29 September 2019
Nerida Matthews | 36 degrees
20 – 21 September
A day of travel today – a flight from Dalaman airport (near Gocek) to Istanbul where we caught up with Naomi again who had spent a few days in Istanbul. Then a flight to Marrakech followed by a 3 hour taxi trip to the coastal town of Essaouira. We were met when the taxi arrived by an elderly gentleman with a cart who went off into the medina with our luggage at a great rate. Not a word of English and just a kind of “follow me” gesture. As we arrived at our destination our host Abdul appeared to show us around and provided us with a welcoming bowl of olives and fresh Moroccan bread. This was the start of the excellent hospitality we were to receive everywhere.
Our accommodation was a renovated house in the old part of the town – typical of the houses here being on 4 or 5 levels all facing to an open area in the centre. Lots of character and not for those who can’t cope with steps! It was well located, just a short walk to a main street with all of the typical bustle and small retailers of all sorts one finds here. Abdul was to arrive every morning with breakfast – fresh juice, lovely bread, tea and coffee. His wife would then turn up and clean up all of the dishes.
As expected, Morocco is a very busy place. Lots of people on the streets, motor bikes of all shapes and sizes, donkeys pulling carts and of course cars with horns in continual use.
22 – 25 September
We are now in Marrakech for 4 nights. Spending time just exploring the streets and markets of the old town as well as a few museums and gardens. Visiting the hidden gardens of Marrakech is a way to keep cool as well as avoid the craziness of the streets of the medina. We visited the ancient walled Le Jardin (the Secret) garden which is setup in two parts, a traditional medina as well as an exotic garden. This restored garden is hidden away in the heart of the medina and was originally built as a sign of the wealth and availability of water to Marrakech from the nearby Atlas Mountains. We also visited the Jardin Majorelle gardens which was established in 1924 by the landscape painter Jacques Majorelle and was restored by Yves Saint Laurent. With 300 plant species from 5 continents, this was quite a different garden. The use of plants as sculptures and the layout was quite dramatic.
We ventured out one night out in the main town square in the middle of the medina managing to avoid the snake charmers, monkeys on chains, musicians and a host of others to have a meal at one of the many pop-up restaurants that only trade in the evenings. There was lots of noise, energy and sights to entertain the tourists.
It’s all kind of fun being here but does get a little tiring after a while with continual banter in the markets (“come in to my shop, everything is cheap”) as well as dodging the various forms of traffic - donkeys, hand pulled carts, motor bikes and bicycles. The food has been great, the other night we had a tasty meal from a street stall of olives, mixed kebab skewers, bread tomato and onion salad and chilli dipping sauce, costing for the three of us about A$10.00.
26 – 29 September
On Thursday we had a 6-hour train trip to Fez, the trip was quite comfortable if a little hot. We easily found our accommodation, a lovely old 3 storey building with mosaic tiling everywhere, very high decorated ceilings and a small rear fully enclosed garden. There is a live-in family who act as housekeepers who also provide an excellent breakfast for us every morning. It is a perfect escape from the rest of the old city.
Fez has quite different feel to Marrakesh, the back streets in the old part of the town (the Medina) don’t have the motorbikes, cars and other types of vehicles zooming around so it is much more relaxing to walk around. The medina is a huge maze of little streets where one could easily become lost. It does not pay to stand still looking at a map however as it would not be long before someone offers to help you find your way – for a price of course! Some of these people can be quite demanding and seem to have no concept of the value of their help, asking what amounts to the equivalent of four taxi fares even for limited help.
The architecture of Fez is quite different, most of the buildings have a high blank wall on the street with large courtyards or gardens behind. One needs to get behind the outer walls to appreciate the fantastic architecture of this ancient city. Everywhere is decorative mosaic tiling, highly decorated ceilings, huge doors and tiled pillars.
It has been very warm here with temperatures reaching the mid to high 30’s so we have ben retiring to our riad for the afternoons. There is a lot to be said for a yacht surrounded by a swimming pool……