Back to Marrakech:
We said our farewells to Paul and Liz and to Hamid who was getting a ride to a town which was on his way back to his home in Meski. And so we were on our own in Morocco, and it felt a bit like being cut adrift.
We took the road out of Ouzoud through more steep gorges on, yes you guessed it, narrow winding roads. The high areas were still part of the Middle Atlas range but the drop to the plain is sudden and the land is flat to the horizon away from the mountains.
We checked into Ferdaous Camping again where we had stayed with the group, not because it was a brilliant campsite (it definitely wasn't) but because it offered a minibus service into the main square of the city.
This time in the hustle and bustle we took a caleche, a carriage driven by two horses for an hour's ride through the sights. Although we had seen some of them when we had the tour with the group, this time was at a leisurely pace and we sank back into the red velvet cushions and tassles and watched the city go by. Mind you, the trip was not without incident: the horses just plough on regardless of the traffic and many drivers end up honking horns and being generally frustrated. But each time our driver gave us a toothy grin and shrugged his shoulders.
To eat we eschewed the restaurants with the terraces overlooking the square. As dark fell, dozens of food stalls were setting up with their braziers belching smoke into the atmosphere. We wandered the rows being approached by every one of them, urging us try our menu, we are the best, five-star Michelin, air conditioning! They all looked pretty much the same and the menus were amazingly similar and similarly priced. So pot luck, we sat where at least there was some shade from the setting sun. Russ had a chicken Tagine and I ordered chicken couscous. The only difference was that my dish had couscous underneath…
It was half the price we had paid in the restaurant the few days before, just as tasty and more than filling. Again we wandered the square taking in all the exotic sights and smells and savouring the atmosphere. A herbal medicine seller (maybe more like a snake oil salesman) had dead hedgehogs and porcupines displayed amongst live turtles and geckos with his bottles of oils and potions. A pea and thimble trickster who used just two cards was trying to con the passers-by. Monkeys were dressed up in human clothes for photos with tourists and acrobats and tumblers drew a big crowd around themselves.
We took a different route through the souk and encountered a throng of people, locals shoving and pushing to get through. To make matters worse, motorcycles sped through the crowd along the alleys nearly taking unsuspecting tourists (me) in their wake. At one stage, we were simply stopped by the crush of the crowd: no-one was going anywhere; six motorcycles were trying to get past each other and had blocked the entire alley! The only word that seems to cover it is Chaos.
We said we'd be back - and we were. The second visit was every bit as fascinating as the first. What a city!