The guide book we have been using doesn't list a campsite for Marrakesh but we picked up a leaflet for a campsite whilst still in Fez. It only gives limited instructions so upon entering town we stopped and asked a policeman. The two policemen and one official couln't even pinpoint where we were on the map and after driving around for an hour we realised that we had only been about one and a half miles away from the campsite.
The busiest part of the day in Morocco is about 4 p.m. just after prayers when all the shops and business re-open, traffic takes to the road and people head into town. The focal point in Marrakesh is Djemaa-el-Fna, the famous square in tthe medina and the biggest tourist attraction probably in the whole of Morocco where thousands flock by day and night. There are buses, coaches, horse drawn carriages, clyclists, motorbikes and pedestrians all around the square..and guess where we ended up, right in the middle of it in the motor home. Peter did the most marvelous job, because everyone just goes wherever they want, there is no order to the driving. At intersections it is hard to cross as it's just every man for himself and roundabouts are the same. Nobody stops for pedestrians even on zebra crossings,your life is in your own hands.
After about an hour we eventually found the campsite about 7k out of town and it was like an oasis. After the very poor standard we had seen so far we couldn't believe it... a beautiful inviting pool, fully tiled immaculate toilets and showers and a restaurant. There was even a washing machine, something we hadn't seen since leaving Spain. Again all the other motor homers were either French or Spanish not a Brit in sight.
We took our scooter out and parkek up half way to town at a big supermarket and caught the bus into the city centre. Marrakesh is perhaps the most visited city, drawing many travellers under its mesmorising spell and it is truly mezmorising. The heat, dust and ramparts make it a uniquely African/Morrocan vity vastly different from Fez. At the core of the city lies the square with many lanes leading off which form the souqs.
We took a tour bus around the city and visited many of its attractions. On entering the souqs you can be marginally more hassled than Fez but nothing that is off putting as long as you keep a smile on your face and a sense of humour. After spending the day wandering around we decided to save the square at night until the next day.
We felt a bit braver today and travelled the whole way into town on the scooter. It was a nerve wracking experience but as long as you just 'go with the flow' bob and weave through the traffic and don't make any sudden manouvers you are o.k. We bought a few things in the market including a 6 x 3 rush mat for outside the motor home which everyone seems to have. It was rolled up and I had to carry it under my arm on the back of the scooter like a magic carpet!!
By evening the taxi drivers strike was over so we took a taxi into the city and joined the thousands visiting the square. Although very lively at any time of day it comes into its own at dusk. There arre rows and rows of food stalls with mouth watering aromas. Ugglers, snake-charmers, sttory-tellers, musicians, henna tatoo painters and spectators. There was even a large crowd gathered around a boxing match between a boy about 10 and a girl about 14..it was a bit barbaric as they were all placing bets!! (pic) It is truly a magical experience and the square is filled with many Europeans but thousands more Moroccans just enjoying an evening out.
We retired to one of the roof top restaurants surrounding the square and watched the spectable below whilst enjoying traditional Moroccan food.
We left Marrakesh reluctantly and headed for the High Atlas Mountains which are the snowcapped mountains you often see in pictures as the backdrop to Marrakesh. The views are absolutely breathtaking along the way with green and fertile valleys but once over the pass the lunar landscape of the High Atlas is inveiled with the desert beyond.
We now start passing through Berber villages, the houses blending into the rocks made out of straw and red clay. The dress of the villagers has now changed from traditional muslim robes to more turban type headgear and warmer clothing. As we cross over streams the rocks are covered with clothes drying in the sun where the local women have washed them in the streams.
We now have to be a bit wary where we stop and take pictures as children descend from the villages like ants shouting Monseur Bon Bon (sweets). On one stop Peter got out and walked back 100 yds to take a picture and I could see about 12 children running down the hill and so I locked the doors. We did have sweets for them but I waited until Peter got back in the van before getting them out and was glad I did. They crowded around Peter's door all fighting each other to get the sweets. There were lots of grubby little hands held out with shouts of bon bon, bon bon. They were so persistent we had to give them the whole bag and shut the door quickly, otherwise I think it may have been like a plague of locusts going through the van stripping it of every item of food!!! (Peter laughed at me afterwards saying that I told him to make them get away from the door and form an orderly queue and they would all get a sweet each!!!!)