Who knew that It's daylight by 4am over here! Not me!
Although every time we start at this time of the day we love it. Perhaps it may lose it shine if we were doing it every morning. But there's something rather special about being up with the sparrows and on the road. Especially when you're heading somewhere new and there's next to no one else about.
But we didn't wait around to see the sun rise. More important things to do this morning.
After an easy three hour flight here we are in Marrakech amongst the action. It's 9.30 in the morning and already mid twenties so perhaps we are in for those scorching hot days they've predicted.
The airport is modern, airconditioned and sleek but as you step outside everything changes as the onslaught of taxi drivers offers are persistent.
We had thoughts of catching the no19 bus but soon weakened to a persuasive young driver. We jumped in a petit taxi heading across to the train station and that was an experience in itself as speed of turnaround must be of an essence. It felt likewe were living out a thrilling movie scene . This mustard coloured taxi takes off at a rate of knots and got faster and faster as we headed down the two or three lane, palm tree lined roads. Slipping in and out of different lanes, horn blasting a truck for being in fast lane and going too slowly. Weaving our way through scooters and other cyclists all the time never finding the brakes!! Thank goodness we are not hiring a car. How to drive around a roundabout Moroccon style seemed to be all about keeping momentum, no fear and having faith!!
David & Judy were arriving on the Marrakech Express via Casablanca. So another taxi and this time its to our Riad in centre of the old city. You can hardly swing a cat dcwn the streets yet these drivers somehow manage to manoeuvre a car through the total chaos, talking on the phone, yelling out the window and gesturing all the while.
It's an old place tucked away down these tiny narrow streets. Looking anything but what one would imainge your Riad to be. Down a dirty ally with stray cats, children playing football in the dust, where one could picture some dodgy deals being done to a dead end and you duck down through a short tunnel to an old doorway and 'Voila' here we are!
Mustafa, our host, lives here with his mother and younger brother, who all come out to greet us. It's a very traditional Riad and we must sit and take tea with him, even the pouring of the tea has to be done a specific way and he explains as he does it. It's a green tea base with lots of mint added, slightly sweetened but they add lots more if you desire. A delightful young man who is a very gracious, well educated host and as there's only the four of us here at the moment we have his full attention.
Mustafa joins us as we as we head into the Medina. Although he does warn us that he should not act in any way as our guide as this would be illegal and he would be fined for doing so. We are purely his guests and he is not a quailfied guide. I gather this is policed quite well to try and keep the rogues away from the poor unsuspecting tourists!!!
The streets are busy with people, people and more people, donkeys and carts, scooters, bicycles are continually in a state of motion. First warning was "keep to the right" as some of the scooters toot and come through at a rate of knots. All the while he's trying to give us directions as to how to get back to the Riad, as I'm sure he's lost the odd guest before now!
First stop was the old Cafe de France in the grand central square of Jemaa el Fnaa, where you can get up to the third floor, have coffee on the balcony and get a superb view of the action below us. Remembering the higher up you go the more expensive the coffee!!! But this is a magnifenct old spot with plenty of history and stories to tell, one of the most well know cafes in Marrackech, a great meeting spot for travellers.
By now it's in the mid thirties and our energy levels are waning. We wander through Medina with the many Souks, and are stunned by the vast number of them. First stop was for some freshly squeezed orange juice - 4 dirhams glass ( thats under 50c) and the best thing had all day, more than delicious for that price.
Like any first day in a new city it's full on and this more so than ever. The colours, the smells, the dirt, the heat, the action all around and the people continually wanting your attention. Being a little on edge I get the feeling Marrakech is not for the faint hearted but if we can relax and go with the flow it will be far more enjoyable. It's a whole different culture and as a western woman I'm on guard the whole time but hey, at our age it's a far cry from the pretty little blonde young ones who do endure a little more attention.