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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Marrakech to Midelt

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 20 June 2007 | Views [3570]

Arrived in Marrakech late afternoon on 13th at the Hotel Al smara Alkabir.  Good quality with a pool. Nice swim to refresh after a day in the heat. Went to 'Dar Essalam' restaurant near to old medina. This place is amazing and its claim to fame apart from being converted from an old palace is that Alfred Hitchcock filmed 'the man who knew too much' here. A stunningly designed place - you have to go there!

Of course no moroccan evening would be complete without a belly dancer. Shame everything was going so well! This one started as a human candelabra and shook a few things and then went. A bit naff really, any way the rest was good.

Thur 14th. Walking tour of old city starting with the 19th century Bahia palace. Beautiful moroccan design with cedarwood ceilings given to the 1st minister who used to look after the southern part of the region. No longer inhabited other than by maintenance staff. Well worth a visit.

Next stop the Medersa and Ben Youssef 16th century university. Students had to be able to recite the whole koran from memory to get a place and for their efforts the king gave them a free education and free bread for lunch - they were swizzed me thinks. 160 rooms and tranquility away from the madness of the medina. Followed on to the 'Herboriste du paradis' to get plastered in loads of smelly stuff for every ailment known to man - I do wonder if the owner ever gets ill? Now what do they do with pickled chameleon - didn't want to ask! Dragged off to a carpet weaver next - free mint tea and then, yep, they tried to sell us carpets. We all made a quick exit stage left back into the madness outside once they mentioned the price. Ouch!

Now comes the highlight of marrakech  the 'Djemma el Fna'. You have to come here before you die at least once in the day and again at night. Absolutely brilliant. Snake charmers, acrobats, story tellees, fresh orange juice stands, witch doctors, beggars everywhere. Superb atmosphere. Just do it! Got some snakes thrust around my neck to play with. One was a cobra others grass snakes. Of course the catch is they want your money for the photos but didn't mind. You don't know where to look next as there is so much going on.

Went back again in the evening when it really comes alive. The food stalls come out in vast numbers vying for your custom. It's fantastic trying to get a meal with them scrambling over each other. Terrific fun and the food is good and most of all cheap. Lamb tagine, drink and cake 25 dirham -£1.50. Loads of street music and other entertainment. Shattered after a long day of sensory overload so drinks by the pool and bed by midnight.

Fri 15th -  Marjorelle gardens named after Jacques Marjorelle a painter. Built in 1924,opened to the public in 1947. He died in 1962 following a car accident. Now owned by Yves  St Laurent and run under a trust fund. A wonderfully tranquil area containing his original blue house, ponds, palm trees etc. Well worth the 30 Dirhams.

We decided in the afternoon to follow the Lonely Planet walking tour guide and this took us through some different areas than yesterday. Of note the caravanerais workshops where wood crafrs, stone, jewellery etc are made and sold. A personal highlight was the 'Ministero del Gusto' art & furniture gallery at 22 derb azzouz run by Fabrizio Bizzarri. Now is that a made up name or what. Modern design with a definite flavor of Fred Flinstone. Brilliantly funky. Another area is the dye shops where the dyed wools are hung overhead to dry so a great photo opportunity.

Back to Djemma el fna again in the evening for another sensory attack. Decided to get a horse & carriage (calesh) back to hotel. Sir haan the 8yr old white horse and all for 70 dirhams between 5 of us. Peanuts for a great experience.

Sat 16th - Head out of marrakech over the high atlas mountains via the tizi 'n' tichka pass at 2280m the highest in morocco. After lunch one of my personal things to do before I die - the magic Aït Benhaddou. This place has been used in so many film sets - 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'Gladiators', 'Jesus of Nazareth',' Jewel of the nile', 'kingdom of heaven'. Awsome berber kasbah built from local clay and a Unesco protected location. Originally built in 11th century by the Almoravids to control the caravan route from Telouet to Ouarzazate. The caravans also took salt from morocco to Mali to trade for gold. It's amazing how the old tribes value things different from modern western cultures. The kasbah is still lived in by berber families. A stunning place. Box firmly ticked!

On to Ouarzazate to stop at the Fint hotel for night directly opposite the Touirirt kasbah. Decided to have a quick dip in the pool then go walkabout. Got followed by a kid that kept asking me questions so I ended up letting him be me guide. 11yr old Rashid turned out to be really nice. Took me into a couple of homes. One made me a mint tea and showed me the camel hair touareg tent on their roof and another was an

Extra in the Jesus of Nazareth film so wanted to show off his memorabilia. He also had a collection of ancient touareg jewellery that he told me the history of. A really nice time spent so I gave Rashid some money for hist time. One thing stands out about morocco, everyone is so friendly.

In the evening off to Obelix restaurant which is a moroccan restaurant, decorated in egyptian style serving crap Italian food. Very unusual finish to the day. Loads of photos of film stars on the walls from old films and some made this year that haven't been released yet (prisoners of the sun made earlier this year was one)

Driving back to hotel past the Touarirt kasbah noticed some dancing outside so went back to investigate. Turned out to be laid on for a local society that was celebrating something inside the kasbah. They were kind enough to let us take photos.

Sun 17th June. A long driving day down the dades valley (valley of 1000 kasbahs) - note that in morocco a kasbah is a moroccan style house, a village is a ksour or ksar. Stopped at one - the skoura. The owner decided to turn it into a hotel about 10yrs ago. Next onwards via rose valley. The season finishes in may but products made from the roses available all year - perfume spray & eye drops mainly.

Major highlight of the day next. Taken to have lunch with a berber family. Mohamed & fatima Outleb, in a village called Azlag in the Kalat Megouna area. Note that no other tourists have been here so we are very privileged. The main entrance is a completely understated metal door in the typical pisé wall (local clay/mud mixed with stones). Past the goats and cows and straw into the courtyard in front of the house entrance. First shown the kitchens where our lamb tagine lunch was being prepared by 2 of the daughters Zara & Hooda and then the bakery where the mother Fatima made the couscous and Houb bread (like wholemeal). You don't get more authentic than this! Whilst we waited for lunch to appear the typical mint tea was provided accompanied by mixed cakes. Using our best french / arabic we talked about their family traditions. Really interesting time. Their family has been in this house for hundreds of years. Lunch was excellent although starting to get fed up with lamb tagine & couscous now. Finished off with mixed melon. Could have had some buttermilk but advised that would most probably spend next 24hrs in the toilet if we did. When they make the milk locally they leave some of it to thicken and scrape off the surface to make the buttermilk. None of your pasturising rubbish here!

The daughters then painted henna tattoos on the girls and I was talked into having my eyes done - apparently a common thing according to our guide so I gave in. Not convinced about the result so tried to wash it off later. Oh bugger it isn't that easy to get off.

Left there and headed to Todra gorge our home for the night at the hotel Yasmina. What an awesome location and position for a hotel, tucked right under the gorge walls. Fresh natural spring outside the door with running drinking water so filled my water bottles for free. Went walkabout for a while and found a quiet thinking spot by my own personal oasis. Heavenly setting. Later found another spot on a wooden bridge so that I could dangle my feet in the water and as if by magic...three guys from bradford appeared wanting their photos taken. Had a laugh with them for a while and they took my photo too and departed.

No electricity until generator starts at 7pm so nice opportunity to sit outside and take it all in. Evening meal of vegetable soup, meatball tagine, couscous and melon. Can't wait for a curry! Short walk after dinner - stunning sky filled with thousands of stars. Took some long exposure photos that cannot do it justice. The night sky accompanied by the chorus of loads of frogs echoing off the gorge walls making it really eerie. Got a text message of my katie wishing me happy fathers day. Completely forgot as have lost track of time already. It was a lovely surprise that meant a lot.

Mon 18th - Started day with walking tour of  Todra valley with Hassan. Note that almost everyone on Morocco is either Mohamed or Hassan. A women's co-operative runs the growing area as seems to be the case in most areas. Alfalfa is grown extensively for cattle feed as well as for producing green dye and for tattoos. Also grow dates, apricots, almonds, pomegranates, maize, grapes. Walked through an old village that had been abandoned 45yrs ago. After lunch a long drive to Merzouga and the  Erg Chebbi sand dunes (side note - in july moroccans with rheumatism come here when the temp reaches 45degC and bury themselves up to the neck for long periods as a cure - works apparently, although they have probably killed their nervous system so cannot feel anything again). On the way passed Tafilalet. This is the largest production area for dates in morocco. Stopped at the Le Kasbah Touareg hotel to collect our camels for the next day's fun. A 1hr camel ride into the sahara to get to erg chebbi aboard a frisky 4yr old camel. Note never let your camel get too close to the one in front - it crapped on my foot - yuk! Fortunately it dries quickly at nearly 40degC. Climbed to the top if the biggest dune and was the only one from our group that did. It was a killer in this heat. Thought I was going to have a heart attack part way up. Only me, the guide and an italian couple up there. After watching the sunset, which wasn't too brilliant due to time of year, flew down the dune at a rate of knots and re-mounted trusty camel. Another jaunt lead us to our Touareg camp for the night. This was superb. Camel hair tents as per tradition. Yet another tagine for dinner - starting to get fed up with tagine. Eating by candle light in one of these tents in the desert is a bit special. The Touareg then

Provided entertainment with Djembe drums, a form of clanging metal  castanets and really bad singing. Very authentic stuff and really good. Followed by a touareg conga. Well we had to teach them something useful didn't we. They then handed us the instruments to have a go. Not being shy on this sort of thing I got some rhythms going and we put in a fairly decent show for a while, which they seem to enjoy. Slept out under the stars on a mattress. A stunningly clear sky with thousands of stars - magnificent!

Tue 19th June - Up at 4am to get back on the camels to watch the sunrise at erg chebbi. Really nice start to the day although too early for some. Back to the touareg lodge and say goodbye to our camels, not that they understood but it was good fun. Shower, change and shed a few pounds of sand, breakfast and back on the road for our next destination. Short stop at a 17th century mosque at Rissani and a long drive north. Lunch in the ziz valley. Went paddling in a really warm river whilst lunch was being prepared - yep tagine again. Stayed at Midelt for the night. Boring place but will get better as fez is tomorrow.

Tags: Sightseeing

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