Mag­i­cal mem­o­ries of the crazy ways of Mar­rakech

KATE FIELDER trav­els to the mys­te­ri­ous Moroc­can city and is mes­merised by the chaos of the souk

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

NOW I un­der­stand. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced some of the mys­ter­ies of Mar­rakech at last, and I know what friends who have vis­ited this won­der­ful and chaotic city were so ex­cited about when they came home with tall tales and mag­nif­i­cent mem­o­ries.

I went to Mar­rakech with my mum, the only other per­son I know who gets ridicu­lously ex­cited by the prospect of buy­ing hand­bags, and lanterns, which are among Mar­rakech’s most ob­vi­ous wares.

Although at first we were slightly ap­pre­hen­sive, hav­ing read some hor­ror sto­ries on­line about western­ers be­ing sub­jected to abuse, ripped off and pestered. How­ever, from the mo­ment we got there, to the sec­ond we boarded the plane home, I have noth­ing but good mem­o­ries of a fab­u­lous place and noth­ing more than friendly ban­ter with peo­ple in the souks.

With easyJet’s di­rect route from Manch­ester, the four-hour flight was a dod­dle. On the shut­tle trans­fer from the air­port to the out­skirts, we no­ticed mopeds car­ry­ing en­tire fam­i­lies cling­ing on for dear life with no ob­vi­ous safety mea­sures in place.

The street mar­kets were bustling with lo­cals and mo­tor­bikes and bi­cy­cles car­ry­ing loads you’d strug­gle to get in your car. It was fas­ci­nat­ing chaos.

We stayed at The Tig­miza Pav­il­ion, Suites and Spa which I can only de­scribe as the most chilled-out, heav­enly bou­tique Kas­bah-like ho­tel.

It’s only a 20-minute drive from the air­port, nes­tled in the green­ery of the Palmerie of Mar­rakech with views of the stunning At­las Moun­tains. It’s a re­ally spe­cial place.

We ar­rived in the early evening and dur­ing check-in we were led to The Moroc­can Room to re­lax and wait with freshly brewed mint tea and bis­cuits while we soaked up the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings.

The charm of the place en­gulfed us, with its heav­ily themed decor and grand de­sign, ev­ery cor­ner and part of the com­plex was de­light­ful. It was all cre­ated by the own­ers, a lo­cal fam­ily.

The fa­ther came up with the con­cept and his wife, a very tal­ented artist, proudly dis­plays mod­ern yet strik­ing work in suites and communal ar­eas. Their daugh­ter de­signed and dec­o­rated each in­di­vid­ual suite and pav­il­ion to an ex­cep­tion­ally high stan­dard.

I stayed in a du­plex suite, l’ori­en­tale. With its deep earth tones, living room area on the ground floor, and dra­matic man­darin style carved wood fur­ni­ture, and mar­ble stair­case, ev­ery as­pect of the theme worked per­fectly, in­clud­ing the some­what ex­trav­a­gant five chan­de­liers in one bed­room. It made me feel like a queen for the week­end. Ex­ag­ger­ated yet re­laxed luxury.

It’s a place where no de­tail has been over­looked, even at break­fast while sit­ting on the beau­ti­ful Dining Room ter­race, the wait­ers bring per­son­alised printed mini bul­letins from the ho­tel to keep you up to date with the news.

One of the many ser­vices the Tig­miza of­fers is a com­pli­men­tary shut­tle each day to and from the his­toric me­d­ina area of the city.

Mar­rakech is a city known for its bar­ter­ing, in­clud­ing taxis, so hav­ing a des­ig­nated bus ser­vice helps ease the pres­sure. The souks are in­sane and an ex­pe­ri­ence in them­selves. It is like go­ing back in time, clut­tered stalls, peo­ple shout­ing, an­i­mals milling around, live lizards and chick­ens in cages, nar­row wind­ing paths through stalls, ladies beat­ing mint by the bar­rel load – it’s a com­plete as­sault on the senses.

Ob­vi­ously the lo­cals are used to this chaos and take to rac­ing down the nar­row paths with don­keys and car­riages, or as I wit­nessed, one guy, with 30 freshly slaugh­tered chick­ens hang­ing off a bar across his shoul­ders.

With no room to pass him, I shrieked and dived into the near­est hand­bag stall area, while he lunged past me, chuck­ling to him­self at my re­ac­tion.

The city is like noth­ing I’ve en­coun­tered, and I was in­stantly in love with the crazy ways.

One part of the city I wasn’t com­fort­able with, which I knew would be an is­sue for me, was the use of an­i­mals in the tourist trade: mon­keys chained up for pic­tures with hol­i­day-mak­ers, snake charm­ers, and don­keys forced to re­main mo­tion­less by bound feet.

I know it hap­pens, and it’s a dif­fer­ent cul­ture, but tourists who pay for the priv­i­lege of pos­ing for a pic­ture with th­ese an­i­mals are merely en­cour­ag­ing cru­elty.

It didn’t sit easy with me so I made ev­ery ef­fort to avoid th­ese clus­ters of peo­ple and an­i­mals.

Back at the ho­tel and the ‘Metha a l’eau’ is a tra­di­tional Moroc­can Ham­man spa, com­plete with body scrub ta­bles and en­thu­si­as­tic masseurs. Af­ter a hard day bar­ter­ing and shop­ping, I opted for a ham­man beldi and scrub dur­ing which I was scrubbed and mas­saged within an inch of my life. Luck­ily it didn’t last too long and de­spite the tor­ture, the treat­ment left my skin feel­ing su­per sup­ple and smooth.

My fi­nal mem­ory, of this won­der­ful place, was drink­ing wine (for a dry coun­try, the ho­tel did sell al­co­hol at a very rea­son­able price) while bask­ing in the last of the day’s sun­shine on the ter­race.

A cold glass of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc while loung­ing on sump­tu­ous so­fas with scat­ter cush­ions and ul­tra mod­ern huge pink lanterns left me with a great im­pres­sion of this very hip yet re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment.

●● An al­ley­way in the souk (above). The op­u­lent ho­tel (main im­age) is the per­fect base from which to ex­plore the city

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