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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 16 Apr 2016

Location: Marrakesh, Morocco

MapRiding through yet more Atlas gorges and canyons on our way to Marrakesh, it gets me thinking that there’s always people by the side of the road doing nothing at all, probably thinking to themselves “This is a nice place to sit, I might stay here for a few minutes”, which means a couple of hours in Morocco time. Then, “I'll cross the road to sit under that tree over there. Oh look, here comes a white van while I’m still half way across. It’s got a Spanish driver and two Australian passengers. But I’m in no hurry because I’m on Morocco time, so they will have to wait for me.” And so poor Javier has to avoid people dawdling across the road, for they’re in no hurry. Neither is the farmer herding his sheep along the road, or the horse-drawn cart with the whole family on board. They are all on Morocco time. So we have learned that if the restaurant says your food will be ready in 5 minutes, they mean 15. If breakfast is for 7:30, expect it at 8. If you ask a Moroccan for the time, they look up at the sun and answer “half past April”.

I’ve been to cities that never close down (ref: Peter Allen), but I’ve never been anywhere like Marrakesh. After just a few hours here, Marrakesh can only be described as a chaotic, frantic frenzy of people, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and donkeys. Everyone is going somewhere in a hurry, in contrast to the last few days. The old part of the city is called the “Medina”, and is located behind a wall that surrounds it. Our hotel is the middle of the Medina, and is therefore surrounded by the aforementioned bedlam. Just to venture outside the front door is like entering some strange ceremonial pageant of a very foreign culture. Our hotel is another Dar or Riad, what used to be a grand house is now a quaint hotel. Rooms are small, but decorated in traditional Moroccan architecture. It just adds to the Moroccan experience.

At night we strolled along to the Jamma el-Fna, an old town square that becomes a nightly throng of people seeking a meal or a bargain. Nothing has prepared us for Jamma el-Fna. It is a throbbing mass of humanity, thousands upon thousands of people of every nationality, crowded together within a few hundred square meters. The crazy cacophony of sound is broken by the rhythms of street bands singing in Arabic to the playing of simple yet pulsating percussive music. Street stalls sell food of every description. You are hassled to come spend your money at their stall, and if you have a joke with them, they will laugh with you, shake your hand, and move onto their next victim.

I can see why Marrakesh has inspired so many artists, particularly rock musicians, since the 1960s. This is an exciting place. And we have a rest day from the tour to explore it.