our pretty roof terrace. Later, after lunchtime, we visited Jardin Marjorelle, a small garden loved by Yves Saint Laurent in the 70s. It was another small haven within the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, and we enjoyed respite from the sun beneath the shady palm trees. But, alas, the lure of the intoxicating city was too much and we headed back to the souks and the square, where we stayed until nightfall, and ate meat skewers at a food stall packed with locals.
We returned home to shower (there is little point in showering in the morning in Marrakech – the sweat, dust and dirt creeps up hemlines and sinks into your pores no matter how much you try to stay clean) before our final day of exploration, which took us to the original Kasbah, an old part of the city that is undergoing a regeneration. There were very few tourists in the Kasbah; our taxi driver suggested we visit so he dropped us off – but not before introducing us to his friend who owned a tiny, off-the-radar pharmacy which was stacked with medicines from floor to ceiling. The pharmacist insisted we sniff a dark brown powder (the effects of which were like mustard and eucalyptus combined), but we bought only a tub of argan oil face cream, which claims to be completely natural with similar results to Botox. (Of course I was sold.) One last visit to the souk for a leather handbag and Moroccan slippers, and it was with a heavy heart that we had to go home.
Marrakech is a very special place, with very special people. It would be easy to feel intimidated by the noise and the strangers who constantly approach you, but my advice would be to smile, say thank you (choukran) and enjoy the ride.
Images: Kris Miller
Watch out for the next post featuring my top 12 tips while visiting Marrakech.