Saturday 21st March 2014
After a later start this morning, due to a slight feeling of nausia that I believe can be put down to the copious glasses of red I enjoyed the night before. A beautiful breakfast is served at your convenience and is made up of fresh fruit salad, pastries, pancakes, eggs and bread, as well as fresh orange juice, which is sold in abundance over here and coffee or tea, this helped settle my acrobatic stomach ready for the day ahead. After a busy day yesterday, we took it slower today and decided we wanted to see the Majorelle gardens, it is not what you expect. It is very small and busy, it consists of a cactus garden and a bamboo garden, all behind fences linked with a red path that herd all the cattle towards the museum. There is a heavy influence on the gardens by Yves St Laurent as he bought the garden when it went into disrepair, a gallery of his work and clothes are shown, everything is an extortionate amount of money. At one end of the garden is a museum that used to be Majorelle’s painting studio that has now been turned into a museum dedicated to the culture of different morrocan tribes. It is impressive, but, a shame, as it no longer resembles a studio in any form and it is very hard to picture the space as anything other than a display cabinet.
After the gardens we take a taxi to the Kasbah to visit the Saadian tombs which are meant to be breathtaking, however due to our lack of change we were 20 pence short and they would not allow us to enter, it was dealt with badly by the Moroccan people. They seem more money grubbing in this part of the Medina and put us off going in completely, so we didn’t. We wandered into the kasbah and were the only tourists around, it is obviously where locals shop and was full of fresh mint, thyme, sage and other herbs as well as fish, meat and vegetables. Whilst wandering aimlessly a young boy asked if we were lost, he was very friendly and we asked for directions to the souk so we could head back to the hotel for a bit of R&R. He lead us the supposed way to the souk but, we ended up at a herbalist shop, in a completely different area and was then made to pay him change for leading us somewhere we did not want to go! We got in a taxi for ease and ended up being again taken to the wrong area and had to walk 20 minutes or so to get to the hotel, a logistical nightmare! We dropped our stuff and headed straight for the roof terrace where we caught some much needed Z’s and sunshine.
At five we went for dinner in cafe de France which overlooks the square, there is a night market and the whole square completely transforms itself into a totally new experience. Snake charmers and acrobats together with food and market stalls litter the previously empty spaces and hundreds of people mill around eating and buying the exotic gifts. We had tagine as per usual and were disappointed at the quality, it was not the best meal, it was nice but not great but it didn’t matter as the view and the atmosphere below were the reason we were there! We wandered through the stalls, vendors vying for our attention, I bought some silver jewellery along with a typically Moroccan tea lamp. It was very easy to barter as there were so many stalls selling similar goods and the experience seemed calmer than in the day despite the increase in numbers.
MakIng our way back to the riad we stopped in at cafe Arabe for a lovely, refreshing mojito and olives in harissa paste followed by a chocolate chaud (hot chocolate), the perfect way to end a day.
Sunday 22nd March 2014
The fateful day had finally arrived, the day we travel home, I am not ready to leave and though it feels far longer than four days, my eyes have not seen enough, my ears not heard enough and my mouth not tasted enough. We packed our things as we had to vacate the room by 12 even though our flight wasn’t until 8 in the evening but we were able to store our bags at the riad. We finished our trip with a shop big enough to make the most experienced retailers drop!
Heading into the Souk, a Moroccan top in the deepest, royal blue, had caught my eye since day one, I decided I must have you in my life! I left the shop 350 dirhum out of pocket but, I had been so drawn to the item the slightly higher price than I expected did not phase me. On wandering along there was a shop that had very few items on display, which made it instantly stand out from the hundreds of cluttered stalls. Walking up the stairs you are greeted to cool house and a boutique is unveiled before your eyes, every item in the store is unique unlike the mad, overproduced products in the markets. The owner is the designer and creates these magnificent garments himself, his prices are expensive but you pay for the time he has put into each piece. His clutch bags scream originality and the jewellery is breathtakingly different. I could (given the right funding) have walked away with everything and been blissful!ly happy in knowing no one else owned what I have now.
It pains me to leave the shop empty handed but my budget is not one that allows the price he offers though mum can’t help but purchase a leather bracelet and silk shirt with encouragement from yours truly. We hit the markets once more and notice some simple leather bracelets, perfect gifts for friends and family. The owner takes us inside to pay and points out some beautiful glass bottles toped with ornately decorated points, they are perfume bottles and are beautiful. I choose a small, black, glass one as real perfume should never be exposed to the light, it spoils it, so dark glass is perfect.
It is the hottest day so far and it becomes apparent that my jeans, jumper combo is just not going to cut it today so, when wandering around the Souk, we stumble upon a small open area with stalls and cafes, I quickly change into my newest purchase. Ladies in this square are also offering henna but at a reasonable price of 25 dirhum for a small hand piece and you are given the option of red or black, I go for red and am semi pleased with the results as I smudged it slightly due to the wetter nature of the red henna. Whilst wandering around I spotted a haberdashery, as a keen sewer I nipped straight inside, the options were mind boggling! Trims galore, threads all the colours of the rainbow, tassles and silks, I bought a beautiful turquoise trim for 10 dirhum a metre or so for less than a pound, much better than anything in England. I also splashed out on some rather flashy sequinned green trim that’s ever so unique.
On the way back to the hotel we are lured unto another herbalist shop but, they offer a product I supposedly had not yet seen and I was very interested in. Berber lipstick, it is unusual in that you a presented with what is essentially a tiny ceramic tagine pot, you open it and it appears to have nothing in it, but on licking your finger and touching the ceramic you see a bright, deep red, you then apply as a stain to your lips. It is all natural and is made using ground poppies for the colour. We also buy some solid lumps of amber and musk as you can use them as a natural deodorant and they last up to 14 years apparently (I still use mine now, in 2015, in my underwear draw in Sri Lanka to keep the damp away, works a treat!!).
By this time it was getting pretty late and we were Hank Marvin (starving), guess where we went… Yep! Cafe Arab, I know you should try different things but when you stumble upon a gem!! It was our last meal and was truly divine as ever! We picked up our cases from the riad and headed to the airport, as this was a trip for my 21st, my mum had treated me to first class tickets home! I was very excited having never flown first class, though I was slightly let down as the airport offered no perks and the first class lounge was a room of chairs. Feeling slightly glum, I helped myself to stale sandwiches and sat back down, mum instantly leaned over, pointed to someone and said “do you know who I think that is?”
“Who?” I replied.
“Ed Sheeran” she whispered, no way! I instantly got on the Twittersphere and checked out his profile, sure enough he had posted that he was travelling to Africa. I sheepishly, with more encouragement from mum, approached the star I had watched from a distance when he came and performed at Hull. I looked shocking! Red and blotchy thanks to my acne prone skin, hair scraped up from walking around a dusty, sauna like country but, nevertheless, I walked up and asked him whether he was the man we thought he was. IT ONLY BLOODY WAS HIM! I even got a photo with him hehe, looking awful but who cares eh?! He was on our flight home and so mum and I sat 2 rows away from chart royalty for 4 hours until we landed in Heathrow, where he was whisked away from public view once more.
So all in all a damn good trip, fantastic food, fantastic culture, all thanks to my fantastic mum. Hope you enjoyed reading about it!!
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