Morocco 2012, part 2, mystique and mayhem in Marrakech.

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Morocco has been a senses overload, from the beauty to the ugly, the pristine to the dirty, the solitude to the chaos, and now unfortunately John has got stomach problems at both ends, and we’ve had a sleepless night, but fortunately he seems to have settled and has been asleep for a while. Not sure if it is food related or if its from our guide who has been sick, or from handling coins etc,, we will visit the pharmacy in the morning to stock up on more things for John. We were able to get a late check out and contacted our guide and the driver and we will skip looking around Rabat this morning and just go on the road to Marrakech, hopefully with not too many toilet stops. It’s a bit over 4 hours on the freeway so shouldn’t be too bad. We then have 3 nights in Marakech, so hopefully that will give John time to recover. We are supposed to have a cooking class tomorrow, but at the moment I can’t see that happening! But who knows, what tomorrow will bring. We have less than 2 weeks till home, and still lots more to see and do, but it is much better when there is not sickness involved, it certainly brings things back to basics when things aren’t right and health is number one, no matter where you are in the world. We headed out of Rabat with John feeling much better after his walk around the gardens and settled in for the long drive. Our drive from Rabat to Marrakech took about 4 and half hours was much easier than we expected and John slowly became a bit more human .

The Riad , Villa Orangers,we are staying in for 3 nights is hidden behind a small doorway in a street filled with car repair workshops, but once  inside we were delighted to find the beautiful courtyard and gardens similar to ones we loved in Andalusia

It’s totally another world behind these walls with a roof top pool that we got straight into and garden pool, quiet courtyards and gardens so the camera  has been clicking madly.

With John still recovering we decided on having a light dinner around the pool and the food was fabulous, well, Ann’s was John just had a bowl  of plain rice but the slight salt taste made it very special indeed. 

We had changed the cooking class to the following day so today it was a visit to the big mosque, only the outside as they are very particular  about who can go in and then we visited the ruins of an old 14th century palace that had been pillaged by subsequent rulers and is now used  for concerts but is really ruled now by the Storks who inhabit the walls.

Next it was into The Souks in The Medina which was sodifferent to Fez due to the Mopeds buzzing in and out of the narrow streets.

Much more spices and different goods set up both locals and tourists alike spread out over a huge area and after a while it was lovely to retreat into a serene Medrasa and go from crazy to serene through a doorway. We also visited a beautiful villa owned by a wealthy businessman who left it to the state which showed exactly how the high and mighty lived which had some of the best craftsmanship we had seen.

It was then back into The Souks for more culture vulturing before facing the crazy main Square with its exotic food stalls ,snake charmers and monkey mania. After walking through it all we then We observed all the action and an ice cold coke from a refuge above on the first floor of a cafe especially designed for us vouyers.

Back to the quiet retreat at The Villa and we again decided to eat in and enjoyed a light bar menu dinner in one of the relaxing courtyards and then wandered around the villa to get the real feel of the place which was very pleasant 

And now to our cooking class which was conducted by two local female chefs and it was a lot of fun, we learnt heaps and will be able to use it all but the best part was eating it. We all cooked our own Chicken Tagine and various dishes and it was brilliant, better than any restaurant we had eaten at.

That afternoon we had finally rid ourselves of our annoying guide and after a drive around the walls we set off for the Souks ourselves to do a spot of haggling, some good, some very poor especially my very average attempt to buy a T-shirt that ended in 3 young Moroccans doing battle with one little Aussie male and a capitulating Aussie female who blew my strategy out of the water with one mistimed offer. It was good fun but ended up to be the most expensive T-shirt of the trip and I have to say the most ill-fitting, but boy they were good at haggling,and the entertainment for Ann was worth a few dollars alone! We picked up some nice bags and things for gifts and got into the swing of the system before it was time to move on through the food stalls and back to the hotel.

That night we were booked into what had been pumped as the best Restaurant in Marrakech so the anticipation was high. On the drive there we saw the other side of the city, destitute people picking scraps off the street with that look of both desperation and helpless resignation and here we were going to this feast, we felt mixed emotions and a slight disconnect having been very generous with our beggar donations at times and the fact that we were there helping the economy still it made us uneasy with the whole excesses of our western life that we take for granted, i think we are better off on doing our own thing and choosing the style of holiday we want .

For the best restaurant it was in a dodgy area but again once inside another world opened up, one of beauty and excess and this followed through into the food.

But first a drink on the deck with views over The Medina and a funky Berber duo to entertain us.

The meal was just like all the others, no imagination at all, why do they think that we want to eat the same thing everywhere we go, and the servings were so massive it was a joke. We ate around 30% of the food presented to us and we were assured that the leftovers won’t be wasted as the locals will enjoy the spoils!!! We can but hope that it happens.

At least the setting was superb and very romantic.

We had a nice easy morning enjoying the courtyard quiet as we were to be picked up at 11.30 for the drive back to Casablanca so a leisurely breakfast under the Logia was taken before skyping with Min and the kids.

Today we are visiting our Driver, Toufik’s family farm which should be interesting, we were unsure whether to go as John was still not 100% but thought why not. Well it was an experience, part enlightening, interesting, challenging and uncomfortable all at the same time. It was a traditional family working farm of 10 hectares where his parents, sister and brother, aunt and grandmother live.

They were all there but little English was spoken during a big lunch that we felt obliged to enjoy. The food was good but the fanta carrot soup was the real surprise, orange to excess. We were told to have a nap after lunch before we could see the farm and we both went out Like a light so quickly for over an hour and then had to endure an hour of daytime Moroccan TV before we were able to look round the farm.

Our last night in Morocco was spent at the Hyatt Regency in Casablanca where we ate the nibbles at the club bar before having an early night. Morocco was for us a strange mix of the sublime to the ridiculous and although we just scratched the surface it gave us a very strong sense of a country steeped in tradition and ritual yet it yearns for modernity in all it’s forms. The problem is that for this to occur something is going to have to give but we are not sure which way it will go.

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