After the charming, cool atmosphere of Essaouira, Marrakech was noisy, busy, hot and the hotel rooms didn’t have AC or even a fan. I’ve never seen a bathroom where you had to walk through the shower to get to the toilet! It was a small comfort that the public areas were some of the most beautiful we’d seen.
Literally a stone’s throw away lay the delights of the ancient Djemaa el-Fnaa market place, where commerce is rife almost around the clock. During the day, women offering henna tattoos and stalls laden with fruit waiting to be pressed for juice or smoothies dominate; in nighttime the atmosphere is transformed with hundreds of brass lamps, men showing off monkeys, street food cooked over coals and throngs of visitors milling around. Next to the square is the enormous medina, spreading over most of the area inside the city walls. It’s easy to get lost as you wander about, but a good landmark is the Koutoubia Mosque, the 77 metre tall minaret being the older sister of the Hassan Tower in Rabat. Like all mosques in Morocco, entry is allowed only for Muslims. Still, I didn’t feel that there was anything on offer that we hadn’t seen elsewhere, and about the only novelty was that I finally got to taste pistilla, a filo dough pastry or pie layered with pigeon or chicken meat and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar! Most of all, it tasted like a cinnamon roll with chicken filling; more strange than pleasant.
Morocco is infinitely more diverse than I had imagined, with all kinds of landscapes; from the Atlantic coast and fields as far as the eye could see to rugged mountains and real Saharan sand dunes. If you like shopping and haggling it is a mecca as the range of goods for sale is endless and the handicraft often is precisely that; quality handmade items in every material imaginable, the conical tagine shape recurring and instantly recognizable. But my favourite, hands down, was Essaouira, for the nice climate, the manageable size and the sheer feeling of a holiday destination, with spa treatments available around every corner.