We had had arranged for us, a tour of some of Marrakech by mini-bus. Six of us visited the Jardin Majorelle with its exotic plants and memorial to Yves Saint Laurent who once owned them. And then to the palace of the Grand Vizier, the Palais de la Bahia, with its rooms, painted ceilings, mosaics and decoration reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada. The Saadian tombs, started in the 1500s, next to the Kasbah Mosque and adjacent to the old city walls had three rooms of exquisite decoration while the grounds were covered by mosaic covered tombs, many of children of the dynasty.
And then some time to spend in the huge main square and the adjacent souk spreading in all directions in a labyrinth of covered passages. Heeding the guidebook that says it is easy to get thoroughly lost in the souk, we wound our way in a semi-circle and came out without needing to call for help. Every kind of shop is in the souk: antiques and "antiques", nuts and dried fruit, clothes and shoes, fossils and rocks, lamps and dishes. You name it, it's probably here somewhere.
The huge square, the Djemma el-Fina, is where everything happens. It is lively during the day, but really comes to life at night. Two of the others, Geoff and Lyn, decided to join us when we returned to the square that night. Everywhere was something exciting happening. Snake charmers with their thin, reedy instruments set up on blankets. Monkeys dressed up and on leashes were paraded for tourists to have a photo with. A man with pigeons apparently had them trained for something special but, though we could see him all night, nothing much seemed to happen. Groups of men played traditional instruments and gathered a crowd around them. Stalls with mountains of oranges were ready to squeeze a fresh drink for a few Dirhams. As dark came on, sellers of silver metal lamps placed candles inside them which glowed eerily. Smoke billowed from stalls with charcoal burners and braziers selling grilled meats and tagines.
Restaurants lined the square and we picked one almost at random, knowing that most of them would have pretty ordinary food and simply wanting one with a good view over the action. As the sun went down, the lights went on and it was marvellous just watching it all unfold.
At prayer time, no less than three mosques around us competed with loudspeakers for the call to prayer. A cacophony indeed.
There is more to see in Marrakech but we had had a taste. We'll be back.