After immersing myself in the medieval world of Fes, trecking through the desert and hiking over the mountains I found myself in Marrakech.
This is what most people come to Morocco for. The streets are packed with tourists, street side vendors selling you a magic carpet and all the big 5 star hotel players are here with an unbelievable offering. There is definitely a heart beat and soul that you can only find in Marrakech and that deep base line and beat comes from the mighty Jemaa el-Fnaa.
This is the place you have seen in all the tourist brochures and in the movies. Normally this is the type of place I try and stay away from. Monkey handlers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and skilled salesmen at every turn on a mission to sell you whatever it is they have in stock. Whether you want it or not, chances are you will leave with bags full of gifts and empty pockets.
Some people spend years, tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours studying to get a degree in sales and marketing. If this was my field I would just spend some time in the market, watching the repertoire of skills these skinny toothless shop sellers possess.
They have a magic spell that they cast on you as soon as they make eye contact, a spell that has been refined over hundreds of years to know exactly what to say or what not to say to get into your head and make you think… “yes, of course how could I possibly live without owning one of those wooden cobras?” Never thinking how I’m going to get that wooden toy though Aussie customs or even why they hell I would even want that. No, from the moment that little toothless boy catches you in his web you’re his. It’s only a matter of time until you’ve bought a belly dancing outfit for your daughter, gawdy costume jewellery for your wife and a pair of those pointy toed Aladdin slippers for yourself. The perfect gifts?!
My advice, just let yourself go. Buy all the crap they try and sell you, get swept away by the snake charmer techniques of the medina and eat everything that catches your eye. The food in the Jemaa el-Fnaa is surprisingly good. I mean, how can you go past kebab and merguez sausage cooked over coal in front of you. Fresh fish, bread and some mint tea to wash it down. Doesn’t get much better then that.
One of the things I really loved about Morocco was how you could be in the desert and in the distance you could see the snow capped Atlas Mountains. It was something that always made me take a second and just thinking about where I was and what an unbelievable life experience I’d been given.
I remember waking up early one morning, we were going to climb into the mountains that day. We stayed in a lovely little hotel in the middle of a palmery and my room had a small terrace. I got stuck into my morning work out routine and when I took a minute to rest, through a gap in the palm trees I could see the Atlas Mountains in the distance, covered in snow.
Morocco has an immense amount of natural beauty, it’s a rich and amazing part of the world. Life moves slower out there. It’s not as frantic as the medina of Fes or Marrakesh. People seem to just live life and enjoy the simple things for what they are. Coming from a busy western world where it’s dog eat dog and life moves quicker then I can keep up, this was a really nice change of speed.
My friends all know that I’m not the most outdoorsy bloke going around. No valet, no room service and no running water normally means NO WAY. But, for this experience I was willing to push the boundaries… a little.
Sleeping under the stars of the Sahara, camel rides over wind swept dunes, camping in a 5 star Bedouin tent camp, lamb tagine cooked over coal and bread cooked in the hot sand from under the camp fire and traditional music from our amazing hosts. All sounds to good to refuse right?
Let me just fill you in on a little of what really happened. It was a great experience and something I will never forget, but not entirely how I though it’d play out.
So, that beautiful lamb tagine that you saw us cooking took about 4 hours to cook. When it was ‘ready’, it wasn’t actually cooked. I think it was a mix of a huge piece of lamb, a small tagine and the gusty winds of the Sahara desert that meant we went to bed with a dinner of Mars Bars, some weird tasting BBQ potato chips and an apple. Not really the romantic Moroccan feast I was dreaming about.
The people we met were all so beautiful. They gave us their time, love and invited us into their homes. For that I’m eternally grateful (Maybe next time I’ll pack a few protein bars in my back pack).
– Shane Delia