Marrakesh First impressions

First impressionsMarrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco


Up at ungodly 4.45am to head off to Terminal 1 Heathrow Flew with GB Airlines, an offshoot/subsidiary of British Airways. Happily they are being sold to Easyjet in three weeks time. Truly dreadful. As Elly and a fellow passenger remarked just like a flying coffin. Still for a quick three and a half hours flight, just bearable. Without a good book and an iPod it could have been messy. The food smelt unspeakable but fortunately Elly and I had stopped at Caffe Nero for a £12 (!!) coffee and Panini before hand. We were staying at the Riad Lotus Ambre, one of a chain of 4 Riad Lotus boutique hotels in Marrakech. This one is near the main square, Jemma el Fna and you get to it down a warren of ever smaller alleyways. Really atmospheric and great fun. The hotel is a jewel on three stories set around a wonderful garden courtyard.

Our room (Goethe) was on the second floor. There is a sauna (Hamman) and a micro Jaccussi on the pretty roof terrace. The Riad only has 5 rooms but doesn’t feel like a guest house. It’s all very designer chic but the rooms are small. What is it with designer hotels and their use of 20w light bulbs. Everywhere we stay there is a trend for low wattage light bulbs and I think travelers of the world should unite against this. For women, they have to put make-up on by touch rather than sight and reading in bed is often only possible if you remove the lampshades. Hoteliers claim it is to save money on electricity. If so put key cards in the rooms to turn all the lights out when we leave, give us Davy lamps or even more radically cut your obscene margins by a fraction of one percent and give us decent lighting. That said the Riad Lotus Ambre is a great place to stay and one I can recommend without a moments hesitation. However, if you need a pool look elsewhere. We had a lovely lunch on the roof terrace, local salad, chicken with preserved lemons and olives and fresh oranges with cinnamon. A glass of local (Casablanca) beer washed it down.

Then Elly went for a sleep and I pounded the pavements and went to Jemma el Fna. Got trapped by the snake men and 100 Dirhams later have very bad photographs of me holding a large worm (sorry vast, venomous, killer snake). There was a cross Cobra nearby but it was getting so much abuse from it’s handler it hardly had time to attack me. At about 7.30pm we decided to head out to Jenna el Fna as Elly wanted to buy a Jellabi (sp) a hooded, full-length, one piece unisex vest/tunic/dress. After fending off some persistent sellers in the Souk we dived off for a swift mint tea (£0.70) and then hooked up with Mr Jellabi who found decent ones in both our sizes (are we tourists or what) and paid less than the £140 he originally asked finally getting away for about £40.

Yes I know you could have one made in Bangkok for £0.80 but you know the maxim “When in Marrakech get ripped off like a tourist” Then we headed to Immodium Central for Supper also known as the main square. We were down to our last 240 Dirham (£15)after blowing our cash on strange Jellabis. Never mind we could eat in the square. Like all things in Marrakech was divided into zone.

Snail zone selling escargot in their shells flavoured with cumin. The guys selling roasted goat heads (price on application), the brochette folks and the snake men (watching not eating). It is a marvelous riot of grill smoke, confusion and imminent food poisoning. We started with the sausage men. You sit on long benches in the open air with a paper sheet as your plate and bread roll and then you get a small platter of mini sausages grilled and swimming in oil. This comes with a tomato and chili (ish) dipping sauce. Not bad but Elly wasn’t too keen (£0.70 for two). We passed on the goat head stalls and headed for a collection of brochette stalls. We went for beef and lamb skewers which were fairly disgusting as they alternated meat and fat just to keep the cholesterol count high. Well worth doing but don’t expect too much from the food. Fortunately the Immodium has stayed firmly in its packet.

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