Thursday, February 28

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Two: The Atlas Mountains

Since there's so little to do in Marrakech, it made sense to make it the base or launching pad into exploring some of the towns and cities close by. Today we hired a minibus and ventured into The High Atlas.

We stuck to the tourist trail of Ourika Valley and did everything the guidebook suggested we should. This included stopping by a Genuine Berber's House™ for tea. Still, despite my cynicism I have to admit that it was interesting to meet some of the more native people of the area - those Berbers I had met in Marrakech were pretty much Arab in all but name (the majority seem to be Arab-French speaking Muslims), and I sometimes found it difficult to figure out the origin of someone without speaking to them directly.

The end point of the drive was Setti Fatma, a small village at the bottom of a well trodden hike deeper into the mountains. Apparently there are some spectacular views and waterfalls to be seen a few hours into the mountains, but due to time and who we were with (both my nephews and niece were in tow) we didn't go that far in. We managed to catch a smaller waterfall though.

We made it back to the hotel by 5pm, where we again played a bit of pre-dinner football (both real and on a PS2 someone had brought along). After dinner, however, we decided to hit Djemaa el Fna again, this time to check it out at night.

The square had transformed into a bustling playground of musicians and street performers, each clambering to gain the attention (and wallets) of passer bys. To be honest I wasn't too impressed and they weren't a patch on the stuff you see on the streets of London or elsewhere. I was especially unimpressed when they started charging us for taking random pictures. Still, it was interesting to see the contrast of the square between night and day.

In terms of money, negotiations, finance and payment, it's clear that most Arab countries seem to share a common heritage. Morocco is much cheaper than Jerusalem, of course, but we still get offered "Muslim" prices that are anything but. If I was a sensitive kinda chap I'd have been offended. Instead, since I wasn't in the market to actually buy anything I just got my own back by ignoring potential sellers in my contempt.

The night was tailed off by another enjoyable game of poker - and not only because I had jumped from last position yesterday to first today.

So, we're still having a good time in Marrakech. Not bad considering I've never spent as much time in a hotel as I have this trip.