Travels with V
Everything down there is red, red and red, I realize when I wake up and look out through the airplane window. Small quadrants of different red shades, thrown out on the dry plains. Sometimes separated by dried out river beds. Flatlands and mountains, all red. We’re soon landing in Marrakech, southern Morocco.
From the airport we head straight into the heart of Marrakech, it’s emotional and geographic center, the Jemaa-el-Fnaa square. A jam-packed, chaotic place swarming with people at all times, night or day. Tourists, city folks, vendors and tricksters, acrobats and snake charmers and whirling dervish dancers. A deafening noise that just never stops.
Jemaa-el-Fnaa means “gathering of the dead”, sort of, and it refers to a time long ago when public executions took place here. Now it’s less mortal but incredibly colourful.
We are staying at the Hôtel & Ryad Art Place Marrakech, deep in a narrow corner of the Jemaa-el-Fnaa square. It’s a beautiful and excellent place, built like a typical Riad, a camel-driver’s inn with a yard in the middle and the rooms around the balconies on the second floor. The rooms are decorated with beautiful Arabian mosaic.
We leave the hotel and stroll around the square, among snake charmers, belly dancers, magicians and musicians. Crossing diagonally over the Jemaa-el-Fnaa we find the entrance to the Medina, a confusing labyrinth of narrow streets and stairs, and a multitude of shops selling everything you need, spices and clothes, colourful plates and all kinds of kitsch. I buy a fine thin scarf to use when we head up into the mountains.
As we head further into the medina and beyond it we find the hidden secret gardens with flowers and greens and a corner where we can sit and sip coffee. In here the city noises disappear, and all you hear is the splashing of water in fountains and the chirping of birds. In a pool some turtles wrestle for the best sun spot.
At night the tempo increases on Jemaa-el-fnaa. People pour in from all sides, the dancing gets wilder and drums and shawns try to whip up the last drops of energy from the now half-fainted snakes who are barely able to lift their heads. Now lamps are lit everywhere, fires are started and soon the whole square is wrapped in grill smoke and mouth-watering food smells.
In the next chapter we visit a beautiful but spikey park that was once the garden of Yves Saint-Laurent, the fashion giant. And we discover a palace of the dead that was forgotten for hundreds of years, and that is is now guarded by a platoon of wild cats. Discover Marrakech with us!
Top 5 in southeast Morocco: