Marrakesh

Marrakesh (Morocco), 14.04.2014

Rabat was one of the cities I had seen already some years ago, and I found my way through the morning traffic easily. Road rules were still barely existent, the Fiat Uno taxis still plenty, and red lights still rather a suggestion then an obligation to stop. The Kasbah was closed, so I couldn’t enjoy the views over to Sale. 5 tourist guides tried to sell me some alternative tours. The harassing was heavy I must say, Morocco is probably the worst country I’ve seen so far in this regard, and after just a day I still hadn’t fully gotten into “ignoring mode”.

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I fuelled up the Mini (430Dh, approx €39 for a full tank, vs €70 in Spain) and left Rabat on the seaside road. Last time I had done the same and remembered a rather desolate stretch of land and uninviting beaches. In these years either I had a memory blackout or the place has changed quite dramatically. For a long time I drove through newly constructed residential areas, beachside apartment buildings, clean parks, restaurants and bars. The weather was spectacular, 24 degrees sunshine and not a single cloud. I passed several restaurants with inviting barbecues in front of them, but it was still early for lunch. I would have bet that at lunchtime nothing similar would cross my way. And so it was a few hours later. At Casablanca I turned east, passing an impressive road accident between a food truck and a passenger car, with several people lying on the roadside. From there on the altitude and temperature kept increasing constantly. The countryside passed from flat and green to hilly and green, to hilly and brown. Houses changed from big concrete structures with brick walls, to mud walls in oasis-like settings (a lot of green and trees around the buildings). I had to eat at a restaurant on the motorway, and for a moment it felt like one in Pakistan on the way from Islamabad to Lahore: a spot of modern, western style in a rural land, fast food on the menu in a country with a great cuisine.

One accident with people lying on the street beside crushed cars later I reached Marrakesh in the early afternoon. Since I had had not internet the night before I had no Google maps and was driving blind. I found my way to the Koutoubia, where I parked the car. I called the riad I had booked, and at the third call they answered the phone. I spoke to them in french and english, as did they, but while I asked them to explain me how to get to them, they kept asking me about my name and what room I had. I hung up at some point, quite annoyed, and asked the parking place guy to get me to the hotel. He called them, and they weren’t able to explain him in the same language where to go. So we tried our luck and walked through the narrow alleys of downtown Marrakesh. The guide asked people around, but nobody knew where the riad was. The alleys got smaller and smaller, I was sweating, and I almost got angry when we suddenly found the place. It was impossible to find without knowing it. Once inside the riad, it revealed itself as a beautiful, well kept house. A small pool and a lot of plants gave a chilling feeling on a hot day.

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In the late afternoon I went for a walk through the souks and the Jemaa el-Fnaa. Tourist attractions abound, from the music and dance groups, the snake charmers, the henna painters or drug sellers. Here my “ignore the harassing” skills got up to speed in no time, especially once I toured the food stands, where I observed all kinds of hard-selling techniques not even the toughest sales reps in my previous company would have applied. Having been in Marrakesh already a couple of times, I was in no rush to see any specific place, I just wandered through the streets and alleys to soak up the atmosphere, smell the food, spices, incense, see the local vendors, barbers, transporters do their business and the general crowd checking merchandise, buying or just walking along.

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Trip data

– Km driven: 325

– Hours on the road: 5

– l diesel/100km: 5,X

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