Marrakech. The Red City. Population: 1.2 million locals, half a million tourists, and 5 million motor bikes, motorised bicycles and mopeds.
Home of the magnificent Cyber Park! I dont know if they have these elsewhere in the world, but it is even better than sliced bread. I am sitting on a park bench, in the shade from the hot Marrakechi sun, listening to birds tweet, with the faint hum of peak hour traffic in the background. I am surrounded by olive trees, date palms, orange trees and an array of plant-life. A short time ago I had a lazy eye on a group of young students staging an amateur play. Over my shoulder a young local is strumming a guitar (Bob Marleys No Woman No Cry!), and until I picked up my pen, I was surfing the net thanks to free wifi throughout the entire park!!! But, if you dont have your own device, you can surf at one of the many internet posts (see cover photo) or pay $A1 an hour in the modern cyber cafe. What an amazing way to while away an afternoon in the mad medina of Marrakech.
Then as I was leaving, I heard a familiar sound very foreign in these parts. I backtracked a bit to find a Rasta-looking young Moroccan guy playing a home made bamboo...... Didge!!!! And boy could he play, he had the breathing right and could pull out all the tricks. Its a shame the language barrier got in the way because he couldnt tell me how he came to learn - he just knew it was from Australia and I was from Australia. It was magic to watch him play.
Our tour of the medina this morning was a much more refined affair than Fez. The Bahia Palace (Bahia = brilliant) is a century old palace, now open to the public, showcasing the opulence of Moorish architecture and design. It was nice to wander through the reception rooms, the King's apartment, the apartment for his four wives (four wives was still custom until several decades ago), and then the concubine compound which was a lot like dormitories around a quadrangle - or a mosh pit!
The Musee du Marrakech was a whirlwind pitstop to admire traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, then it was into the souks. I had been dreading this part of the tour since the Fez debacle, but I neednt have worried. This medina is much wider and open, though much of the air is choked with exhaust fumes from the motorbikes (et al). It is a visually stunning souk, full of colour and bling. Stock is displayed as if poised for a magazine shoot - if only we didnt have to keep paying everyone to take photos!! Row upon row of gorgeous slippers in every colour, some plain, some embroidred, some sequined, some even looking like Chewbacca feet!?! Technicoloured scarves, rugs and jeballas are found alongside glazed pottery, some plain, some edged in beaten silver. Stunning pressed metal lamps hang on walls and suspend from ceilings, the floors below covered with sparkling metal lamps, trays, plates and bowl in brass and silver. Its a veritable Aladdins cave.
Our Geckos tour finishes tomorrow. Im kind of glad. Ive been craving some time to myself (ok, a bedroom to myself, have been sharing with a 20yo the past two weeks), but more importantly, the chance to go at my own pace. My Marrakech adventure is far from over, there are still gardens and medersas and galleries to explore. I may even venture back into the souk!!