Are we going riding on the Marrakesh Express?

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Is Marrakech good for shopping? Do bears crap in a forest! From traditional Souks to modern shopping malls. Marrakech is truly a shopaholic's dream destination! In the new town Gueliz and Hivernage areas of Marrakech you will find modern stylish shopping malls and brands such as H&M, Lacoste and Louis Vuitton.

 

 

 

This is a Docker motorcycle transporter. Could THIS be the elusive Marakesh Express?

This form of transportation is used extensively in Morocco, however, I had also seen them during my extended stay in Cairo in 2023. I wish we had something similar here in South Africa to use for suburban trips to the supermarket.

 

 

 

Listen to CSN while you read this post…

I never thought when I first listened to this song in 1969 that I would one day find myself in the city they were singing about!

 

 

 

Although most of the cats we came across were relatively friendly, this particular feline chose to hiss, spit and move higher up the pile of rubble as we got closer to it.

 

 

 

I saw many of these horse-drawn carriages while walking around certain parts of Marakesh and wondered what they were.

They are called Calèches which can hold up to five people. Both the locals and the tourists utilize them as transport to navigate the narrow streets.

They have been in service since long before the arrival of motor cars as they have proved to be an adept and glamorous mode of transport.

 

 

 

Where do these storks come from? They are migratory birds from Europe that spend the warmer months in Africa to mate and raise their young before heading back to Europe.

They can often be seen in Marrakech from the roof terraces of the cafés in the Place des Ferblantiers or from the terrace of the Palais El Badi.

Did you know? Symbolically, it can be said that it is respected all over the world, even though the Old Testament referred to it as an impure animal. For those who don’t know, it is an urban legend that it is this species that brings babies and drops them down the chimneys of homes where expectant mothers wait.

The Romans, under the invocation of the god Junin, associated them with clemency and compassion – It must be said that storks take particular care of their parents, by feeding them when they grow old.

Fun fact: The European Stork is unable to vocalize. It communicates by snapping its beak called “crackling” or “slamming”.

 

 

 

A door at the El Badi Palace. Built at the end of the 16th century, this former palace was built by the Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur Dhahbi to celebrate the Portuguese victory after the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578 at Oued al-Makhazin.

El Badi Palace or Badi’ Palace is a ruined palace in Marrakesh. It was commissioned by the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadian dynasty a few months after his accession in 1578, with construction and embellishment continuing throughout most of his reign.

 

 

 

Thanks to these braces many of the buildings are still standing post-earthquake.

On 8 September 2023 at 23:11, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 struck Morocco’s Al Haouz Province. The earthquake’s epicentre was 74 km southwest of Marrakesh, near Ighil and the Oukaïmeden ski resort in the Atlas Mountains.

According to Morocco’s Interior Ministry, at least 2,900 people died from the earthquake, and more than 5,500 were injured.

 

 

 

Slat Al Azama Synagogue, was left almost untouched by the earthquake.

It is a lovely and tranquil synagogue in the heart of Marrakech which, whilst worth a visit in its own right, offers a simple museum to the (now, sadly, disappearing) Jewish history of the city. Set aside 10 dhrm per person and an hour of your time.

My wife and I walked there from our riad and it was relatively easy to find, thanks to help from the Tourist Police who can be easily found in the major areas of the city.

I learned to start all my interactions with the locals by saying “English”? and in most cases, we were able to understand each other.

 

 

 

We visited the synagogue on a Friday morning just after the morning service. This fellow was sitting outside in the courtyard reading from a Hebrew prayer book.

The community emigrated after the independence of Israel, the end of the French protectorate, and the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars. Most went to Israel, but some went to France and Montreal. Today the Jewish population of Marrakesh is about 200 inhabitants.

 

 

 

Despite the plethora of horse-drawn transport, the streets are relatively free of horse poop. The same cannot be said of either cat or dog turds which can be found almost everywhere.

 

 

 

Most of the carts I saw did not have any ‘advertising’ as such. However, it seems that one entrepreneurial fellow has found a sponsor. And why not?

 

 

 

How fast the sky cleared. There were about 2 hours between the earlier overcast sky in the stork image earlier in this post and this pure blue without a cloud in sight.

Arabs celebrate the arrival of storks joyfully, as it is a sign of the end of winter. The stork was then a courier of luck and pleasure. The fact that it maintains a position of serenity during sleep, by landing on one leg, most probably explains why it is associated with wisdom, philosophical reflection and the lucidity of inherent knowledge.

 

 

 

Some of these Calèches can travel at speed, so you need to be aware when stepping into or trying to cross a road.

If you are going to use this form of transport, remember to negotiate the price with the driver BEFORE you get in.

 

 

 

We bought several glass and brass lamps from this artisan. When I mentioned that we liked a particular lamp, but it needed to have a different base, he immediately unsoldered the old base and manufactured another in no time at all.

We did try to support local vendors where possible and bartering needs to be done respectfully. There should be compromise on both sides, but if you feel that the handmade goods are worth the money, then pay that.

We bought several lamps from him, which now adorn rooms in our home back in Johannesburg.

A funny moment occurred during ‘negotiations’ when we both got confused as to the amount of money that was being discussed and he was undercutting me.

I realized that he had made a mistake, and there was a lot of laughter when I pointed out that he had almost cost himself money.

He did give us a discount in the end… and tea while we waited for him to wrap up our purchases. (BTW, all the lamps made it back with no broken glass)

 

 

 

One of the best things you can do while you’re visiting Marrakesh is go out on a day bike ride. There are a range of biking tours available, from just a few hours to whole-day outings. Tours are open to all age ranges and abilities.

There are areas in Marakesh that are designed for the tourist trade and if we were to return, we would try to make certain that we stayed away from those. Some of the traders that we dealt with would not move on price, knowing that there were many more who would pay full price for an item.

Overall, Marakesh is a sensory overload, especially at night.

The worst moment ( I have no images as I refused to pay the owners) was the snake and monkey handlers in the main tourist square.

Dressing the monkeys in cute clothing was distressing, distasteful and disrespectful to the apes. Watching snakes being manhandled into performing for tourists was certainly not something I wanted to promote on any level.

 

 

 

This was the company we utilized for our tour.

There were issues along the way, but nothing that could not be resolved on the spot. It did give value for money and if Morocco is a bucket list destination then the tour host, Linda, will give you that in spades.

As I have said many times, you cannot be disappointed if you go with no expectations. All my wife and I require when we travel is a comfortable bed, reasonable connectivity, hot water(most of the time) and a breakfast that sets us up for the day.

On this trip, we almost had a full house of requirements. Those that were lacking, we accommodated and smiled, making it all part of the overall experience and adventure.

 

 

 

Travel is the proud winner of this prestigious award from the digital British lifestyle magazine Luxlife. The award is in the category Best Travel & Experiences Blog 2024 – South Africa

 

 

 

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