Lost in the Souk

The gap in posting was because I went on holiday to Marrakesh last week. Jas and I had wanted to go last year, but a slight financial problem (cars needing £££ spent on them to keep going) put the kibosh on it. Luckily we found a cheap deal for this year, and July being ridiculously hot is actually a bit quiet for tourists.

Minaret of Koutobia

Minaret of Koutobia

We weren’t staying in the Medina, which is where the Koutoubia Mosque, Jemaat el-Fna Square and all the souks and palaces are, but it was a short (but bloody hot) walk from the new town. Thing is, we didn’t really like the old town much. It’s interesting for the sights and the smells and the people, but it’s a bit in your face and there are hawkers all over. Still, got a good picture of the minaret for the main mosque, which is about 600 years old and is next to the ruins of the 11th Century Berber mosque. The new town, Guerliz, could at times look like parts of Barcelona (last time I went there it was July and about 35-40 degrees in the shade, so perhaps that’s part of it).

In some ways Marrakech, and Morocco, is very modern, with a European style cafe culture, young people whizzing around on scooters and the odd cool bar with a house band playing soul music. On the other hand, of course, it is a developing country with high levels of poverty, a fairly authoritarian monarchic government and an economy mainly based on agriculture. While it is a Muslim country, it is not under Sharia law (and alcohol was certainly available openly without much hassle in the cities and towns) and you do see young unmarried couples socialising. The hijab is popular but not ubiquitous, and the niqab is worn but not by a large number of women.

Not sure I’d want to go back there, but I am glad we went. It’s one of those places that is good to go and see, walking through the souks is an experience you can’t forget in a hurry, the nightly carnival atmosphere of the square (the name, Jemaat El Fna means “plain of the dead” which is cheery) is incredible and bewildering, and when the food is cooked well, you can’t beat the flavours in a tagine.

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