Did I ever mention that I spent a few days in Marrakesh once - probably not, but here I am standing outside of the hotel. My husband was working for a company at that time where we were invited once a year somewhere special. It was mainly done as goodwill for the salesmen. In 1990 we went to Marrakesh. I had never been to Africa and I was wondering how it would be. Morocco at that time was under King Hassan. We flew from Zürich to Casablance and arrived at Casablanca in the early evening. The only thing I actually saw was the airport. I remember having to go to the toilet. When we women went in there was a lady standing there with a toilet roll in her hand asking if we needed paper. Something that we in our "luxury" life in the West gave us something to think about. We all naturally said yes and we were handed out 3 pieces of paper each. I suppose they were saving at the time.
From Casasblanca we flew to Marrakesh and remember being astonished at how green the country looked from above, probably I was expecting more desert. We arrived at the hotel late in the evening, but in the coach on the way from the airport everything looked so different as we are used to it in Europe.
The hotel looked quite impressive from the inside. It was a congress hotel, so made to European tastes. Naturally it was covered with oriental carpets on the floors - most impressive. Marrakesh is an interesting town, surrounded by the town walls. One of the first visits we made was to the gardens of Menara, where the town water supply is kept.
The water flows down from the Atlas mountains and is collected in this enormous reservoir. The houses in Marrakesh were built to suit the hot climates. Very thik walls and small slits to keep the heat out. Of course we made a tour of the town and saw many sites. If anyone remembers the Alfred Hitchcock film "The man who knew too much" with James Stuart and Doris Day, then the first scenes may be familiar. They were filmed in Marrakesh and showed the main square Jemal-El-Fna. There is a café at the end of the square which is the best place for tourists like ourselves to take a photo overlooking the square.
We also visited the souks, which are the market bazaars. The "shops" are very close together and very small, usually just one room but you could buy everything. We visited a carpet shop. This was a lot bigger and for the tourists. We were surprised how cheap the carpets were and they even accepted credit cards, which was surprising, but I suppose modern days were slowly moving into Marrakesh at the time. I remember seeing a shop selling fish. He had an enormous fish on the counter, which was black with flies. I was just wondering where he got the fish from as there is no sea or river in the area, and whether anyone actually bought it.
In the evening we visited a restaurant in Marrakesh. There was entertainment provided - something for the men
and naturally for the women as well?
We went on an excursion towards the Atlas mountains. This part of the country is very popular in Summer as it is sheltered from the mountains and a bit cooler. We visited a Moroccan village. It was a sort of tourist thing, and I think the lady of the village was used to receiving visitors and handing out her hand afterwards, but it did give an insight into life in Morroco.
On the way back from this village we were again invited by a village chieftern as he would be honoured to offer his hospitality. We all entered his home which was mainly one very large room. The usual pile of many carpets were in the corner and we were told that at night they were spread on the floor for the family to sleep on. We were surprised to see he had electricity. From where the electricty came we couldn't see, but the installations were very obvious and put me remind of our old house in Bethnal Green, East London in the 1950's. He had a television in the corner of the room on a shelf high up. It just seemed as if nothing really fit in. Here is his village.
Back in Marrakesh we spent the last couple of days touring the town. The King had his summer palace in Marrakesh, as the temperatures are not so hot as at his other palast. We drove past it. Of course, his place was a bit more better looking than that of the other buildings.
One evening we had a local show time. We were invited to a large arena where the Moroccans showed their talents at horseriding. We had the evening meal in a sort of large Bedouin tent. On the menu was lamb, but sort of half a lamb on a large plate. You dived in with your hands and tore pieces off. It was naturally served with couscous. I quite like lamb, so enjoyed the meal.
Eventually it was time to leave Marrakesh. I enjoyed my visit to this land of so many contrasts to our way of life. The people were very friendly, but sort of if I don't come today, then I will probably come tomorrow. National dress was quite interesting. The men wore long coats, something like a long kasak, with hoods on and there were some women that were masked, but not all. At that time King Hassan was quite liberal with the women and as his own daughter never wore a veil, he didn't make it law to wear one. I don't know the situation today, but this was almost 20 years ago.