Marrakech - Day One written 11 years ago

Mini Colour Tagines

The next few posts document our (Sarah’s and Mine) trip to Marrakech. It’s as much a resource for me to look back on once I’m old and senile as much as it is to say “woo look what I did on holiday”. Plus we’ve got 1200 photos of the place between us, be thankful you’ve not had to sit through them all.

We arrived late on Sunday, and after paying our Taxi man his tip (for future reference: when someone stands with their hand outstretched, it means fill it with money), completed our immigration forms, said woo it’s pretty; we fell asleep.

We set out on our first day to do just as the Guide book had instructed — to get ourselves thoroughly lost, and that we did. Setting off in the general direction of the square (Jamaa el Fna), we discovered the real Marrakesh in minutes (it was generally thrust upon us, and invited us to look at its trinkets in its shop).

The Souks

1Red Lamp Shop
1. Red Lamp stall. RDI

One of the most impressive and bewildering places in Marrakech — The Souks (or Covered Markets) are a web of alleyways full of the buzz of the city. Rows and rows of stalls sit, drawing you in with their vibrant colours. Glancing left and right, the souks become an endless repetition of sandle stores, pottery stalls, leather goods suppliers and spice vendors, each with a pair of sharp eyes and welcoming arms to drag you in off the street to flog you some tat.

Occasionally there would be a stall so vibrant or bizarre it would cause you to stop and stare (giving ample time for an eager shop attendant to come and wrestle you into their souk). Souks selling many hundreds of variants of the same article - shoes of the same pattern in a hundred different colours.

It’s a wonder how many of the stalls manage to stay in business - each stall specialises a particular brand of Marrakechi tat, meaning that if perhaps you wanted a pair of lime green leather shoes- You could easily purchase from one of a dozen places. Only I didn’t see any locals wearing any lime green leather shoes…

2Entering the Souks 3Tassels 4Approaching the Souks 5Tagine Trinkets
2. The entrance to the souks; RDI
3. Tassels, from the Tassel shop; RDI
4. Some stores on the approach to the Souks; SJW
5. Tagine shaped Trinkets. RDI


After meandering our way through the Souks to eventually come out into the Sunlight, we carried on our mission to get ourselves lost, and obviously appearing lost to the locals an overly friendly chappie found us and suggested we might want to follow him to see the Tanneries. Not wanting to miss out (there’s no chance we’d have found them by ourselves…) we joined him on a magical mystery tour to the Tanneries. We were of course greeted by his outstretched hand once we had visited the Tanneries, but c’est la vie.

6Arab Tanneries
6. The Arab Tanneries. RDI

Although I’ve said above navigating to the tanneries is a little tricky, it’s easy enough if you follow your nose. Literally, the place stinks, and the blokie showing us around the Tanneries offered up sprigs of mint for our noses (which were graciously accepted).

The blokie showed us around, and whilst he was encouraging us to hop across the vats of .. stuff.. He told us of the manufacturing process, which essentially involved soaking the hides in lime for 5 days, then give them a poking, soaking them in pigeon shit for a couple weeks, before allowing them to dry out in the sun for a few weeks after which they would be stretched. They might have been dyed at some point too, I can’t quite remember the precise recipe nameley because of both the pigeon English, and the pigeon Poo causing a little light headedness.

We also learned that there are Berber tanneries, and Arab tanneries, and that Berber tanneries were better, because the leather spent more time in the pigeon poo.

7Skinning the Leather 8Leather Hides 9Stretching the leather
7. Scraping the hides to remove the skin; RDI
8. Processed leather; RDI
9. Stretching the leather, with the stretchamagig. RDI

If you get the good fortune to meet me in the near future you may also find me sporting my shiny leather bag. It may well have been over-priced, and I’ve already had to sew it back together — but I can at least tell you exactly how long it spent soaking in pigeon poo.

La Place de Jamaa el Fna — by day

The hub for our first day in Marrakech, and indeed for the Medina the Square contains many weird and wonderful sights. The famous snake charmers, the Men with monkeys and the Dentists. We did manage to take a few pictures as we scurried from one side to another - generally trying to avoid having a man put a monkey on me.

10Selling Cakes

11Barrow of Lamps


13Tourist Train

14Trotting Donkey

10. Mother and Son duo selling cakes - see flickr for explanation of their sales technique; RDI
11. Man with Barrow full of Lamps — How else would one transport so many lamps otherwise? RDI
12. The local Dentist. Given the lack of NHS around here, I was tempted. Briefly. RDI
13. The Tourist Train, sadly we didn’t get to use it; SJW
14. A Trotting Donkey. SJW

A Caleche Ride

To give our sore feet a rest, and to see more of the city we enlisted the help of a non-English speaking Caleche driver to drive us around for a couple of hours. During our stay in Marrakech, my GCSE French was put to the test, as I generally mumbled around not knowing what was going on. This was exemplified when the driver suddenly came to a halt on a rubble patch outside of the city, turned around and spoke to us expectingly. Not knowing what on earth he was saying I was most bemused, and was worried for my ever shortening life.. until the much cleverer Sarah informed me that the Driver had stopped so we might visit the Menara Gardens..

15Our Caleche

16On the roads

17Boulevard Mohammed VI

Construction Site Safety

View from the Caleche

Pretty roundabout Bab Agnaou

Dubious Palm Tree

Boulevard Mohammed VI Fountains

Menara Gardens

18Palm Trees
18. Palm Trees RDI

Not wanting to disappoint our expecting driver, we jumped out, and after crossing a road of death (all roads are roads of death in Marrakech), embarked on le Jardin Menara.

The Menara Gardens are pretty enough, but a little limited in what they offer. There’s the pool and the pavilion to look at, some pretty flowers and a camel ride if you’re brave enough. The gardens bring Marrakechis out from the City to picnic in the shade of the many Orange trees, which with 40 degree heat during the Summer months makes the Gardens a definite oasis.

Being free to enter the gardens means that the majority of people you see in them are local residents (aside from the occasional tour bus), giving a true impression of how Marrakechis spend their free time. This seems to be taking the entire family down to the park and having a good natter sat on a rug, whilst the kids run wild.

19Minzah Pavillion 20Camel 21Koutoubia from Menara Gardens
19. Minzah Pavillion; SJW
20. Camel ride anyone? RDI
21. Koutobia Mosque. RDI

Around and About

Most of our travels around the city were done by foot (apart from the occasional taxi ride of terror), meaning we got to see a lot of the general melee of the city.

22Horsees 23Palm Tree
22. Horsees; RDI
23. Palm Tree. RDI
24La Koutoubia Mosque
24. La Koutoubia Mosque. SJW
25Ironwork 26Look Ma .. no hands
25. Fancy Ironwork; RDI
26. Typical Street. RDI

A night-time Stroll

27Sarah by the fountain
27. Sarah RDI

After our first hectic day in Marrakech, we found a nice italian restaurant and had us some good pizza for dinner, before taking a night-time stroll around the city walls. 11pm is obviously the best time to navigate the city - many of the streets were empty and a lot more safe to roam around on.

We pottered around for a while, investigated the Bab Jdid, discovered where the local cats hang out to get a good meal (the back of the hospital apparently) — the lights illuminating the wall also provide a des-res to warm ones kitty-butt.

Returning to the hotel, I kept us awake for a while taking photos from the rooftop terrace (using my newly acquired birthday-present: A Gorilla pod). Night poses no difficulty for the Mosque to announce its presence, being the brightest object on the horizon, and so naturally occupied much lens-time.

Finally we got some much needed sleep, awaiting to be awoken at 5am by the call of the muezzins

28City Walls by Night 29Fountain 30La Koutoubia Mosque
28. The city walls by night; RDI
29. Roundabout fountain; RDI
30. La Koutoubia mosque by night from the roof of our Riad. RDI

Want more Photos? Search for marrakech2008 and day1 on flickr.

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