If you don’t have something nice to say.
It’s not often that I’ve visited new places and come away thinking that, however interesting they may have been, I wouldn’t really mind if I didn’t go back. Well that’s just happened, which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy my trip; but I really don’t need to go back to Marrakech.
What a setting though, surrounded by mountains and full of those famous pink/red buildings. No high rises at all, and the minarets are the only buildings with more than a few stories. Shame the early morning calls for prayer felt like they started at yesterday o’clock!
Many of the locals were lovely, helpful and wanted to show off their town. But you need to be alive to the scams too – the countless number of times we were advised that places or roads were closed with an offer of assistance to go another way eventually became quite an irritation. Luckily I’d read about this before we arrived, so perseverance paid off (which is not to say that we didn’t get lost – we did; often! ).
It was a cheap trip though. Even browsing in the souks is a complete non-starter as the high pressure selling starts when you’ve not even stepped over the threshold. Apart from food and museum entries, the result was that we didn’t spend a dime (well, dirham).
There were some nice items on sale though – if we weren’t travelling light it would have been tempting to come back with all kinds of locally-crafted rugs, cups, leather goods and some of the gorgeous Moroccan lamps.
I think a relatively recent development has also been the arrival of scooters and motorbikes which mean a relaxed wander through the souks or the medina is completely impossible – walking next to each other is only achievable if you maintain constant vigilance and listen so you can jump out of the way every few seconds. The bikes should be banned. It would do wonders for the pollution in the city too; it seems so odd to come from London and notice how polluted another place is, but Marrakech is that place – the smell of two stroke engine smoke was pervasive, and the thick layer of resulting smog easily visible from the roof of our riad.
There is respite to be had though. The Jardin Majorelle next to the YSL Museum was lovely, and one of a number of highly praised gardens in the city So nice to see them in this weather too given the winter floods back in England.
It was interesting to see there is a small remaining Jewish presence in the city, with a nicely preserved synagogue and huge cemetery (there used to be an enormous Jewish population here before the establishment of Israel when things became rather more difficult) which is now being very carefully restored. Also fascinating to hear more about the Berbers from the nearby Atlas Mountains.
No visit to Marrakech is complete without visiting the Jemaa el Fna square – full of traders (and snake charmers) during the day, and a massive multi-stall BBQ at night.
So that’s it, a short note of a short visit. Perhaps we didn’t do Marrakech justice. I suspect more to the point Marrakech probably doesn’t do Morocco justice – I think getting into the mountains and heading to the coast may provide quite a different experience. A very interesting visit, but not one that I need to repeat.