Two faces of Marrakech Part 3

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Grandad
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Two faces of Marrakech Part 3

Post by Grandad »

TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

AND NOW A MOVE TO THE SECOND FACE OF MARAKECH

We had dropped off a few fellow travellers at The Red Hotel on our Monday evening arrival so assumed it would be OK. The hotel is modern. The rooms are very nice with a balcony, effective air con and a decent flat screen TV, a large bathroom with equally large shower cubicle and, as its rooftop pool was not available, we could use the excellent pool and facilities of the adjoining twin Opera Plaza Hotel. Everything was looking good and thankfully nothing went downhill, everything worked out fine.

But why the second face of Marrakech? Well the Medina is as it has been for centuries and even now few areas are navigable by motor vehicles with the exception of pesky motor scooters that get everywhere. In more recent times a new city has been built around and to the north of the Medina. This has large dual carriageway boulevards, major roundabout junctions, modern apartment blocks, and a shopping street with all the top world brands. It has a new railway station just across from our hotel which, although small, is a beautiful example of traditional Moroccan and modern design. There is a downside and that is that, like the Egyptians, they never finish anything off completely. The lovely paved plaza in front of the station has many slabs broken and tilted. The curbs along the street are health hazards and in some cases the curb stones are still laying along the side of the road waiting to be fixed…..and the station celebrates its fiftieth year this year so, will they ever be fixed??? THIS IS THE SECOND FACE OF MARRAKECH…..

Exterior and interior of the small but impressive railway station
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Place La Marche Verte road junction, opposite the hotel, by day and night. If you zoom in on the kerbs at the far side of the pedestrian crossing you can see what I mean about 'unfinished'
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Time to chillax at the pool and to use the very good pool bar for drinks and lunchtime snacks. The music loop that played at the pool bar was so repetitive that we not only learnt the sequence of the tunes, we also learnt the words. There are cafes and restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel so we would take our life in our hands each evening, just to cross the road on the pedestrian crossing that all vehicles totally ignored. And of course even if you got across unscathed you still had to clamber over those unlaid curb stones.

General view of the pool area
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We did venture back into the Medina on two occasions. Firstly on Saturday, day 5, we took a taxi to Centre Artisanal, a large Government controlled shop that had been recommended as a good place to buy quality souvenirs all at fixed prices. Well I will just say we walked in and walked out. Apart from some huge pots there was nothing that appealed to us. On our previous visit we bought a good pot 45cm tall with Berber decoration that we use as a floor standing stick holder. We saw nothing of the same quality or appeal.

From there we walked to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque. This is the tallest building in Marrakech and it is forbidden for any building to be taller, so no Burj Khalifa for Marrakech then. Unlike in most Muslim countries, non Muslims are not allowed inside any mosque in Morocco. Their mosque style is very different from those of the middle east and Turkey, normally with a single square tower. But the call to prayer is the same with lots of distinguishable “Allahu Akbar” There are pleasant gardens around Koutoubia and a passing water seller gave me another photo opportunity.

Koutoubia Mosque and a Water Seller
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Our final excursion back into the Medina was the evening of day 6 Sunday. I mentioned that Jemaa El Fna was an open plaza by day; well in the late afternoon and through to the early hours it transforms into the largest collection of street food restaurants you are likely to find anywhere in the world. Jemaa El Fna (which means Assembly of the Dead) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I can only try with a few pictures to give you a flavour of the place at night but it is truly amazing.

The scooter park at Jemaa El Fna and a pano of the square at night
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Two images of the food stalls
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Blind and disabled beggers and a music group where people would sit and listen then move on
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Finally, one of my favourite pictures that I showed earlier in B & W
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So there you have it. My impressions of The Two Faces of Marrakech. As I said, we had been before so did not revisit some of the other visitor attractions or venture outside to the mountains or the coast. It was a 'chill' week. :) Language was not really a problem. Most Marrakechi’s are French/Arabic bi-lingual. English is to be found in hotels, and taxi drivers and waiters in cafes tend to have a little English. Would I recommend Marrakech as a holiday destination? Absolutely! Three nights in a Riad inside the Medina is really sufficient and if you are based outside the Medina you must get inside and explore: It’s another world……..


:gg:

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Horus »

:br: Grandad, very well done and very informative :up
Smashing pictures which I assume were with your new camera? it certainly seems to handle all the light conditions very well and the images are nice and sharp.
It does seem to be a shame that so much stuff gets left unfinished or is of poor quality when you go to some of these places, I wish I could put it down to the lack of tourists, but look at Egypt, most things fall apart after a few weeks or were badly maintained even during the boom times. :(

Nice to see that their version of a caleche has two horses to share the burden. :up

Another interesting fact about the mosques, just imagine if we imposed the same restrictions on none Christians entering a church in this country :urm:

Had you originally intended to spend the whole week inside the Medina and only moved due to the lack of good air-con? and if so would your now preference be to stay outside the Medina in a good hotel rather than stay inside if you visited again?

That open plaza area is something I have always wanted to visit at night, I have seen it featured so many times on the TV and it looks fascinating, did you get the inpression of any pick pocketing or tourist scams taking place in the general area?
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Grandad »

Some interesting observations Horus, and thanks to you and everyone else for your encouraging comments. It makes the effort of putting these little reports together worthwhile. Thanks all :up

1. Yes, the X10 performs particularly well in low light and I did not use any flash at all on our trip.

2. The Caleches are very smart with their four wheels and two horses.Unfortunately some of the horses did look rather undernourished. :(

3. We had intended to spend all seven days in the Medina and only moved because, at our age, we like a little more comfort. That said, three days living in the Medina is a wonderful experience and I would say either do as we did, 3 days in Medina and 4 in an hotel; or 3 nights in the Medina or hotel then 4 nights at Essaouira or Agadir if one is planning just a week.

4. The night market is thronging with people every evening, mostly locals. There are pickpockets around but in those situations I always travel very light and wear cargo pants with zip front pockets. On one occasion when I was taking a snap Mrs G noticed a little girl behind me and eyeing up my back pocket (there was nothing in them). Mrs G gave her a stern stare, she smiled and slinked off to a lady a few paces away, obviosly her mother, training her to bring money and valuables home....

You just need to be on your metal sometimes. :)
:gg:

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by LovelyLadyLux »

Wow - fantastic Grandad! Super interesting and I think you've now sold me on a trip there! :) :up :up Definitely looks to be a super interesting place and a fantastic mix of old and new.

Love how your started with the B&W and ended with the same photo in colour. Like the coloured photo best and it really IS a great photo.

How would single woman travel go there? From your report doesn't seem to be the same level of hassle as in Egypt but ?
Firstly on Saturday, day 5, we took a taxi to Centre Artisanal, a large Government controlled shop that had been recommended as a good place to buy quality souvenirs all at fixed prices. Well I will just say we walked in and walked out. Apart from some huge pots there was nothing that appealed to us. On our previous visit we bought a good pot 45cm tall with Berber decoration that we use as a floor standing stick holder. We saw nothing of the same quality or appeal.

As for finding souvenirs, trinkets or interesting items to bring home - (slightly off topic here) - but I have noticed over the past few years, maybe a decade or so, I've had a harder and harder time finding good interesting pieces to bring home when I go jaunt about on my travels. Most places I've gone to now seem to be full of cheapy crappy 'made in China' items. They're a little bit more sophisticated than having the name of the country written on a pillow but none the less nothing I'd ever buy to bring home to display.

Not sure if this is just me or if this is the view of others. Seems to me that in many tourist places the quality of what is being sold is definitely declining.

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Kiya »

Thank you Grandad for your time & effort of your travels in Marrakech.

Fabulous photos with your new camera & did notice the star effect from car headlights & with no " filter " ........great :)

It looks really nice & interesting but I think I would prefer the second face of Marrakech.

Shame about the unfinished work with slabs etc but I'm sure that did not put you off enjoying yourselves :)

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Phantom »

Thanks Grandad, you have reminded me how much I want to go there :)

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Grandad »

Glad you liked my little account Phantom, thanks :up
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Lisak »

Just logged back on this page after not being on for ages. Thanks for this Grandad, I am back off to Marrakesh for the 3rd time in a few weeks. I love the place!

I asked why non muslims aren't allowed in the mosques and apparently it is a French law that was passed a long time ago. Too many people were converting, so now they do not allow non-muslims in!

I love the colours, the food and the hustle and bustle there, I also love Essaouria, easy to get to, and much more laid back and cheaper than Marrakesh (I am doing both on this trip)

You have whetted my appetite for my upcoming trip thank you!
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Horus »

Enjoy your trip Lisak and give us a report :up
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Grandad »

Cheers Lisa :up Will you be staying in a Riad or Hotel. We enjoyed our Riad but were ready to move on to more comfort at an hotel after three nights. We have Istanbul on our list for a return visit. A wonderful city with SO much to see and do. :)
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 3

Post by Lisak »

I am stopping in a hotel/riad right on the square. it is basic, but conveniently located.
http://www.djemaaelfnahotelcecil.com/

And in Essaouiria I am stopping in a Dar, somewhere which is also really well located within the medina.
http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Revi ... egion.html

Both places I have stayed in before. We are doing 3 nights Marrakesh, 2 Essaouiria, then back to Marrakesh.

I went to Istanbul alone last Easter, what a brilliant city that is, I look forward to your report Grandad. Enjoy.
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