Either love it or hate it, Marrakesh is certainly colourful, odorous and completely mad. The Medina is made up of a labrynth of narrow streets and souks within the ancient walled city, with the massive Jemaa El Fna Square in the middle. I wanted to stay in the Medina as I wanted a more authentic stay rather than in an upmarket hotel on the outskirts of the city. I also wanted to stay in a riad, an original town house with a courtyard in the centre, usually an oasis from the noisy hubbub in the streets. I’m a traveller and have been to many places, but this was something else, and I was quite unprepared for how aggressive and persistent the Moroccan men are who just follow you around trying to get money out of you and rip you off at every possible chance. Friends who have been with their husbands or partners have had a different experience, they’ve really enjoyed Morocco as they’ve been left alone, but a women on her own or in groups of women are just fair game to them and this spoils an otherwise unique experience.
Staying in a riad is a fabulous experience which was a different experience again from the streets outside. All the riads are hidden behind closed doors, and you would never know what’s behind each door. When you enter through the door, it’s so tranquil and quiet, you can’t hear anything and it’s a lovely place to relax and unwind. Our riad had a small plunge pool in the centre that had beautiful mosaic tiles lining the back and all the fixtures and fittings like the lights were beautifully detailed in brass. I even had a brass sink in the bathroom!
There’s an area inside the Medina where an age-old tradition is still carried on, tanning camel leather. The leather tanneries are a stinking hell hole, and I can’t describe the smell, it was just awful, so much so, that our guide gave us bunches of mint to hold under our noses to make it more pleasant, that’s how bad it was. The smell comes from the actual leather processing and the chemicals and dyes involved. This must be a real heath hazard but the men working there were just stripped off to the waist and knee deep in the lime and dyes that the camel hides were dipped into again and again to make them soft and supple and of course, every colour under the rainbow. There’s definitely no health & safety going on here!
Jemaa El Fna Square is the main square where the massive night market takes place. It’s so loud, busy, and not for the faint-hearted! There are rows upon rows of food stalls and the smell of the cooking fills the air. There are also stalls of all kinds of dried fruits and nuts, herbs and spices, everything you could possibly want. Even sheep heads! See the green umbrella below with people sitting under it……. they were snake charmers with a big cobra snake standing up!