We have encountered a number of tour guides over the years but Graham from Telford (known locally as Aziz) was a delight. Unlike some, he never gave the impression he was being paid to tell us about a country where he had lived and so obviously loved for over 20 years. His vast knowledge was particularly noticeable when we were on the coach enjoying glimpses of North African life reminiscent of Beau Geste while travelling through the Middle and High Atlas mountains on our way to Marrakech. He knew not only the history but also the little titbits of life that really make for an interesting journey.
He took us to Erfoud to see the sheep market and instead of a car park; there was wasteland for parking your donkey. Some looked tired but for a few Dirham, an attendant saw they had water and food during the day. There was also a wonderful market in the town. It was here that Aziz bought shoes for a shepherd he had met the previous week. The man was barefoot and Aziz promised if he was there in 2 weeks when the coach returned he would have shoes for him – and true to his word, he bought two pairs. Similarly, he bought fresh fruit for a Berber family he took us to meet who lived in a tent in the Sahara and which helped us to gain a small insight into Berber culture.
With our journey almost over, we returned to Marrakech. The city is an amazing mix of cultures, filled with dust, noise, the pungent smell of horse pee, mint tea and spice stalls. The marketplace, mosques, and crumbling architecture dominate the streets.
The medina is the walled area within the city, the place of ancient times. The streets go in all directions, a maze, and a veritable rabbit warren, worn smooth by the feet of generations. Here you quickly learn the Arabic word “Belak!” which means get out of the way.
The medina is constantly changing, in the mornings, the main square, Djemaa El-Fna, is filled with stalls selling orange juice, snake charmers and henna painters. At night, Djemaa El fna square is the centre of entertainment, the beating heart of Marrakech. It is mayhem. Snake charmers, monkey handlers’ acrobats, and cross-dressing belly dancers are here nightly as they have been for hundreds of years. The square itself is a beehive of commercialism where all efforts are concentrated on relieving you of your money. I am not sure how I felt about the square, it is not my favourite place too many crowds and too much chaos but even so, it should not be avoided.
Just outside the square and by the Koutoubia the tallest building for miles around there are the watermen. You can hear them coming before you see them as they ring bells and supply a much-needed drink of cool water from goatskin bags. If you don´t want a drink, only a photo again it will cost you. Nothing in Marrakech is free.
The city is more commercial and more of a tourist attraction aka trap than Fes but still worth a visit. Everywhere we went in Morocco the people are wonderful, friendly and we felt very safe