So off we went, the luggage cart guys managing our luggage over the steps and pathways to the gate where we joined the van. First we moved through apple and olive groves, then over fairly desolate land until we reached a town that was unmistakeably a ski town, and learned that this was where the king had a palace and liked to come for ski-ing. It was very alpine in feel with well tended gardens and fountains, steep roofed houses and Chalet style hotels. We stopped for a nice coffee, as did all the tour buses.
Appropriately named hotel
Fountain and park
Chalet type houses
While many of the towns on the way seemed to have unfinished and abandoned houses, on the outskirts you would see whole housing estates with roads, kerbing and lighting, but no houses and the plots full of weeds and rubbish. I was told this was future planning but it looked like a plan gone wrong. But I may be mistaken.
We passed a very large lake and dam system and there were irrigation channels in many parts, especially allowing the growth of citrus in areas close to Marrakech.
Farmstead hiding in the hills
Beautifull blue reservoir lake
Bed in riad
Street from our rooftop cafe
All mine, just for starters
|Cacti and succulents, plus brilliant colours in the Majorelle gardens |
A pool in the gardens
Then through the medina to the old medresa, or Islamic school, where young men studied for years to know the Koran and the other law books, living in small rooms, worshipping in their own mosque and making their ablutions in the pool. The artistry of the architecture is stunningly beautiful, the rooms small and rather chilly and students stayed there from 5-24.We followed with a Caliph’s house which became a school, was abandoned and eventually and recently restored as a museum. While there are not many exhibits, the house itself is an absolute jewel.
Interior courtyard and pool of medresa
Niche of medresa mosque
Study and bedroom for two
An obliging girl poses in a medresa study/bedroom
Beautiful tiling in the old caliph’s house
Ibrahim took us to the market areas of the medina as well as a pharmacy which he assured us was different to the one we had seen in Fes, but really it wasn’t, and the pharmacist lost interest in showing his wares when he realised that we were from Australia and could purchase very little to take back. Where was Ibrahim? Well praying actually, which was OK by us, but we would have preferred honesty from him. In the end I did purchase some saffron. The smell was glorious and permeated my luggage.
Fruit and dates for sale
|Metalwork shop|| |
Some more touring in the medina led me to speak with a jewellery shop owner and once interest was even remotely expressed in a piece he was determined to clinch a sale. In the end I had to leave and Nick had to reiterate the “No”. I probably broke every bargaining rule but all I really wanted was to get some idea of the price of items, not to make an offer on the one I picked up. Different places, different norms.
I expressed some interest in going to a hamman and Ibrahim was anxious to show me the one he used. So off I went, armed with fresh undies. In all honesty I felt like a child being undressed and led by the hand, being steamed and soaped and doused and scrubbed and daubed with mud and steamed again and shampooed and rested and massaged. It would have been restful except that I got lost trying to return to the riad (and therein lies another story) and was hot and bothered by the time I finally got home.
We finished the night at Jemaa el-Fnaa, this time eating at Stall no. 1 with gorgeous fresh prawns and calamari. We did find the touts for the various vans were very pushy and annoying, refusing to take no for an answer and thrusting menus in our faces, but I guess they were just trying for our business. The competition was fierce.
Orange juice cart
|Stall no. 1|
To our hotel, Il Doge, the same one as before. This is a really lovely boutique hotel with rooms decorated in Art Deco and themed after film stars. We chose the Fritz Lang room because it had a separate shower, but I must admit that the huge, black marble bath was used once, filled with bubble bath. The hotel was a Relais et Chateaux establishment, staffed with French women on the desk and local people in the restaurant. And therein lay a problem, because the local people, willing as they were, did not understand European meal plans, cutlery or the food, so the service was a tad interesting and not quite at normal Relais et Chateaux levels. We made allowances.
The dining room art deco glass
The Fritz Lang room
The opulent marble bathroom
And as we flew out of Casablanca this very poor shot through the plane window, gives an idea of the size and location of the Hassan II mosque’
Next stop: Lisbon