Wednesday, February 27

Morocco-Andalucia, Day One: Breakfast In Marrakech

Whoever's idea it was to fly at such an hour was either a sadist or crazy fool. I mean the 6am part is decent enough, but it only becomes apparent how early you have to leave to catch the flight in time the night before. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep last night - we were out of the house by 2:30am. Apparently there was an earthquake this morning too which I totally missed.

The funny thing is that I wasn't even going to come on this trip. I'm not sure why - it was a family holiday and I was certainly invited. It just took a potential rishta of all people to get me to reverse my initial declination and book my ticket. In fact, I had booked before the dates for Jerusalem were even set, so at one point it was my only holiday this winter.

The original plan, the one which my family will stick to, was to stay in Marrakech for seven nights. I was to do the same but changed my mind after realising that a) Marrakech for seven nights was not something I could remain sane for b) I always had the romantic dream of doing Andalucia and Morocco in one go and c) I didn't really have a job or anything to rush home back for. The idea was so blindingly obvious that I felt stupid for not having thought of it initially. The single from Granada cost another forty quid or so and I'll be throwing away my return flight from Marrakech.

We were in our hotel by 10am. Just like that morning in Jerusalem, we managed to get our hotels mercifully early: we all hit the sack and slept till midday. Lunch was provided by McDonald's - a novelty for some of us seeing how they don't usually serve halal meat back in the UK.

The group then split up. A couple of us went to Djemaa el Fna, a kind of central town square a bus ride away. The place was full of souqs and snake charmers, a typical sight during the day. Weather wise we were comfortable although could feel the heat building up as the minutes ticked on.

After a couple of hours we walked to the nearby Koutoubia Mosque. This was an amazingly charming and rustic mosque, one in an original structure far older than any I may have been to before (barring Al-Aqsa, but this was a local mosque) and in a style of an age gone by - like for example the shared pool in which we were to perform out wudhu/ablutions. It was a brilliant feeling washing in defiance of the hot weather - although I did take a bit of care not to swallow any of the water.

Due to the manner in which we had arrived, we we ready to head back to the hotel pretty early - and it wasn't a problem staying in once we got there. We each had a kip for a couple of hours, after which we played a quick game of football until it was time for dinner (the hotel provided half-board). After that we settled down to play some poker till late, using toothpicks and garden shingle as makeshift chips.

Although it may be a bit too early to say, as nice as Marrakech is I do think that its totally devoid of anything to do. In the few unstructured hours we had wandering around, we had pretty much covered all of the main bits of interest in the town itself. Don't get me wrong; I have no doubt that it'll be great to chill out with the family (there are over twenty of us here related in some fashion or another, mainly via the marriage of my brother and sister in law) and Marrakech is absolutely perfect for that. I just feel a bit vindicated in my decision to move on come Friday.

Speaking of family, I can't remember the last time I was abroad under these conditions (well, where we weren't in Pakistan anyway). It's definitely not something I'm used to and it's nice to have a different vibe (including the impromptu football matches and poker games) to that when travelling with friends, no matter how close they happen to be - it seems to be much more relaxed, welcoming and chilled out; there's no kitty here, that's for sure. It's just the ticket after some of the stress I experienced in Jerusalem.

Pictures of my whole time in Marrakech can be found here.