Exotic Bedlam in Marrakech

Arriving in Marrakech, AC gasped in amazement at the sensory overload of the ‘exotic bedlam’ of Jemaa-el-Fna Square!

‘Where are we?’

We had just left the Kasbah Tamadot and the sights, sounds and smells of Marrakech were a bit of a shock!

Art Place Hotel, Marrakech

We were waiting in the car near the Square for porters from the Art Palace Hotel to collect our luggage when our chauffeur was harassed by an angry police officer for parking in a no standing zone.   Consequently, we hastily departed,  walking across the Square to the Art Palace taking care not to step on dancing cobras. Hence, the exotic doors of the Art Place were a welcome sight and the interior did not disappoint.

 

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We spent a little time settling into our rooms.  Then venturing outside the Art Palace we were delighted to be immediately immersed in the ‘exotic bedlam’!

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This magical lane next to the Art Palace captures the feeling of the mysterious adventure about to begin.

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The Exotic Bedlam of Marrakech

Crossing the Square, we entered the Souk El Kessabine eagerly anticipating the experience of a life time in this chaotic, crowded and vibrant market place.  Shopping in these souks can only be described as sensory overload.  The kaleidoscope of colour is overlaid by sounds of bartering, call to prayer, music of snake charmers, donkeys braying, or bikes screeching.  The smell of the animals, sewerage pits, spices, herbs and littered rubbish overlaid by the taste of the ubiquitous mint tea.  There is the touch of the jostling crowds, silk fabrics, and Aladdins’ Caves of carved wares.

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These markets are a source of every conceivable necessity of life but there is order in the chaos with similar commodities grouped together.  Typically I proceeded with caution , but AC threw himself wholeheartedly into the experience taking heaps of photographs and befriending the locals.

Health Care in Marrakech

There is plenty of medical care available in the markets.  Here is the local dentist displaying his tools of trade.   Consequently, there are plenty of replacement teeth available.  Not the place to get a toothache!

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Perhaps it is not surprising that dental hygiene could be an issue given that these little straw broom sticks are used for brushing one’s teeth.

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Another unusual personal hygiene product is a brown, greasy wax-like substance.  Eager to find out exactly what it was AC had a chat with a herbalist and came back exclaiming,

‘An aphrodisiac to keep my wife happy!’

Surely not!

The herbalist eagerly gave AC his business card hoping for some interesting business.  Perhaps he needed a break from selling his usual products like the black soap or herbs and natural products able to cure just about any illness.

The Moroccan black soap, ‘savon noir’, is made of olive and eucalyptus oils and is rich in vitamin E.  Hence, it is used to prepare skin for exfoliation thus removes bacteria and stimulating the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Therefore, it is traditionally used in a Hammam which provides a warm, humid, relaxing atmosphere, also associated with religious purification.  This is what a Hammam looks like from the outside! But I am not sure about the inside.

 

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Having coffee at La Terrace des Épices, the Hammam was visible in one direction but most intriguing was the market place below.  There were women frantically sifting, shredding and pounding some type of green vegetation.  As a result, henna was the final product!

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Siesta Time in Marrakech

Another peculiarity of these markets is the way people are quite happy to lie down and have a nap in the strangest places.

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AC came stumbling towards me in dismay,

‘See that woman over there, she is talking to a man sound asleep in a tree!’

And here she is!

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Transport in Marrakech

There are also some rather unusual modes of transport in Marrakech.  Donkeys are very popular, as are motor bikes, cars so full of men that the overflow sits on top of the vehicle, there is the horse and cart, and of course camels. Also, there is an abundance of very old, battered and bruised cream coloured Mercedes Benz vehicles used as taxis.  As a result, at this intersection all modes of transport were visible!

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I like this view of the local parking station!

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I assume there is no parking station for donkeys. So negotiating the narrow streets requires one to become skilled at dodging donkeys.

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Roof Top Skyline of Marrakech

The roof top skyline is alive with contradictions.  Technology sits beside antiquity!  Minarets with loud speakers and satellite TV!  All this mixed in with rubbish disposal!

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Roof top dining offers cool breezes and excellent views of the skyline with flat roofed buildings endlessly dotted with minarets, like candles on a birthday cake, glowing with all shades of pink, grey and cream. Alcohol can only be consumed out of sight of the market place and enjoying a glass of wine from the obscurity of a roof top bar, we watched the sun set over the magnificent 12th century mosque,  La Koutoubia.

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Moroccan Cuisine

In the evening we indulged in the flavours of French Moroccan cuisine at La Maison Arabe.  We shared a variety of entrées including foie gras, orange soup, a variety of spring rolls, and sweet pumpkin, aubergine, and zucchini salads. Then came the chicken and vegetable tagine and crème brûlée for dessert.

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In our brief visit to Marrakech we did manage to take a horse and carriage ride to the opulent and elite hotel, La Mamounia, to have lunch.  This visit would have been rather dull, except for the keen aim of a bird who managed to deposit a large dropping down the bosom of a woman sitting behind me.  To escape the bird I wandered off and sat in an ancient olive grove and sketched their twisted and gnarled shapes.

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This incident was only equalled by our visit to the Saadian Tombs where the crowd was so immense we gave up waiting to see them.  While waiting in line, Jo, our daughter disappeared!  It turned out that she had gone looking for a toilet.  Due to the absence of toilet paper, she had to search for an attendant who sold it!  So she had to pay one euro for 3 sheets!

We also wanted to see a few Palaces.  So we visited the El Badi and La Bahia Palaces which were magnificently adorned with intricate patterns.  Due to lack of time, other Palaces will have to wait for another visit.

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I did manage to sit and have coffee opposite the El Mansouria mosque near Bab Agnaou, the Almohad Gate.  As a result, I managed to draw a lovely little sketch of its minaret!

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Colourful Marrakech

Amidst all of this ‘exotic bedlam’ what lingers in my memory is the colours!  Not just the delicate hues of pinks, greys and creams of the buildings, but the brilliantly colourful and creatively displayed merchandise in the souks.  Consequently, I found myself wishing there was room in my suitcase to take one of these dresses home!

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Every spice stand is creatively and colourfully arranged.

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I love these masks!  While the curly toe shoes look attractive, they would be even more useful for springing AC into action!

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And how amazing to take one of these wooden carvings home!

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A few tips!  First of all, go with an empty suitcase!  And remember, bartering is essential, so understand your currency conversion.  Finally, shop till you drop!

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