A Travellerspoint blog

Trip to Ouarzazate

Day 2

sunny

I happened to stumble across a website called Viator where you can book tours in various countries for reasonable prices. There I saw this trip to Ouarzazate which is a former garrison town which is a crossroads between Marrakech to the North and the Draa valley to the South.

We were picked up at 7am and we started our long journey. We drove through green plains before getting to the High Atlas mountain range. The scenery dramatically changes as you drive through the mountains going from lush green to purples and reds to slate greys and then finally to sandy coloured areas.

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The Berbers live in this area and they are non-nomadic peasants. They have their own language and are self-sufficient.
Along the way we made a few photo stops. We saw some kasbahs (fortresses) along the way which have been used in filming.

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After the long drive we had a 4 course lunch in a restaurant which consisted of salad & bread, this savoury samosa and spring roll type thing, chicken/beef tagine, oranges for dessert and min tea. Was nice and left us feeling satisfied.

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Following the lunch we had a local guide who took us aorund Taourirt Kasbah. This is the only historic monument in Ouarzazate which housed the Glaoui family and their servants. They were the lords of the South and controlled access into the High Atlas region. Our guide took us through the maze of staircases which led to different rooms with beautiful views from the windows. There were intricate designs on the walls and the windows were low in some of the rooms. Our guide was very informative and it was an interesting tour of the kasbah.

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Our final stop was at a place where the y make brass goods. We were told the difference in materials used to make the teapots etc and what the genuine one should sound like when hit.

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After this we made the long journey back and arrived at the hotel at 8pm. This trip costed just under £40 which I thought was worth it as it was a long drive, lunch was included and the tour and guide of the kasbah was included.
This trip was mainly about seeing the varying landscapes of the High Atlas region and the Kasbah. Would recommend to everyone.

Posted by travelbug_ 01:40 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

Marrakech - Old Town

Day 3

sunny

After an early breakfast we made our way to the old town of Marrakech. I have to say that where we were staying was very busy- so much traffic on the roads, loads of scooters, taxis, busses. It's a death wish to cross the road but you have to do like the locals do and just cross the road and keep your fingers crossed that you make it to the other side in one piece!! Our hotel is also near the bus station which is good if you want to get to other parts of Morocco using the local transport. Bear in mind that the drivers only speak in Arabic (although most Moroccons also know French) and it's jam packed on there - sometimes looked as if you would be lucky to get a seat.

The old town is surrounded by the walls of the Medina with various 'gates' to enter into the old town.
We had planned our route to walk and had made it to the Kotoubia Mosque fairly easily. The minaret of this mosque is the icon of Marrkech and can be seen from almost anywhere. It's redish in colour and has intricate designs. It's very pretty. We walked through the courtyard to get to the other side to make our way to Place Jemaa el Fna which is the main square. We had taken a slight wrong turning and decided to ask a local woman for help. She was so helpful and asked us to follow her into the square as she was going in hat direction anyway. Her generosity continued when she asked us where we wanted to go to after and I told her Ben Youssef Merdersa. As she wasn't sure herself, she stopped at one of the many orange juice stalls int he square to ask the man. At the same time she bought us each a glass of orange juice. My Mum had wanted to buy her one and pay for ours but she refused the money and said it was her pleasure. We couldn't get over her generosity and kindness. Once we finished our juice we proceeded to follow her through the souks (they are confusing as there are many entrances and many slide lanes that lead you in different directions), there she asked someone else to explain the directions to us in English as she had to go a different way to work. Once she knew that we got the correct directions she left us and we made our way to our destination. We are forever thankful to her and I only wish I had thought to take a pic with her. if ever someone stops me to ask for directions I will think of her and try to be as kind as she was to us.

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Ben Youssef Merdersa is the largest koranic college in Morocco. It has the capacity for 900 students who stay in the small chambers. I heard that there could be up to 9 students in a small cell. There was a beautiful marble courtyard with a rectangular pool. The entrance costed 50 dirhams (approx £4). It's open from 9am to 6pm. After walking around for a while we headed back to the square through the souks. We had a browse around but nothing really caught our eye as there were similar if not better things in Turkey. It was still nice to see and to experience the 'souk culture'.

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Place Jemma el Fna is something else and I have never seen a square like it before. There is a lot of hustle and bustle and it really comes to life at night which I'll talk about later. We stopped for lunch and sat on one of the terraces on the upper floor with views overlooking the square. Whilst eating our lunch, at the sound of the prayer call, a lot of men congregated ont he square to start their prayer ritual. It was fascinating to see. For those few minutes everything stopped and all was quiet until it was over and then everything carried on as normal as if nothing happened.

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We had decided that we would go and see Palais Bahia when it opened in the afternoon. This was pretty straightforward to get to as you just had to take the side alley next to Cafe de France (Rue des Banques) and follow that. It only took us 10 minutes or so to get there. It costs 10 dirahms to get ther (just under £1 - bonus!!)
Palis bahia when translated means 'palace of the favourite'. It was built at the end of the 19th century by 2 great viziers to the sultan. The palace coomplex consists of two parts built at different times. Both sections have beautiful courtyards and apartments with beautiful intricate designs.

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After looking around for a while we headed back to the square for refreshment. We decided that we would stay until dark to experience the square at night and we did as many tourists did and sat on the terrace of a cafe overlooing the square. I think one of the best views is from Cafe De Grand Balcon. This is where we spent most of the evening.

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As night approached, the square came to life. Makeshift food stalls popped out of nowhere. Soon smoke was billowing out from the cooking of the foods. Everywhere you looked on the square was a feast for the eyes. The sounds, smells, and sights were amazing. There were snake charmers, entertainers, music, men with monkeys, women doing henna trying to get peoples custom. One thing I witnessed which I didn't like at all was when I saw a man punch his monkey. He really treated it badly and the monkey was so scared. I had talked to someone else on another ocassion who also saw the same sort of thing. I would say that if you don't like snakes, don't walk too close to the snake charmers as they tend to put the snake around you so that they will take a pic of you and charge money. the same goes for the men with the monkeys. Even if you just casually watch them and take pics they will go after you for money and will follow you for some distance. I saw all this from the balcony. Also if you don't want mehindi on your hands then be careful as the women sometimes can grab your hand and start doing them before you even say yes or no. It was really beautiful at night as all the stalls and the square was lit up as well as Kotoubia mosque.

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We stayed for a while and then caught the taxi back to the hotel as we were told not to walk back at night as it was just the two of us women. You have to barter with the taxi man but as long as you know roughly how much it should be and when they know that you know they won't try to rip you off. Our journey costed 40 dirhams (just under £4) . In the evenings you can expect to pay more as the journey during the day costs about 15-20 dirhams.

Posted by travelbug_ 08:39 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Arrival in Marrakech

Day 1

sunny

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Mum and I caught a coach at 12.30am from the all new Digbeth coach station in B'ham to London Gatwick to catch our easyjet flight to Marrakech at 7.50am.

It was initially not our intention to go to Morocco as we had orignally planned to go to Madeira but due to the severe floods a few weeks ago we decided to change our destination. Morocco just popped into my head and marrakech will be our home away from home for the next week.

This is our first holiday without Dad. It is strange but we know that he is with us in spirit and would want us to continue doing the things that we loved doing as a family. He was all for living life to the full and experiencing as much as possible and so we will continue to do this.

Just as we were about to board our flight, we were told that it would be delayed by an hour as they needed to change a tyre - great!! However it didn't take as long as they had initially though and after only a 10 minute delay we boarded our flight. The time was made up and we arrived in Marrakech on schedule. We got our transfer which was pre-arranged in UK (resorthopper) as I had heard that the taxi drivers really try to rip you off and made the 15 min journey to our hotel Ryad Mogador Marrakech.

The hotel is 3 star and is basic but clean. The reason why I chose this hotel is it's close proximity to the old town (20 mins by foot), new town (10 mins by foot) and the Majorelle Gardens (5-10 mins by foot).

After refreshing ourselves at the hotel, we made our way to the Majorelle Gardens. The entry is 30 dirhams (just under £3). This beautiful garden was designed in the 1920's by Jacques Majorelle and was restored by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980's. It's full of beautiful cacti, flowers, colourful pots and facades and water features.

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Yves Saint Laurent's ashes are scattered in the garden and there is a memorial for him. There is also a room displaying some of his art work - designs for greeting cads whichhe sent to friends, family and clients.

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We enjoyed a delicious mint tea and Moroccon pastries in the garden's cafe which is in a pretty courtyard setting.

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Just a point to note that it's open from 8-noon and then from 2-6pm daily.

It's a good thing that there is no time difference so can get on and do things without feeling tired.

Posted by travelbug_ 12:08 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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