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Marrakech, Morocco

We are slowly getting used to the bus rides this time it was a 5hour ride to the outskirts of Marrakesh. We managed to get some sleep so on arrival at 2am we were awake when we were pounced on yet again by ticket touts and taxi drivers trying to take our luggage to their mode of transport. We got our stuff together and started walking towards the centre ville. We passed a closed supermarket and in the distance saw the blue neon sign of a hotel where the security guard on duty called the receptionist down who took half an hour so we waited and talked to the guard. Unfortunately the hotel ended up being far too expensive but they did suggest a local cheap one and they hailed down a cab gave directions to the driver and then asked us how much? We didn't know what they were saying at first, how could we know how far it was or the rates out here?! So the driver said 3euros and Kat immediately haggled it to 2,not wanting to have a repeat of the tangier taxi ride. The taxi ride was fairly long and we think we got the better deal considering the time as well. When we got out and started walking across the square in the direction pointed out we were Lucky to bump into 3 English speaking people so we kindly asked if they knew the location of the cheap hotel. The girl in the group who was from Canada said we could stay in the one she was in and showed us her key. It was 3am at this point and the taxi driver was waiting to make sure we were safe which was nice so Ben gave him the thumbs up and we followed the Canadian, Moroccan and a Korean. They were very helpful and the Moroccan gave us a list of all the good places to visit. Kat kept being shushed by the receptionist as it was 3 in the morning so we handed our passport details over, said our goodnights and headed upstairs to bed.

The next morning well early afternoon we woke up and went for a stroll around the town and medina on exiting our hotel we came straight out onto the 'Place Jemaa El Fna' square we walked though the night before was now alive with people jam packed with juice stalls, shops, snake charmers, henna ladies, ill treated baby monkeys, thousands of western tourists and Moroccan musicians playing bongos.

The main snake charmer stand had a big group of people around it so we had a look to see what the attraction was. As we got closer we saw the Cobras being really provoked to keep them in the attack pose and really long grass looking snakes being hung around the less morale tourists, one struck one of the handlers who threw it on the floor, picked it up and threw it down again which wasn't so pleasant to see. Another snake made a quick slither for freedom which panicked the crowed to jump back gasping. At this point we were both upset and sick of how the animals were treated and the fact a snake charmer was heading straight for Ben’s neck with the biggest snake we'd ever seen in the flesh we decided to move on. Kat took a sneaky photo which was then challenged for ten dirham’s, we gave them one but regret taking it as its encouraging the spectacle.

On the way out of the square we headed towards the 'La Koutoubia', the biggest mosque in the Marrakesh medina. We had past this in the night and to be honest it looks a lot better all lit up in lights than when it does during the day. On the way, we passed a small park that was completely surrounded by horse and carts doing tours of the city, the horses in Marrakesh all looked bad with malnutrition, off the beaten track on our long walk we saw the working horses carrying food stock who were so dehydrated their tongues hung out of their lopsided mouths all shriveled up. We also got very lost and some kind children helped us find the main road. The boy who helped us most didn't ask or beg for money so we gave him a little, we normally give pens, food, or what’s left in our water bottle as we really don't agree with giving money to child beggars-you never know who it goes to.

In the heart of the souks we found a little shop that sold 'silver' rings for Kat’s wedding finger, (don't panic it's just to help prevent all the perverts letching on her and to give Ben more bartering leverage. Plus it’s far more expectable in Muslim countries for sharing hotel rooms etc.) We haggled from 80dirhams down to 30dirhams having a strong suspicion it wasn't silver. 3pounds for a band was still extortionate but will serve a good purpose.

On getting lost the second time we stumbled across the 'Palais Bahia', one of the beauties that the Moroccan guy last night pointed out to us. He was certainly right and Kat got her camera out and snapped away at the buildings high walls and beautifully crafted ceilings, Ben got a bit jealous with all the people with their SLR'S missing his canon. Still being lost we jumped in a taxi and asked the nice driver to take us to a point on the map that we knew, on departing the taxi the meter said 3dirhams he demanded 6 claiming something about a minimum payment we got out the taxi quickly after paying 5 and the driver was furious over 1dirham about 7pence but we ran for it well walked away quickly before he could think about running us over.

After spending far too long in the sun and getting lost 3times Ben had a little sleep whilst Kat had some peace to write her journal, it was near sunset when we were ready to go out. So we got our sleepy self’s up and went to find the restaurant we spotted earlier. When we hit the square it was yet again completely different, replacing the snakes and market stalls stood large industrial sized canteens, all serving different styles of Moroccan food.

We walked around them all first and settled on Jamie Oliver’s number 10, all the canteens had numbers with several touts trying to sell their menus. On seeing us a few started talking in London slang (lovely jubly, Sainsbury’s taste the difference veg, air conditioning 'with a menu waved in our faces', and other funny typical English sayings) Jamie Oliver’s mum owed the place where we sat. Her face proudly stamped on the menu, shame she had been hit by an ugly bat but her stern look said keep away from the money as she was the cash register. Being white yet again we got ripped off, Ben was having none of it this time and questioned why the bill was so high. They had over charged 20dirhams for our meals and tried to charge us for the 'free' bread served while we waited. We think they only gave in and paid up because Ben bravely stood right in the way off big momma and the incoming cash from the waiters.

Before we went for dinner we paid a high price for drinks and for a really high view on a rooftop terrace over looking the square. The sun had just gone down by the time we got to the terrace and had left a shepherd's delight sky. The view was amazing and this is definitely a must do if you visit, although it's tourist central we loved the views and Ben also loved seeing all the really really expensive slrs at work (Adam would have died and Kat thinks both are sad buggers).

Our colorful evening came to an end as we headed back to our hotel to prepare for leaving Marrakesh the following morning. Seeing the old men outside the hotel playing checkers with water bottle tops made Ben start collecting them.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on June 24, 2009 from Marrakech, Morocco
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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