10 Days in Morocco :) - this might take some time !!!
With no skiing for Christmas this year, the first time for 12 years Mag and I had it at home in Felixstowe but then our son Rob and his girlfriend Hannah organised a trip to Morocco and we jumped at the chance. So we booked a cheap flight got a hotel in Marrakech for a couple of nights then hired a car to have an adventure and we certainly did !!!
Camels on the beach at Essaouira taken later in our holiday
Thursday 29 December 2011
Off to Morocco with our son Rob and his girlfriend Hannah. Early flight so left home at 1.30 – we met up with Rob and Hannah and both parked our van’s on someone’s drive on a new estate in Stanstead which went surprisingly smoothly despite the fact that our satnav couldn’t find it and the guy had forgotten to move his car so we had to wake him up at 3.30! He was very friendly though so that was ok. Taxi to airport then check in nightmare – we had only booked one bag and were over on the weight so my wetsuit was in a bag and Mag had put the toiletries in the hand luggage so that all had to be sorted out on the floor by the check in desk! Then before we boarded they made me get the blooming wetsuit into one bag so taped it to Mag’s rucksack then left my passport at the desk! Got on the plane and no passport! The staff organised a search and I got it back – phew, had visions of having to get off!!! Flight 20 mins quicker than it should have been so got through the airport and onto bus into Marrakech quite quickly. Lovely blue skies and a lot warmer than England! The bus stop was miles from the Hotel Imperial Plaza (booked through bargain Groupon deal:) so had to walk quite a way but it is a nice hotel and Mag and I sat on the roof next to the pool for the afternoon chilling out:) We walked into Marrakech in the evening to enjoy the atmosphere of the souks at night! What a culture shock – hundred and hundreds of stalls, a real mixture of colours, sounds and smells. You could buy anything from scarves, jewellery, clothes, leather, lanterns etc., to a whole side of a cow and a live chicken which they would kill and prepare before your very eyes in 2 seconds flat! You had to watch your back all the time to ensure you didn’t get run over by a moped – even in the narrowest of alley ways! We had a local style pancake in what looked like a locals only part of the souk and then made our way to the main square – Place Jemaa El Fna. It was absolutely teeming with people round the various snake charmers and people with monkeys wanting to charge you to take a photo. We were approached by a man from an outdoor restaurant offering us a mixture of local dishes and as Hannah had read about this in her guide book and it is Rob’s 24th birthday we sat down and enjoyed a really nice meal (the most expensive of our holiday at £510 Dirhams). Walked back through more Souks and arrived back at the hotel exhausted!
My wife Mag arriving at Marrakech in blue skies and warm sunshine.
The bus drops us a distance from our hotel and we have to walk to find it !!! We got two night here for £79 courtesy of a Groupon deal - it should have been over £300 !!!!
Mag enjoys the rooftop pool but water too cold to swim :(
Morocco in bloom
Veiws over Marrakeck
Rob,Hannah and Mag see Marrakech by night
Our first food in Morocco being cooked
Mosque by moonlight
Fishing Marrakech style
We have a huge meal in the Place Jerma El Fna - the largest square in Africa apparently !!!
You name you could buy it
Shops Moroccan style :)
Friday 30 December 2011
Had a very nice breakfast at the hotel and cheekily made rolls for lunch! Another lovely sunny blue sky:) Got a taxi into the city centre and walked round in daylight – lots more snakes and monkeys! Also lots of stalls selling all sorts of herbal medicines and strange things like ostrich claw and live tortoises and turtles. We visited the La Koutoubia mosque where everyone was flocking to pray , the Tombeaux Saadiens and a Palace before having a walk around the town walls. We were surprised how many storks had nests on the palaces and town walls. Had a kebab, bought some cakes and dates from street vendors and got a taxi back to the hotel. The most amazing sight on the crazy journey back was a moped with trays of literally hundreds of eggs tied to the back! The taxis - drivers leaning on their hooters, mopeds, donkeys and push bikes all vie for position and it is complete madness!
So views on Marrakech - crazy, colourful and full of atmosphere, not too much begging and not too much hassling either but other than the souks, street entertainers and a few historical ruins there is not as much here as expected. Two days is about right, moving on tomorrow.
Fancy a monkey on you shoulder for a few Dirhams ???
Or perhaps a snake around your neck ??? we passed on both !!!
Waiting for a customer
Mags buys some dates
Mosque carpark or should I say moped park :)
A quiet moment on the roads of Marrakech usaully filled with mopeds and hooting taxi's !!!
The only way to travel
We stop here for a picnic lunch to watch the world go by !!!
Marrakech was full of storks !!!
The poorer side
Tajiens anyone ???
Hat anyone ???
Stork wars !!!
We buy a box of cakes :)
Marrakech sunset - our last day as we move on tomorrow.
Saturday 31 December 2011
Another big breakfast and made lunch then checked out and got a taxi back to the airport to hire our car. Got some cash out and bought a map then set out into the madness of Marrakech with me taking the first turn! We got lost on the way out but were soon heading out towards the High Atlas Mountains. We stopped for lunch at a reservoir and carried on up on what we thought was the road to the only ski resort in Morocco. This virtually new road ended up being a dead end with a group of people trying to sell treks at the end of it. Beautiful scenery though and our chance to see lots of Berber life and stand on some snow at least:) We retraced our journey and stopped in the village of Imlil and were instantly asked if we would like a room in the Cafe Aksoual by a man called Hassan (whose Wife comes from Bristol). The rooms were basic but clean and only 120D for the room, dinner and breakfast (just under £10). We decided to stay and Hassan made up a fire in the cafe and we spent a good few hours chatting to Hassan’s older cousin who is a trekking guide and was offering us many different length treks including one up J. Toubkal which is the 4,167 peak. There was also a Norwegian lady staying who was a regular visitor to Morocco so she was very interesting too. When we finally went to our rooms we were frozen and got into our bed with all our clothes, coats and hats on, covered up with the two blankets and sat there like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate factory. The cold up here after dark is bone numbing!
The wonderful snow covered High Atlas Mountains
Mag and I on top of the world !!!
Mag and Rob from our first room out in the wilds at about 2000m in the mountain village of Imlil
This is now we slept the night as it was freezing !!!!!!!!!
Sunday 1 January 2012
Amazingly we did sleep and went down to breakfast in the cafe. Decided to walk through the village – we were tempted by the many offers of treks but at this point in the holiday were still planning to do quite a major tour so didn’t feel we had the time. We were soon going up the mountainside along the winding trek paths, meeting the Berber people on foot and on donkeys at regular intervals. Also met lots of trekkers with all their gear being carried on following donkeys. Unfortunately it all went a bit pear shaped when we got to the waterfall. I stopped to take some of my slowed down water photos and told the others to go on. The entrance to the main part of the waterfall was concealed by rocks which they found and I didn’t:( They enjoyed the waterfall and seeing the trekking kitchen set up there complete with Tajines etc. And I carried on up the mountain path. I had a brilliant walk but the others were worried when I disappeared and Mag thought I was at the bottom of a ravine:( I did rejoin them eventually and after buying a couple of bracelets from a very old and persuasive man in the village we set out in the car to find the ski resort of Oukaimeden. We never did find it, after following all the right road signs we ended up virtually back where we started (quite near Richard Branson’s posh mountain retreat). We stopped in the village to get bread and laughing cow cheese (this was to become our staple lunch for the whole holiday). We were approached by a man to join his family for some couscous to celebrate New Year. He was very genuine and friendly and because our son had been to Oman and received this kind of hospitality regularly we finally agreed. He took us to his house, sat us on cushions and brought Mag a quilt as she was cold. His mother made us the traditional mint tea and went through the ritual of warming the glasses and pouring the tea from a great height! We chatted to the man and were introduced to his young daughter, his pregnant wife and his 92 year old grandmother! Family is a huge part of Moroccan life. A tajine of couscous and vegetables was brought in. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and definitely a real Berber experience but the whole thing was soured when he produced a bag full of hugely overpriced items for us to buy. We didn’t expect a free lunch and had offered to pay (which really offended him) but he was a rather aggressive salesman whose whole demeanour changed when we were not enthusiastic buyers:( We did escape in the end after giving him ten English pounds. I know we were probably naive and should have gone with our original instinct of declining his invitation but after Rob’s experience of genuine hospitality in Oman we were too trusting. However we did have a unique experience and if he had let us pay for lunch up front it would have been fun. We travelled on through the mountains for several hours, saw the sunset and arrived in Talouet in the dark. We were again instantly approached by a man (Aissa) with a room – he took us down lots of alley ways with a torch and we were wondering where on earth we were going to end up but eventually arrived at his small hotel which was really nice – a bit similar to a ski chalet in some ways. He lit a fire and we very soon went to bed as we were exhausted by our eventful day!
Moroccan falls and I missed the bigger waterfall just upstream :(
Stunning scenery around every corner
Mag does her first bartering and get a snake bracelet :)
Fantastic red rock
We stop to admire the view
We were invited into this house to celebrate the New Year - got a nice 'free' meal then the man tryed to sell us jewellery and then asked for English pounds - a bit sad really :(
We arrive at Telouet late at night, find a lovely little hotel and the owner Aissa makes us a fire :)
Mag and I enjoy the warmth :)
Monday 2 January 2012
We slept really well and Aissa brought us breakfast in the sunny courtyard where the very skinny kittens were sunbathing. He took us for a tour of the local Kasbah which is unusual in that it still has one section complete and the beautiful opulent decorative mosaics and ironwork in place. He gave us a broad history of the place with special emphasis being given to the rooms where the ‘chief’ kept his four wives. The rest of the Kasbah was ruined but still a spectacle to see. He had organised for someone in the village to give us a guided walk to a saltmine and after buying the usual bread and laughing cow picnic we set off with Abt-Lakul for what turned out to be a 5 hour and 12 mile hike through hills, valleys and local villages. It started by walking miles up the asphalt road and we were a bit worried but it was actually spectacular. The working salt mine was amazing with men using gas lamps, pick axing huge lumps of salty rock from the walls of an enormous cave and wheeling it to the small entrance with worn out wheelbarrows. The air inside was so salty you could taste it. They were very happy to see us and show us what they were doing. Suddenly someone started whooping, making a definite get out of here noise and we all ran to the entrance. Just got outside and there was a muffled explosion as more red salty rock was loosened for them to continue work. We decided not to go back in and set off back the way we had come and ate our picnic in a sheltered spot in the hills. Our guide then took us in a different direction and through the valley to another village with a spectacular Kasbah. It was great to see real Berber village life with the children playing, carrying their baby brothers and sisters on their backs, the women washing the clothes in the river and drying them on prickly bushes, people with their flocks of sheep/goats and working in the fields (on their mobile phones of course!). We were taken back to the village and had to visit cousin Mohammed’s (the local Dell boy?) warehouse but we managed to escape buying a carpet by pleading tiredness! We discovered that Aissa had gone to the dessert with some Scandinavian tourists so his cousin Joet was our host and took us back to Dar Aissa for a Tajine of couscous and vegetables with a whole roast chicken on the top! Wonderful fresh oranges for dessert. Joet stayed with us for most of the evening making up the fire etc., but when he had gone we played cards and had a nice evening.
The local ladies do their washing in the stream
We had the whole place to ourselves
Aissa gives us a free guided tour of the Kasbar
We enter the Kasbar and find more tourists inside
Views over Telouet
Aissa shows us the heating system
Hand carved plaster
Freshly tilled field - no tractors here !
We head off on a 5 hour, 12 mile hike
Mag checks out the wonderful landscape
In the middle of nowhere !!!
Mag gets a helping hand from our guide - 5 hours and it cost us £8 !!!
Mag enters the saltmine to watch the miners collecting salt with pick-axes
Our guide shows us the rock - we then had to leave quikly as they blasted a section of wall !!!
On the way back across fields to a small village
Yet another Kasbar
While shepherds watch their flock !!
Everyone has a mobile phone - how ever poor !!!
Mag catches the sunset
Top dinner - a whole chicken on a bed of cous cous :)
Tuesday 3 January 2012
Another lovely breakfast in the sun then as we were leaving we got a call on Joet’s mobile from Aissa in the dessert asking if we had enjoyed our stay and making sure everything was ok:) Moved on from Talouet and drove down a wonderful valley road towards Ait-Benhaddou – a town with a huge Kasbah where Gladiator was filmed. This valley had a Kasbah on every corner, lush vegetation and crops and a river which actually had water running through it. The sad thing was that every village was inaccessible unless you wanted to walk down to it and in hind sight we wished we had made the effort. However, when we reached Ait-Benhaddou we walked down to the river and across the stepping stones to access the village within the Kasbah walls. It went up and up with many shops selling the usual colourful Moroccan souvenirs and crafts. There was a building right at the top which we walked to then sat and had a rest and looked at the amazing scenery surrounding us, mountains, some with snow and red hills and rocks. In fact, someone we spoke to said it was just like Ayrs Rock in Australia. On the way down we did some bartering to buy a throw, our tactic of carrying on walking down the steps worked in that the shop keeper ended up running down the steps after us and agreeing to our price:) Hannah really wanted a rug and made a great decision to ask at this particular shop because the owner had been an extra in the Gladiator movie, showed them all his photos, his mock sword and dagger, introduced his wife, took them up to see his sheep on the roof of his house and even cut the rug they liked in half because it was a little bigger than they wanted! This made their purchase very memorable:) We missed this as we had moved further down the village. We ate our picnic by the river before returning to the car and taking photos of men with snakes and camels! Consulted the map and realised that the original tour plan was far too optimistic as the scale of the map doesn’t really convey the reality of the size of the country and the state of the roads! Made the decision to drive to the coast and set off through beautiful mountainous scenery, skirted round Marrakech and found the long dual carriageway to Essaouiria. It took us a long time and was over 200 miles. We arrived about 10p.m. and couldn’t believe the state of the place! The outskirts were filthy with rubbish everywhere and cows eating the rubbish from bin bags. We couldn’t even find a road that lead us to the sea but shining like a beacon of cleanliness was a newly built Ibis Hotel. Mag was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of a night of warm luxury so although it was more than we had been paying we checked in to a beautiful room for around £40 a night with breakfast – still really cheap by British standards:) The room was very white, comfortable with en-suite bathroom with walk in shower. Bliss.
With Aissa away looking after Swedish tourists in the desert - cousen Joet looks after us :)
We drive along the most fantastic gorge with Kasbars around every corner
We stop for a camel shot !!!
After paying this man a few dirhams to take this pic I was so excited I didn't focus properly - must try harder !!!
Mag admires the view of Ait Benhaddous - used for shotting many films including Gladietor :)
Top top spot
Local guide leads his group
Rob and Hannah have a quiet moment :)
Great view across the river
Hard work for the poor old donkey/mule :(
Easy life for the cats
Back across the river for a picnic
Sorry I got a bit arty !!!
Lovely yellow flowers - what are they ???
A cats life :)
After paying again I make sure the camel is in focas !!!
We see a great sunset on the way to the coast !!!
Wednesday 4 January 2012
Woke up in our luxurious room and went down to explore the pool as Mag is a keen swimmer but the water was freezing so decided to give it a miss and went to breakfast instead:) Met a couple who were in Morocco in their camper van for a month and had stopped at the Ibis for a night of luxury! We were interested in chatting to them as I would love to come for longer in our camper van next winter. Checked out and drove to find the sea and have to say that until you reach the sea front the state of Essaouiria is shocking! However, when you reach the beach it is lovely and we had a great walk along the beach to the old fishing port. As usual it was me taking photos of the boat building going on which resulted in me being given a guided tour and having to find some dirham at the end! There are literally hundreds of little blue fishing boats moored up in the harbour and stalls selling fresh fish and shellfish of every description set up along the quay. Unlike in the mountains the cats here are huge! And I have never seen so many seagulls in one place in my life. We continued our walk through the walled town and had our picnic up on the city walls overlooking the sea. Parking is quite a way from the walled town so went and put some stuff in our rucksacks and set out to find a room. We were yet again approached by a young man with the perfect rooms for us! This turned out to be correct and we checked in to the Riad Saltana. Lots of original features in what was obviously once a very opulent house with a roof terrace and sea view, perfect for sunsets:) We even had rose petals sprinkled on the bed! Walked out into the town in the evening. Lots more souks and Mag and Hannah both bought some really colourful lanterns. We had a chicken kebab meal from a rather suspect restaurant but it was very tasty. Rob offered hash and ‘space cake’ numerous times – he is definitely not interested but they are always asking him!!!
Mag and Rob on the top beach at Essaoira
Essaoira has a great working fishing port
I get the full tour of the boatyard and it only cost me a few dirhams !!!
Too many fishing boats for the number of fish in the ocean !!!
A cigarette saleman - he sells them one at a time !!!
Essaoira - town of a million gulls !!!
Neatly stacked fish :)
Essaoira spice shop
Wild ocean :)
Local artist :)
More bartering :)
Seed thief !!!
Cat alley :)
Our Essaoira hotel
View from our hotel roof
Our room including rose petals on the bed :)
Mag enjoys the views
More big seas !!!
We saw some fantastic sunsets and sunrises !!!
Essaoira souk taken as we enjoy a kebab
Thursday 5 January 2012
Woke up to cockerel crowing on a neighbouring roof and the sound of crashing waves. Unfortunately also a slight whiff of drains! They are repaving and sorting out the drains all over Essaouiria and starting a bit in every road! Had a shower after I fixed it up with black tape and went into town to buy breakfast at the street vendors. Pancakes, savoury ring doughnuts on a string and some sort of bread. Also bought enough for lunch on the way to the car. Drove down the coast to Sidi-Kaouki, a beautiful virtually deserted beach with camels grazing by a sea flooded lake. There were a couple of surfers out on a fairly big surf and Mag played with their dog which had been left to amuse itself on the beach. She kept us company for our whole walk:) We made our way back to the car seeing lots of crested larks. We drove a bit further until the road turned into a track then turned back and returned to the very end of Essaouiria beach where there are lots of camel, horse and quad bike rides available but we managed to avoid all the salesmen and walked to the rocks with our picnic. After a nice couple of hours on the beach reading and relaxing Rob and Hannah took the car back and Mag and I went to have a look at the windsurfing outlets including Club Mistral and sat in the surf cafe for a coffee on their very comfy leather sofas:) Wandered back along the beach, taking photos of camels in the sunset. Had another kebab meal from a different outlet, as there is not very much choice of meal, unless you want to go to a swanky restaurant. We had an ice cream walking round the port and went back to sit on the terrace outside our room and play cards.
Sadly the camel had his front legs tied to stop him running off :(
Sidi Kaouki a great surf spot and top beach
Some girls enjoy the camel train
Footprints in the sand - sorry I went arty again !!!
Essaoira and we stop for lunch
Sorry another arty one - the roof of the surf bar :)
Essaoira as the sun sets
The sun drops behind the Island of Mogador
Mag catches the last of the sun
Sunset from our hotel
Friday 6 January 2012
Went to a cafe for breakfast today, right in the middle of the walled town. A great opportunity to see the town come to life with people setting up their stalls and deliveries being made from handcarts. Everything from gas bottles to fresh bread. We bought pastries from a shop first then ate them with coffee at the cafe (this is the done thing apparently, or you can order it in the cafe and the owner walks up to the shop and buys them himself!). The whole thing cost 31 Dirham for both of us – about £2.40! Rob not feeling too well today but we drove up the coast to visit Moulay where some of my windsurfing friends have been on holiday. On the way, on the best bit of road we had been on for a while, we hit the biggest pot hole you have ever seen on a blind bend and got a puncture. Changed the wheel amazingly quickly and carried on to the beautiful deserted beach at Moulay. We were greeted by a lad about 10 years old who literally ran alongside the car until we parked (about ¼ mile!) and he tried to sell us hats. I had already bought one the day before from a man crocheting them near our hotel but these were a bargain so after a good 5 minutes light hearted banter I agreed to buy one for 30 Dirham. His brother had appeared after following another couple along the beach and was trying to get me to buy one off him too but when he realised I wasn’t going to he burst into tears and thumped his brother for good measure! We started our walk and the younger brother walked with us (well me really – it’s always me!). We had a great chat and he was good fun – he finally left after he got me to part with 10 Dirham to take his photo! I loved Moulay and would love to come back here in our camper van. There was a huge English Camper in the car park and it was virtually the only vehicle there. We drove back to Essaouiria and to the surf cafe for coffee. Rob feeling really groggy so he stayed in while we went to buy take away pizza for tea and ate it back at the hotel.
We barter again for crocheted hats
I get a puncture we drive up the coast to Moulay
I buy yet another hat from a couple of top salesmen !!!
Moulay a top windsurfing spot
Yet more sunset camels at Essaoira
Essaoira and the kitesurfers enjoy the breeze
Donkey gets a paddle
One of the million gulls watches the sun disappear
Saturday 7 January 2012
Breakfast at the cafe again then walked round the fishing port and small castle. We spent all morning walking along the sea wall and watching the fishing boats come in and unload their catch. As we walked back past the open air fish restaurants the men were desperately trying to get us to eat lunch at their restaurant instead of the one next door. It was amusing hearing them trying to persuade us to come to them. We finally made our decision and were treated to fried prawns, scampi, squid, sardines, some kind of flat fish and a huge bass, with bread and a drink thrown in:) We walked to our favourite surf cafe and Mag was pleased when a mother cat and her kitten decided to sit on her lap for the afternoon. We read our books and watched beach life – most unlike to us to do so much relaxing! Walking back along the beach we found the most amazing shells we had ever seen on the beach but unfortunately they still had the huge sea slug in them so we had to leave them there:( There is a local football league who play all their matches on the beach and there must have been 10 games being played as we passed. Went through a souk only really used by locals which was a bit scary especially when all the alleys suddenly turned dark and we were trying to find our way back to the hotel! As we had had our huge fish lunch we just got an assortment of little cakes for tea – just like pick and mix at home! Rob was approached 10 times to buy hash tonight, a holiday record!
Old town Essaoira
An egret fishes
Mag in the castle in the port of Essaoira
Gutting in full swing - moray eels !!!
Some of the fish we had for dinner
Mag has a coffee in her favourite surf bar
She is joined for over an hour by this mother and daughter :) she loved it !!!
Olives anyone ???
Essaoira fruit and veg
Mag checks out the hardware store
Essaoira town of the cat
Sunday 8 January 2012
Last day. Breakfast in the cafe again then checked out of the hotel and went to fill the car up with diesel and get the punctured tyre mended as we didn’t want to drive the 150 miles back to Marrakech without a spare in the boot! Far too risky! We also thought we would get a better price direct than through the car rental firm. That all went really well and we met Rob and Hannah at the surf cafe for lunch before leaving for the airport at about 2.30 p.m. We got to the airport unscathed after braving driving in Marrakech again and gave the car back with no problems. More problems with the blooming luggage before boarding but all sorted and the flight even arrived 40 minutes early which was just as well because I have never been so uncomfortable! We got a taxi back to the parking-on-the-drive address (we had to read out our google instructions on how to get there to the taxi driver because he couldn’t find it either!) Both vans started fine and we finally got home at about 2 a.m.
We get the tire repaired another 780 dirhams :(
How the locals live
The sad side of Morocco and litter everywhere :(
Washday in Essaoira
The local taxi's for transport to the souk
Sign to some top windsurfing spots
Just washed up !!!
Just tired out !!!
Just waiting to drive back to the airport
We arrive back at Marrakech after 10 action packed days with an adventure around every corner !!!
If you got this far - well done sorry it's so'ooooooooooooo long but I had 800 to chose from and it was difficult to pick !!!
Hope you like it
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