Marrakech 2022 – part one

It was going to be so easy. we had the flights booked direct from London Gatwick to Marrakech, we’d booked overnight accommodation near the airport so that we had a short drive in the morning to the parking we had also booked allowing us a carefree check in with plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast before our flight which would get us to our riad in the late afternoon. Peeerfect.

Ah, but the best laid plans of mice and men…..

I had just confirmed with the riad that we would like dinner when we arrived and first my phomne pinged with a text message then my email pinged with a new email; both from the airline to tell me that we had been changed to a late afternoon flight from London Heathrow via Casablanca and onward to Marrakech. OH THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

In the next hour and a bit I cancelled the accommodation and the parking at Gatwick, booked parking at Heathrow and let the riad know that we would be late. Phew. Then I realised that we were still flying back to Gatwick so had to arrange a transfer from there back to Heathrow to collect the car. I felt very stressed.

Over the next few days I had a few queries for the airline and spent over forty five minutes hanging on to speak to someone at their helpdesk (“your waiting time is two minutes” my arse). I also sent them some emails but none have yet been answered. I couldn’t check in online as their system didn’t recognise my ticket because THEY HAD CHANGED IT.

Last Friday we set off for Heathrow and the concentration of driving relaxed me a bit. We got to Terminal 2 Departures and just before check in started wandered over and I found a charming young lady who checked us in, confirmed our seating and what would happen at Casablanca and made me feel a lot better. She could not have been more kind and has my most sincere thanks.

We got through security quite easily and found a bar and I had a pint of beer and felt very much more relaxed. In fact our flights were very straightforward and they gave me a nice airline meal that wasn’t at all bad. We can now say that we have been to Casablanca which was unexpected and the onward flight was fine arriving in Marrakech a few minutes early.

I had forgotten one thing about Marrakech arrivals. When we first visitd about twenty five years ago we had to walk from our plane across the perimiter to the terminal which was then little more than a glorified Nissen hut and the clearance through Moroccan imigration moved at glacial speed. Nowadays they have a beautiful modern international airport but nothing has changed at immigration; we were the only plane in the queue and it took the best part of an hour for us to get through and we were far from being at the back. Anyway we got through and then had to change some cash for Dhirams; nice modern computerised Bureau de Change but everyone in front wanted a conversation rather than a transaction and to use their cards. Once we had got actual pound notes changed we had been on the ground for over an hour and a half.

Exiting the terminal building there was the forlorn little figure of our driver with a board for our riad who wasted no time in taking us to our there. Well not to our riad exactly but fairly close to our riad where we were met by the excellent Jaouad who had answered all my earlier messages and who lead us down tiny alleyways through an absolute labyrinth until we arrive at the riad. Once inside we were given mint tea and they kindly made us sandwiches and frites. We eventually got to bed at 02h30 on Saturday morning. so it was quite an adventure just getting here.

Later on Saturday morning we eventually woke up, finished our unpacking and enjoyed a late breakfast. We never planned  to do too much which was just as well as were were both a bit zombie like. Anyway we set out on foot to the famous Jemaa Al Fna which is the great central square in Marrakech (and formerly the place of public execution). Nowadays it is mostly dedicated to tourists and you can see  musicians playing the regional gnawa music, there are tooth pullers and ladies who will henna your hands, there are snake charmers (awful) and there are ghastly men who will hold out small monkeys so that in exchange for cash you can have your photo taken with a monkey wearing a dress and a soiled nappy. There are times I would bring back the public executions and snake charmers and monkey wranglers would be at the top of my list. Rant Over.

The Jemaa Al Fna is also one of the best places for people watching that I know anywhere and the best place for doing it is the terrace of the Bar Panoramique which is at first floor level so that’s where we headed and bagged a table right by the balustrade.

There is so much I could tell you about what we saw, the wandering peacock, the man selling guinea pigs and caged birds, the buskers, the weirdos, the near misses it just goes on and on. The prize though must go to the man on a bicycle, sitting very upright and pedalling steadiy with one hand on the handlebar and the other balancing a small round silver tray with a teapot and two glasses of tea on it. Genius.

We then walked the opposite way, had a spot of lunch and went back to the riad for a bit more sleep. Later we had a decent enough dinner at the riad; I had a chicken tagine and Mrs Sixwheeler had vegetable couscous before we wandered out again to the Jemaa Al Fna which becomes completely changed at night. There are lots more musicians and some are really good but half the square gives over to rows of pop-up restaurants where you can indulge in all the local street food delicacies. There are lots of grilld meats and sausages, vegetables prepared in all manner of ways and delicacies such aas snails or for a really special night out a nice roasted sheep’s head. All the stalls have “barkers” trying to tempt you in and these guys really have all the chat and we had some really good banter as we walked through. The latest saying to tempt you in appears to be “…100% guaranteed NO DIARRHOEA” well thank goodness for that.

By then we were going downhill fast so headed back to the riad and got our heads down hoping to sleep well and be ready for tomorrow.

More to come…..

PS I hope there will be photos but at the moment I haven’t worked out how ti import them into WordPress.

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