Wednesday, 8 February 2012


After going to Egypt in early 2010 I thought I would know what to expect in Marrakech. Wrong. On our first evening (after a very chilled out day sipping cocktails in the sunshine) we went with some others from the hotel to tour the main city square and soul by night, as we were told it was a very different experience to daytime. It was also Saturday, the busiest night of the week. Around 12 of us headed out. The first thing? The temperature drops by around 10-15 degrees in the evening...ouch.

The outfit I had elected for that evening? Silk wrap dress and espadrilles. Luckily I managed a quick trip back to the room to pile on the layers before heading out.

We stopped in the old town, it wasn't that pleasant. Clearly where the locals hang out/shop rather in the more touristy main souk. We shuffled through here pretty sharpish before coming to the 'high street' leading to the main square. again, not very pleasant. Lots of children begging/trying to pick pocket/sell you tissues (why?)

There wasn't much down here I fancied taking a photo of, plus I felt fairly vulnerable with my camera out.
The square itself was buzzing. The smell was also very nice. We were told at night this was transformed in the evening to where locals buy food, meet up and hang out. It strangely wasn't as intimidating as the streets approaching it although it was much busier.

Through the square is the entrance to the souk. I was expecting all the usual hassle/people approaching you and trying to sell you tat, but this didn't really happen. Retrospectively this is because we had a local in out group who clearly knew what he was doing.

Street sellers / beggers, take your pick on the terminology

This must be heavy.

'Dead bird' spice, stayed firmly on the shelf

Aladdin's cave...
Where you may find these
Layers went on, feet were freezing

By night the various stalls really stood out, spices, fresh fruit juice, silks, shoes, lamps, oils then the usual tat. It was, by night a great experience. We decided to go back the next day, two of us. Oh what a different experience.

We arrive around 1030, it was instantly noticeable how quieter it was than the previous night, there were also a distinct lack of 'tourists' around, and let's face it...I didn't blend in. Red hair, white freckly skin glasses and Abercrombie zip up (it was still quite cold at this time).

We had heard about the snake charmers and expected these on the square (they aren't there in the eve). Instantly we saw a large crowd gathered around something do headed over. We found a gap and looked on, I had a couple of seconds to grab a loo at some fairly small snakes on a blanket and what appeared to be a chipmunk running around. This is where a local approaches me and says 'make nice picture, want a picture?' clearly how they make their money, however I hadn't noticed the snake he had in his hand. It was terrifying. I thought I was a safe enough distance away. I did the natural/cool thing and screamed and ran away shouting 'is it on me'. That was the last I saw of snake charmers. I was too scared to go back for a picture as I didn't know where was safe.

Also in the square are beggars/workers conning you into paying for anything. One couple we met had their hand grabbed and henna hastily applied before being demanded money. The woman started at 700 dirhams which is around £55. They got her down to 200 (around £15) as they didn't know how to haggle or how it worked Wong their first day. On return to the hotel they told the staff who couldn't believe it said they buy henna for around 3 dirhams (pence). They were completely ripped off and likely provided their wage for a month.

Other 'services being offered included cleaning your feet, shining your shoes, forcing a bracelet on your wrist that doesn't come off and yet more children selling tissues. This is where I spotted something unwanted a picture of. A scary looking man across the square had a monkey. A real monkey that he would be walking along on a chain then make jump up on his shoulder. I tired to take a picture from far enough away with my zoom lens. It didn't work, he spotted me. He then started chasing me with the monkey on his shoulder taking his hat off (his not the monkeys, probably best to clarify the monkey wasn't wearing a hat) and demanding money. Thing was I had been so rubbish trying to take the pic and not be attacked from behind by another snake handler I hadn't even got the picture, nor had I at change smaller than 100 dirhams.

Once he realised I wasn't giving him money he turned around and walked off. I managed a sneaky (rubbish) picture and later wondered where the hell the second monkey had been/come from.

We then entered the souk, what an entirely different experience to the night before. We were hounded to the point we walked through for 15 minutes and wanted to be back at the hotel. Again there was a complete lack of tourists around. I have no idea why. I wouldn't have minded wondering as I would at Broadway market or Columbia, having a couple of hours mooching, haggling with the locals and returning victorious with some scarves, trinkets and general tut. This did not happen at all. We hastily shuffled back through the square trying to avoid beggars/angry monkey men/snakes (which I still thought were on me) at all costs. I tried to take some pictures of the environment but it was so hat to stay in one place for more than a couple of seconds without being swarmed by people trying to extort you.

We went and sat by the main mosque which by now was very sunny. Back to 5* luxury for me please. I wish we hadn't been so intimated and told people where to go without being strung up in the square for being a woman with a voice. Still ticked off the list.

Overlooking the aquare is the mosque. Here are some daytime night time snaps:

300ft tall, not sure this does it justice
If you go, be brave, be bold and learn the word 'no'. Practice it with me...NO!
Pin It Now!

No comments:

Post a Comment