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Reflection

Marrakech : Second stop for my last summer holiday

I haven’t forgotten about my promise. There are some pictures I want to show you after Agadir on our next stop to Marrakech.

I have visited Marrakech for 6 or 7 times and every time I go there for an overnight trip, I thought it was too dusty, too busy and too hot. This is the first time I actually stayed longer in the city, for 4 days, and I get to know more about the city than I ever did.

Marrakech is known as the “Ochre City”, with a population of over 1,000,000 inhabitants is the most important former imperial city in Morocco’s history. I am not kidding when I said all buildings in Marakkech has to be Ochre or Red in colour because it is! It is a municipal requirement. The city of Marrakesh is the capital of the mid-southwestern economic region of Marrakesh-Tensift-El Haouz, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Like many Moroccan cities, the city of Marrakesh comprises both an old fortified city (the medina) and modern neighborhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz.

We took a coach from Agadir to Marrakech. A two and half hour drive, scenes of dry land and rugged terrains everywhere. The Argan tree grows from this part of the world, where Argan oil is extracted from kernels of the trees for medicinal, nutritional and cosmetic purposes. There are villages with high minaret of the mosque that dotted this otherwise barren plain.

We checked into a theme park called Aqua fun club. It is a theme park with all inclusive drinks and food, with Mediterranean, Oriental and Moroccan tagine and cuisines to choose from. We came here for the boys but it was a good relaxing holidays to lay back and do nothing but eat and rest for the next two days.

I am surprised at myself for not having the courage to slide down on one of those 60 degree water slides, considering I used to try out many death defying stunts when I was younger like white water rafting, jumping off from a 30 feet pole, mountain trekking etc. I suppose as I get older (being nervous and stress out), height starts to unnerve me. Do book your holidays through the website from UK and get a better deal for the whole family in Aqua fun club.

We then checked into El-Andalus hotel in the centre of Marrakech city and stayed here for 3 days. Although not 5-star hotel, I was impressed with the intricate carving on the ceiling and the wall. I mean I have seen rows of these Moorish carving in houses or restaurants but not as big a patch as I have seen here in this hotel. Places you can get a view of these intricate carving are mosques or ancient madrasahs (religious school) of Morocco. We had a room with a pool view. I think we got a good deal for £50 a day with breakfast and dinner.

We spent a lot of time walking in Marrakech, far from the Jamal Efna square, this is my first experience of seeing Marrakech on foot. With wide boulevard and pedestrian walk, there is no fear of being run over by motobikes or cars! That’s the central bank of Marrakech on the right.

The following picture is the full view of the Marrakech Theatre. It is situated next to the train station.

Besides the car and motorbikes, you will see many of these horse carriages that will take you a around the city for £20 – £30 per ride, depending on your bargaining skill! They operate close to 24 hours in the summer, these horse carriages usually line up in rows in the Jamal Efna Square or sporadically around the international hotels. Past midnight, I could still hear these horses’ hoofs galloping outside my hotel window. Quite an interesting experience to see the city this way.

We visited the Jamal Efna square almost every evening. Do be careful though, besides the pedestrians, the motorbikes are criss-crossing around the square. Approaching the square, you will see smokes and a sea of crowd milling around.

The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night, food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant.

Interestingly there are hundreds of stalls which serve the same food but never run out of patrons. For the historical curious: Jemal means “congregational mosque” in Arabic, probably referring to a destroyed Almoravid mosque. “Fanâʼ” or “finâ'” can mean “death” or “a courtyard, space in front of a building.” Thus, one meaning could be “The mosque or assembly of death,” or “The courtyard in front of the mosque”. So it is probably macabre reference to say that what has become a UNESCO world heritage site for its unique display of culture and feasts, was once an execution square.

After food, my other half and I like to come to one of these many tea stalls to have a small glass of the Moroccan herbal tea. It consists of a species of roots and ginseng with other herbal ingredients (which you can read in French) and serves to heat up your body and promote blood circulation. It is strong, gingery and fiery on the throat. I find it absolutely pleasing drinking this during the wintry days but since it is hot summer, I restrained from drinking the full glass, no matter how small it is!

I like the way the vendors always pile their wares especially fresh and dried produce high and prominent for show. Moroccans are very proud of their food and agricultural products. It is produced in abundance, sufficient for local and export needs. This stall sells dried dates, figs, prunes, apricots and many other dried fruits.

Conical showcase of various spices and herbs and bottles of dyes and stuff in the shop that I haven’t got a clue what is in there! We are here to buy bottles of argan oil.

The best part of Morocco is the suok. If you are an avid photographer and possess a good camera (or even if you don’t!) you will take pictures that exudes with so much colour and texture that they are almost guarantee of admiration! The more elaborate slippers are for the women, the men’s are stacked at the background.

There are assortments of leather bags, hats, purse, wallets and slippers on display in every shop.

I love looking at these beautiful lanterns. A small peddler is selling his ware on the floor. But if you want the real thing you have to look at the next picture…..

These authentic lanterns are made of copper. It is a craft which requires high artisanale skills. Skills are passed on from father to son for generations and these lanterns are all hand crafted. They look absolutely magical when they are all lit up!

This is Koutoubia Mosque, one of the most famous landmark of Marrakech. The Koutoubia mosque is built in the 12th century and it means the Mosque of the Booksellers. In the past 100 bookselling shops existed in the streets at the base of the minaret. The minaret was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199), which is 77 m in height including the spire. There is only 2 other similar prototypes to the Koutoubia mosque. One of them was used as the model for the Giralda of Seville in Spain (but has since converted to a church with add-on design on top of the minaret) and another for the Hassan Tower of Rabat in Morocco, which was destroyed by an earthquake and now left with half the minaret.

Marrakech is now a bustling, vibrant and cosmopolitan city with the snow-capped Atlas Mountain as a backdrop. It is a popular destination for the budget travellers and also the luxury tourists. Every year this city hosts international film, music and art festivals. Many foreigners live here and find inspirations in art, buying up riads and refurbish them and also enjoy the year-long sunshine and mild winters. The city is close to many reserve parks, Atlas mountains, deserts and gorges for weekend getaway locations. Last October 2011, we visited Ourika Valley at the foot of the Atlas and ate tagine lunch next to a stream. Memorable.

I feel this is the first trip that I get to know Marrakech a little better. The beauty of the city, besides the suok, lies in the gardens, riads, water fountains, dwellings with beautiful decors behind the plain looking moat walls. I can see myself spending my days doing nothing next to the garden under the palm and orange trees.

I think I can live here for awhile. What about you?

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

17 thoughts on “Marrakech : Second stop for my last summer holiday

  1. Thank you for sharing more of your photos JoV! Marrakech looks like a fascinating place to visit.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | October 6, 2012, 2:00 pm
  2. What wonderful photos Jo!
    I have always wanted to visit Marrakech and a few years ago we were going to go, then we got engaged and spent all our money on the wedding instead. But one day I will go for sure.

    Posted by Sam (Tiny Library) | October 6, 2012, 2:10 pm
  3. i love the lanterns!

    Posted by hibiscus rosa noor | October 6, 2012, 3:05 pm
  4. The part about “too dusty, too busy, and too hot” could be potentially a turn-off for me but hey, I like herbs and spices. Not to mention, I am such a sucker for colorful displayed items. And look at those copper lanterns upon being lit up!! Marrakech certainly has a lot to offer!

    Again, amazing pictures you have there! 🙂

    Posted by Ting Ting | October 6, 2012, 4:32 pm
  5. You made good on your promise 😀 Your account of your days and nights in Marrakech is amazing. The Jemaa el Fnaa is huge, and all that smoke! Is that cooking smoke? That herbal tea sounds good, but perhaps not for summer no 😉 I can’t believe how affordable your hotel was. And what am I reading about jumping off a 30 foot pole??

    I can easily believe that you and your family had a wonderful time here. The boys must have had a blast in the theme park!

    Posted by Chinoiseries | October 6, 2012, 6:28 pm
    • Chinoiseries,
      Thanks. It is definitely cooking smoke. So as a food connoisseur that you are, you will enjoy the place. 🙂 Yes I did jump off a 30 feet pole trying to catch a hanging trapeze, but miss it. One of those fear conquering team building exercises that I had to go through. 😉

      Posted by JoV | October 6, 2012, 8:40 pm
  6. Wow, great pics, looks fabulous and worth every discomfort I am sure for the incredibly memorable moments depicted in your photos.

    Posted by Claire 'Word by Word' | October 7, 2012, 7:07 pm
    • Claire,
      I have been there several times and never thought that this one would be memorable. I suppose when you get to know a place a little better then it changes your initial perception about the place later on.

      Posted by JoV | October 8, 2012, 11:56 am
  7. Is that last sentence a hint that you’re moving Jo? 😉
    The lanterns picture looks very similar with the one my friend took in Turkey. I guess it’s a muslim thing?! I’m going to visit Giralda in Seville during my end of year road trip, so I’ll make sure I pay extra attention to it!

    Posted by mee | October 10, 2012, 12:45 pm
    • Mee,
      An option when I retire Mee. Which is a decade or two away. 😉
      It’s a Middle Eastern art to carve copper lanterns, originated from Syrian civilisation. Take photos when you are finally there at Giralda!

      Posted by JoV | October 11, 2012, 10:19 am
  8. I visited Marrakech a few years ago and loved it. Guess where I stayed? Hotel El Andalous!! Small world! Thanks for the photos – a really great reminder of an amazing town.

    Posted by Andrew Blackman | October 12, 2012, 1:42 am
    • Andrew,
      What a coincidence! Small world. I think it’s a town (although it carries a status of city, I still feel like it’s a town!) that you can come back to it again and again.

      Posted by JoV | October 12, 2012, 8:13 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

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5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

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JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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