Morocco Stories and Tips

Day 1 : Marrakech

A five-hour flight takes us from Brussels Airport to Marrakech , with an intermediate landing in Casablanca. When we step outside the airport it already has become dark. In comparison with other Arabian airports I've been to, the small international Aéroport Marrakesh-Menara is very quiet and peaceful. With a few taxis we drive to the city-centre, about seven km of the airport. For me, arriving in the Red City, it is not such an overwhelming experience. It feels more like an undisturbed fuss. Although there is a lot of commotion in the streets and traffic seems a little bit chaotic, there's not so much assault of sound. Our hotel, Hôtel de Foucauld (Avenue El-Mouahidine), is impressively decorated in Morroccan style and its location is only a few footsteps away from Djemaa al-Fna, the city's central square. On arrival in the restaurant, the smell of simmering tagines with plums and almonds brings water to my mouth. One says that the Moroccan cuisine is among the best in the world and after this delicious diner I can only agree!

After diner - and meanwhile it has become midnight but due to the time difference it just feels like 10 o'clock - we decide to have a look around the busy Djemaa al-Fna. The famous town square of Marrakech owes little of its fame to its own beauty, but to the continuous day and night life. Years ago, it was a large grain market, or suq. Djemaa al-Fna means "assembly of the dead", referring to a time when the heads of executed criminals were displayed on poles around the square. Now it's one of the most extraordinary sights in Marrakesh because of the people working there: storytellers, snake-charmers, musicians, water-carriers in their outlandish costumes, healers, traders and lots of orange-juice and food stalls (photo ). There is also lots of commercial activity going on, but it is mostly clothing and tourist items. All together they form a shifting scene of vivid colour. People are swarming over the square. The largest crowds are drawn by the storytellers. Some of the acts are shrouded in smoke from the many food stalls where a sea of flames shoots high through the barbecue while setting the sausages on fire (photo ). Doesn't this kick up a tremendous fuss? What a spectacle! Remember that if you listen, watch or take photographs you will be expected to pay. Travel light and put some small change in your pocket. Men with jallabahs (large hooded smock with sleeves) and pointed shoes wander about the streets on little mopeds. They look like witches on motorbikes instead of brooms! We end the day (night) slurping at a mint tea on a terrace.

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