Friday 12th April
The Imperial City of Marrakech was everything I expected and more. The hustle and noise of the night before had given way to slightly more ordered chaos as we entered the walled city at about 10am.
There is so much to see within the walls that one day at the end of a tiring two week trip was never going to be enough and so we decided to concentrate on the Souks which are positioned to the north of Place Jemaa el-Fna, the main square.
Although referred to in the plural, the different sections, which are each dedicated to their own produce, blend into a single labyrinth of passageways, shops, workshops and homes. As you enter into the Souk you are met by all manner of goods displayed from floor to ceiling and stretching back into the depths of the shop. Shops merge one into another with a vivid collection of colours.
The passageway we entered started with handmade shoes and slippers leading on to clothes and cloth, then into leather goods and so on the further you progressed into the depths. In some places the shops were over three levels with small staircases linking the floors.
Every now and then there would be a passageway with no shops, but simply a number of doors. These would appear to be the entrance to some of the homes which existed within the overall structure. Further into the Souk workshops became evident between shops and, again, down little alleyways.
Occasionally you would see an elaborate doorway which was the entrance to a grand hotel or restaurant. Unless the door was open there was no sign of what was inside; no windows were visible simply the doorway. The use, size and complexity of the building beyond would only be revealed once you stepped over the threshold. In a couple of places we came across the entrance to a mosque.
As you progressed deeper the colourful shops slowly gave way to the more practical ones selling the items that the occupants needed for everyday living. It was easy to image some occupants of the Souks spending their entire lives within these alleyways. Never leaving to see daylight.
There were many things that left a mark on the memory …. The sights and smells. The smiles on the shopkeepers faces and the “good price” everyone offered, even though we all knew the “good price” was only the start of the negotiations. And also the comments, “lovely jubley” must have been said a dozen or more times. When asked if we were heading in the right direction one shop keeper returned, with a big smile, “that’s the way to the square, this is the way to my shop …”.
Marrakech is with out doubt a city to revisit. Although the experience of the Souks may not have quite the same impact second time round there are are many other things to see. As I said, one day was never going to be enough ….