As the world buzzed around in the square two stories below me I sat and sipped a super-sweet mint tea on the roof of a caf? in the middle of Marrakech in Morocco.
Reflecting back on a wonderful tour lasting 10 days I realized I had just had one of the best holidays I had ever taken.
Leaving from Glasgow, myself and three friends had flown first to London then connected to Casablanca before making a final short flight to Marrakech. At the Marrakech airport, the heat hit us like a wall as we stepped down onto the tarmac.
At security, we were met by our guide who arranged our luggage to be taken care of and came with transport to take us to our hotel. We didn’t go straight to the hotel, however. Our guide chose to take us directly to the extremely exciting Djemaa el-Fna. Night had fallen in Marrakech and it seemed like the entire city had congregated in the famous square for the evening. As the minibus inched forward past robed and hooded individuals we gazed out upon snake charmers, storytellers and groups of people just hanging out. The square was half covered in tables with outdoor grills and cafes cooking any number of strange and exotic dishes, the wonderful aromas of which wafted through the open windows of the minibus.
Sadly, that evening we didn’t stop in the square and were instead whisked off to the 4-star hotel we were staying in. The hotel was stunning with a mosaic fountain and pool in the foyer and exquisite rooms.
Outside the patio doors of my room was a magnificent pool area complete with a poolside bar. I had previously wondered if it would be possible to get a beer in a mainly Muslim country, clearly, it was.
Throughout our week there we were escorted round royal palace ruins, let loose in the souks behind the square (which we revisited several times) and had one extremely memorable trip into the Atlas Mountains, just a couple of hours drive from Marrakech.
The mountain trip started with a drive to a mountain market which seemed a million miles away from the tourist orientated centre of Marrakech. The stench of some of the meat for sale on the non-refrigerated stalls was overpowering. Our guide kept a close watch over proceedings and provided his own advice and translation when we were interacting with a stall-holder.
Further up the mountain on a decidedly dodgy looking dirt road, we came to the village of Imlil in the shadow of Morocco’s highest peak, Toubkal. Here we met a mountain guide who personally knew one of my friends in Scotland. We sipped tea with the villagers before returning to Marrakech.
There were many other excursions and meals that were memorable and as I sat in that caf? on the square, for the last time, I really felt sorry to be heading home. Morocco had made a deep and lasting impression on me and I couldn’t wait to book another trip and head back to discover more of this fascinating part of Africa.