The city of Marrakech in the mid western part of Morocco is alive and well, and we just spent 3 crazy days in the city and boy did it Iive it up to its reputation.
To get there, our little Souk & Co group boarded our bus for what appears to be a 250 kilometre trip- so therefore 2.5 hours, however the roads aren’t all freeways and in fact a lot was through the stunningly gorgeous High Atlas Mountains. Hassan our local guide was right – it’s one of the most picturesque drives of our 12 days, and for us it’s a whole day trip and really a great day to embrace our last day in the countryside before the crazy snake charm, juice bar, souks of Marrakech.
There is some interesting traffic with buses, tractors, the odd donkey and cart along with loads of road repairs, and our driver Abdul never raises a sweat through this incredible part of the country, when stuck behind slow traffic. Today is probably not the best day to venture out in your speedy sports car. The closer we get to Marrakech, we realise how much of this incredible country is untouched.
From snow capped mountains, incredible switch back roads, seeing a shepherd with his small flock of sheep or another with a herd of goats, is such a treat for us city slickers who all live in crazy built up worlds. This was just an incredible day.
The Mercedes bus was a long wheel base with a high roof and a few of us felt the motion throughout our tour and therefore sat up front as much as possible or snoozed with travel calm medication.
I choose to suck it up this day and I wasn’t disappointed the view was spectacular. “Marvellous”- in fact as a friend of mine Pete would say!
Our days on the bus were always loads of fun, listening to Hassan or all joining in on our official tour theme song thanks to Lisa L from San Fran “ Dancing in the Moonlight”, of which then Sally happened to have on her play list…… such a feel good song- thanks Lisa for bringing this to the group.
There was loads of discussion as we all thought Van the man had sung it, but after using a google credit- he never sang it…..
A quick detour to the movie town of Wazerat and Taroudannt. Which made our Emma a happy traveller and gave us all a quick photo opportunity. Games of Thrones and Gladiator were filmed here. There are 2 huge movie sets, like our Movieworld in Queensland Australia. (I’m sure they are all over the world but just a reference so you know what I’m talking about).
Our journey takes us through ancient little towns with big names like Ouarzazate, Ait BenHaddou and Ovid Ezekiel, there is snow on the mountains and if fact we missed the road being closed because of a snowstorm by a couple of days.
Back to the highway and cute coffee stops, with killer views and lunch spots with the best beef Koftas and a side of home made fries certainly keep the travel sickness at bay!
Our last bathroom stop, in the Valley of the roses found a shop filled with rose products and a few trinkets. Yes beautiful rose farms everywhere lush and green like an oasis in this valley, stunning against the desolate rocky mountain range.
Loads of little villages selling their wares or their pet chameleons ! Sim had one attached to her finger after a local lady tried to get her to take a photo for a few coins !
This amazing road was built by the French. And although it is single lane in some parts due to erosion, it is being widened and repaired and is just incredible.
I have to say arriving into Marrakech and it’s sprawling metropolis is a change to the small towns we have been in and I’m glad it is at the end of our trip, as even the big cities of Fes and Casablanca appear small in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the big M and this is just from the bus!
Our first stop is at what Sally’s team affectionately call the spice boys….. A herbalist shop with treatments for anything and everything. Including snake bite in case we get too close to the snake charmers…… not much chance of that for me…… my least favourite thing to see!
Hassan says Yalla Yalla- “Come on get moving” to the team and heads off a quick pace through the main square and as I have not really exercised this trip I’m happy to move my little legs at his quick pace as we weave through monkeys on the loose, people selling shirts and watches and sunglasses, as we head to a local bar upstairs with a cracker view to watch the sun set over the local mosque and embrace everything that is Marrakech……. for the bargain price of a drink, I grab a pole position for the rest of the team arriving behind us to capture the sunset, and as I said watch a poor little monkey escape it’s owner.
We see in the coming days, that these poor monkeys ( and snakes) arrive early in the morning in boxes and are obviously here late at night, waiting for tourists to pay to have their photos taken with these poor little creatures chained up. Needless to say we don’t pay and never would.
Sally’s camera has a great zoom, so I use her camera to get some awesome shots from our view, before we walk through the crazy eateries all clambering to get our tourist dollar to eat with them or have a juice, or get our palm read, we walk through the horse carriages offering rides along the promenade to our ever faithful bus driver Abdul, who collects us and whisks us away to our own private oasis, the instagram famous private Riad- Yasmine owned by Alice and Gabb whom Sally knows very well, and our group has the whole place to ourselves.
Well actually we had to share with the 2 cats, who Iike nothing better than to climb into your bed or your suitcase if you left the door to your room open- little cuties.
The staff here are incredible, making sure we have supplies as needed organise our laundry and cooked an amazing breakfast everyday that was always slightly different.
There is always a variety of bread, pancakes and cake…… not sweet like we have, corn bread, savoury style pancakes, that your can add jam or something to to sweeten if you like or eat with your egg and the most stunning olive oil I have ever tasted…… When in Morocco !
Coffee is called Noos Noos in Arabic and the word please is Afak. Say that out loud and see what it sounds like! Pretty funny to us ….
Ahhhh the world is a magical place when you travel and mystical Marrakech is just stunning. We get lost in Souk’s that have zones. Like the leather areas, or metal or food or clothes, carpets, blankets, slippers, ceramics in all the gorgeous green shades, walking through another archway passed wood workers shaving sticks to make shish kebab sticks with their feet, all the smells and feels of an ancient town, with some parts now turning to the western style of fixed price and no bartering and its also nice to have this mix and really first world problems some if us are arguing over $5 …… and we are on holiday!!!!
There are several oasis’s in the souks like the gorgeous group of Nomad restaurants and we get to visit them during our days in the souks.
Coffee at LeJardin a beautiful old family home, turned into a restaurant with green tiles and yummy coffee and a quaint atmosphere…… re charge and we are off again bartering and ordering before we must be at our lunch spot for 1:00pm sharp. ( we have lunch here the next day- so yummy!)
Yep another amazing roof top restaurant! We’ve eaten so much meat on this trip I just need a vego day and the gorgeous Nomad zucchini fritters followed by fennel, cauliflower and pomegranate salad does not disappoint. Lisa M has bought some of the locals metal castanets and gives us a quick click clack before we head to a shop downstairs called Chabi Chic – need I say more? We all partake in items, from glass jugs, wall hanging and coffee cups ( that’s just me) to postcards, more ceramics and cards.
Our afternoon is a real delight. A trip to the Yves Saint Laurent memorial garden, Museum and also the Berber museum, which was a big part of YSL’s inspiration after years of Black and white with Versace, when Yve arrived in Marrakech he discovered colour and culture which really influenced his styles.
There was a massive cactus garden, gazebo and lots of posers…… if you can’t beat them join them right ?
Ahhh……. back to our private residence before we are out to another treat of Moroccan fare. Sally again knows these guys very well,. Who serve us decoy non alcoholic beer and glasses of “juice” that looks and tastes just like Rose! There are lemon trees in the courtyard!!!!!! Morrocan Italian – Bón appetites !
Days 2 and 3 in Marrakech are more of the same and we love it!
The suitcases are starting to bulge and Lisa M and I take our magic carpets from Aladdin’s cave in the desert, to DHL in Marrakech and have them shipped home…… Of course we have the ever patient and awesome Hassan with us, whilst Sally stays in the Souks with the other gals. Lisa and I tap out and head back to our Riad and chill, whilst the rest of the gang hit up another garden hotel that’s apparently is amazing, but I’m happy to have had a few hours out of play to chill and cuddle up with the cat in my room…..
Our last evening is at another Riad, El-Fin and its next level. Larger than our private Riad, but so so stunning, from gorgeous art work to outstanding roof top areas. All this and a sunset before we sit down to an amazing meal.
Our ever patient hosts finish our tour with a question like we started with 12 days before. Then it was what our expectations were and now its about what our favourite memory was.
We all sit there a little stunned. How do you choose, actually I can’t even remember, none of us can it’s been so jam packed.
Hassan re lives our itinerary and we all start to remember. The wash up of it for us all is the incredible country and its people, the local experiences, like going to a market to create our own Tagine, the time we stopped on the side of the road and ate Bbq’d lamb with the locals. Actually it’s everything.
I was a little emotional and teary tonight- I also wasn’t alone chatting about our adventures and now they have come to an end with this amazing group of ladies, all from different walks of life. Some of them travelling solo leaving their families behind to experience this adventure.
I have new appreciation for tiles, Muslim beliefs and other cultures. Australia is so far removed from the rest of the world, including our American friend Lisa, who knows we are all Australian but calls us kiwis, I try to explain the kiwi New Zealander bird VS Australian wallabies and kangaroos as far as sports goes and that we are affectionately called Aussies. We teach her what slang words like dodgy and daggy mean and generally embrace each other, whether we are feeling unwell or have a handy hint for some sneaky i phone photos. When our emergency nurse Emma gets sick, all off us have a full proof remedy to make her feel better (for the nurse)!
I truly love small group bespoke tours, a fabulous way to meet like minded travellers and have had the trip of a life time with memories I’ll hold on tight to and treasure.
If anyone is thinking about a trip to Morocco either as a group with Sally or a private group that she and her team can help you plan, I can highly recommend Souk & Co. soukandco.com.au
It’s cocktail o’clock here in Singapore, and I’m sleeping during the day and partying all night………… 3 days to get home from Northern Africa to Australia sucks and I’m trying a new approach with a Singapore stop over……… more about that next time
M’assalama – good bye……..