Tag Archives: Marrakech

My Last Day in Marrakesh

Arrived Casablanca this morning. But I want instead to tell you about my adventure yesterday in #Marrakech. I am pining for The Red City even as we speak. A friend of mine said I just might have found my “city of memories”, referring to the title of my 2013 novel.

I’d cancelled my trip to Fes so the extra day in Marrakech saw me moving from my riad in the Medina to the new quarter called Gueliz. While I’d loved the medina and its colourful traders and characters, the hotel was rather small even if quaint and I kept losing my way getting around anyway. I had breakfast, went shopping for a leather bag and checked out. I’d been told it would cost 15 dirhams from the medina to the Boulevard Abdelkarim el-Khattabi. The drivers in the rank said it was 100 dirhams and then proceeded to teach me how to pronounce both “el-Khattabi” and “Hotel Ezzhia”. I settled for 30 dirhams.

I had an ominous feeling when, just outside the old city, a horse-drawn tourist carriage showed up in front of us. And, sure as a slap, the carriage took off the bumper of my taxi. See drama! The skinny horse driver and skinny car driver go down to it speaking universal urban you-don-hit-my-car English (Arabic actually). Me? I took my bags out the boot jejely.

Took a different taxi. The driver was a true born Marrakech native and when another accident happened, he said “These two, not Marrakchis. . . the accent.” I smiled. He told me only 25% of the city’s dwellers were natives. We talked about the Nigeria—Morocco gas pipeline. I found it fascinating that a regular Joe Marrakchi knew about that. Moroccans are involved in their country in a way Nigerians are not. It speaks of two very different types of elite and ways which societies can be ordered.

In the afternoon, I went to my friend, Housain’s, favourite café which is not far from my new hotel—a 300-metre walk. It is called Le Diamant Vert (The Green Diamond), just opposite the University of Science and Technology, at the corner with Hamza Road. I had lunch, spaghetti, and watched the students come and go as I worked on a document.

Later, Housain came around. We drove around the city including the Menara arcade, which was closed, and then we parked the car and flanuered for a few hours about Gueliz, drinking coffee, trying street food and taking serious philosophy—H has a Ph.d in psychology and in showing me his city, I learned again what friendship truly can be.

And that, my friends, is how I fell more hopelessly in love with Marrakech.

#OneAfrica #Travel #TravelWriting #Morocco

 

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Street Food at the Jemaa Lfna

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Street food at the #Marrakech Medina

What’s a city without street food? Went back to the Jemaa Lfna square to look around and try for dinner. Got fried sole so greasy (oily) it can’t possibly be good for me. At a stall called Chez Aicha No. 1. It tasted really really good, good for me or not.

Tourists and Marrakechis alike milled around, sitting at the stalls to meals, the smoke of open-air grilling rising like an offering to a gastronome god. As I waited for my order, a posse of Europeans join the table beside me. The noise becomes a mix of Arabic, Spanish, French, and my English when I recommend one of the girls should try the tagine d’angeau (lamb) if it’s on the menu.

Dinner done, I walked around a bit and people watched then headed home.

Here’s the thing. I walked confidently to my riad, the confusing streets had cleared somewhat in my head. Just when I’m about to leave the medina for a hotel in the New Quarter. Home becomes familiar and then it’s not home again.

A bunch of kids were playing football just outside my street. I smile and nod, they smile too and it’s good night.

#Travel #TravelWriting #OneAfrica #Nigeria #Morroco #Marrakech

On My Day at the Marrakech Medina

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In front of the Khutbiya Mosque, #Marrakech

So, today. As you know, I have been living in the Old City of Marrakech and was unhappy because of my bank card issue (now resolved).

I’ve cancelled my trip to Fez. The original idea was to spend two days in Marrakech, two days in Fez and two days in Casablanca.

Today, I got lost again in the old city, which has mostly been turned into a market. The medina here is far far superior to the one at Rabat. Some houses have been turned into hotels, called riads. I am in fact living in one of these riads within the Radha Lakdima part of the Medina.

The effect of all this is a warren of alleyways full of all sorts of merchandize, lovely smells ranging from spice to perfumes, and people, people, people. Streets are narrow and only foot traffic is possible. The braver folk maneuver ladies’ machine motorcycles though and you are always in danger of being hit or pickpocketed. These last smell a lack of confidence like a piranha blood. Can you imagine how a pre-middle-aged glasses wearing but always-lovely man would fare? Yes, I have been getting lost all over the place.

My friend, Captain Housain, had to come find me. I had stayed put at some point in being deliriously lost. He did find me and we caught up and made our way to his Citroen as he showed me around the medina. He is a native Marrakechi but had not been to the medina for years. We’d met two years ago at a conference on CVE in Vicenza and had spent half a day walking around Venice and shopping.

The centre of life of the Marrakech medina is the Jemaa Lfna square and it is a movable feast—about two football fields wide. It had everything from snake charmers to folk musicians to fruit sellers. At night it becomes the haven of street food. I’ll drop by later. Jemaa Lfna translates roughly to “Square of the People of the Apocalypse”. Apparently, quite a number of executions were carried out there.

The lodestone of Marrakech is, however, the Khutbiya Mosque—900 years old, built by the Almoravids. Its minaret is about 70 feet high and is of huge stone blocks the length of my forearm by half the length of it. Thoroughly impressive. One gets the sense that if we are lesser sons of greater fathers, it cannot be the fault of our fathers.

Marrakech is a very seductive city—great cafes and wide streets outside the Medina and I felt it would be a shame to not see some more. Marrakech is Magic City, Red City. I could live here (will sign up for French classes when I get back to Abuja). So, Fez loses one day more to Marrakech and loses one day to Casablanca. No day left for Fez. Part of the reason though is it’s quite far away. Maybe next time.