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Marrakesh Express!

Marrakesh express

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All aboard the train, all aboard the train.

A few months ago my wonderful wife suggested a trip to Morocco. I smiled and said two words “Marrakesh Express”. Just a great song by CS&N and something I always wanted to do.

Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth.

We actually boarded the train in Fez.

Holding this ticket was a dream come true.

Holding this ticket was a dream come true.

moroccan country side

Traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies.
Yes the skies were clear. The countryside was bucolic. I just wish the windows were clean. What is it with third world tourist trains…why can’t they clean the windows?

We passed through farmland, vineyards, grazing land and finally into the semi desert around Marrakesh. Seven hours. ONCF, the Moroccan train authority runs a good, clean (except for the windows) service. The food on board was OK, toilets clean and I could blow smoke rings  between cars. So I was a happy boy.

The first thing you will notice in Marrakesh is this tower of hte central mosque. It is by law the tallest building in the city. For tourists it can be used as a reference point. Something unique about this (at least as far as I know) is that flagpole on the top. First, it points toward Mecca, but more important, at the five time daily call to prayer there is a flag hanging from it so deaf people will know it is time to pray. Kind of cool.

The first thing you will notice in Marrakesh is this tower of the central mosque. It is by law the tallest building in the city. For tourists it can be used as a reference point. Something unique about this (at least as far as I know) is that flagpole on the top. First, it points toward Mecca, but more important, at the five times daily call to prayer there is a flag hanging from it so deaf people will know it is time to pray. Kind of cool.

As we approached our hotel, we saw this huge nest with a mother storek and a couple of her young. Storks in Morocco do not "bring babies" they bring rain.

As we approached our hotel, we saw this huge nest with a mother stork and a couple of her young. Storks in Morocco do not “bring babies” they bring rain.

I think most people have an icon in mind when they think of Marrakesh. That would be the giant central square.

It5 really is to big to capture in one photo. It sort of is like waht they show you in the travel shows.

It is really is too big to capture in one photo. It sort of is like what they show you in the travel shows.

Yes there are performers.

Yes there are performers.

Colored cottons hang in the air Charming cobras in the square Yes I was singing these lyrics as a tripped my way thru a place I have always wnted to see.


Charming cobras in the square
Yes I was singing these lyrics as a tripped my way thru a place I have always wanted to see.

Only one thing bothered me. Every time I took a photo, the singers, the snake charmer, ANTHING someone would come running up to me with his hat out for Dirhams. This guy must have run 100 feet after I tried to get a picture of the snake carmer from a distance .

Only one thing bothered me. Every time I took a photo, the singers, the snake charmer, ANYTHING someone would come running up to me with his hat out for Dirhams. This guy must have run 100 feet after I tried to get a picture of the snake charmer from a distance .

A piece of advice for you if you go to Marrakesh and feel that you must (and you must) see this square.  It is surrounded by second floor restaurants, so use you telephoto. The money you save from the people dashing for your cash will pay for lunch.

We have ridden Tuk Tuks in many countries. I decided we would take one back to our riad. The driver was a complete fool who copuld not read the map I had with me to direct him. Luckily we agreed on the price before we set off, so we got a 45 tour of Marrakesh really cheap.

We have ridden Tuk Tuks in many countries. I decided we would take one back to our riad. The driver was a complete fool who could not read the map I had with me to direct him. Luckily we agreed on the price before we set off, so we got a 45 minute tour of Marrakesh really cheap.

This is an outstanding place to visit. It was lost to everybody until 1917. The French were in charge then and decided to do some aerial mapping. Next to a large mosque the found this large empty area. It had no access. It used to be accesible from the mosque, but hundreds of years ago, for some reason lost to history, the entrace was not only sealed, but eveidence of it was covered.

This is an outstanding place to visit. It was lost to everybody until 1917. The French were in charge then and decided to do some aerial mapping. Next to a large mosque the found this large empty area. It had no access. It used to be accessible from the mosque, but hundreds of years ago, for some reason lost to history, the entrance was not only sealed, but evidence of it was covered.

The French then  chopped a passageway from the street. This is how you enter it today, a curved, carved out entrance sort of like a scene from Tomb Raider

ANd yes, that is what you find inside. Magnificent thousand year old royal tombs. Incredible mosaics and colors. This the Kings area.

And yes, that is what you find inside. Magnificent thousand-year old royal tombs. Incredible mosaics and colors. This the Kings area.

 

 

In the gardens around the tombs are buried heroic warriors and concubines. One of them must have been a cat owner.

In the gardens around the tombs are buried heroic warriors and concubines. One of them must have been a cat owner.

moroccan food

We had lunch at a roof top restaurant with an excellent view of the square. Moroccan food is astonishingly good. The only thing wrong is that for every meal, they over serve you. I do not know anyone who could eat as much food as a Moroccan restaurant serves.

tea in Morocco

A meal in Morocco by definition includes mint tea. There is a ceremony of sorts. You pour a cup, then pour it back into the pot, to mix it up better. Then you poor it from as high as you can without splashing it.

moroccan fruit

Even the deserts are big. And with the abundance of choices of fresh fruit, you get a lot to choose from. The melon was outrageous. Mary Ann considered the peach “as good as in New Jersey in August”. High praise from my Jersey girl.

Colored cottons hang in the air. No we did not go native, but this line from the song deserved a photo.

Colored cottons hang in the air.
No we did not go native, but this line from the song deserved a photo.

No song lurics for this one. Just colored lamps in the soug.

No song lyrics for this one. Just colored lamps in the market.

Berber carpets

And oh yeah, we bought some more carpets.

 

 

I highly recommend Marrakesh. It is not the hip destination it must have been when Graham Nash wrote the song. It now favors fat old French tourists in big busses. (Maybe THEY can eat an entire Moroccan meal.) But it IS still Marrakesh. It still has some charm and lots of history. But the trends are clear. Just outside of town we saw a half-dozen big golf destination resorts being built. Condos and water hungry golf courses in the desert. Not sustainable in so many ways. So if you want to see Ducks and pigs and chickens call, Animal carpet wall to wall, you better go soon.
Thanks to Graham Nash for the inspiration, my wife for the opportunity and to you for reading about my trip to Marrakesh. Please share, it means a lot to me.  And also, write a comment. willya?
Next post, the High Atlas Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses so far.

  1. Giuseppe says:

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and
    I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like
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  2. As a Newbie, I am permanently exploring online for articles that
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  3. Sojourner says:

    This looks like such a great adventure! I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco.

  4. Beautiful- love the vibrant pics- but give me Jersey any day- I just don’t wanna come bk to the UAE – fed up of Arab world

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