Why did it take so long?
Having recently returned from holiday in Morocco, based in Marrakech; the question I ask myself is how did it take me so long to discover this delightful country and its wonderful people. Like millions, Casablanca is one of my all time favourite films, I love Moroccan food and I lived in Spain for over twenty years. It was but a train and ferry journey away and it doesn’t take too much travelling in Spain to see the long lasting influence the Moors had there. Fountains, one of the things that I love about Madrid were introduced by the Moors; a simple, beautiful, but effective way to recycle water.
However, it wasn’t until I returned from India in 2011, with my travel bug in full flaming phoenix rebirth that I began to explore other travel options and found at that time Marrakech was a budget flight option from my home city of Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the following year it had been suspended and I visited Istanbul instead.
Four years later, now trained and a working as a tour guide myself – I set off alone to Marrakech, flights available from Glasgow. I decided to go alone as potential travel companions were put off by travel scares. There have always been risks in foreign travel, especially a lone female, and they are now greater than ever but you cannot put your life on hold. They are on top of security in Morocco, passports double checked on entry and departure and spot police checks on main roads. I was only stopped once. Not great but rather that than something much worse. I felt safe enough in Morocco and I stopped wearing my money belt after day three.
I don’t do a lot of research before travelling, anticipation and imagination can often lead to disillusionment and disappointment. I much prefer the delight of discovery. I had an idea of what I wanted to do and had the great Nick Thomson of Destination Travel Edinburgh to do the heavy lifting for my travel plans. That was to prove to be a wise decision.
I arrived to the warmth of the sun from a wet Scottish winter, to later find Marrakech was having a warmer winter than normal, not enough snow had fallen in the Atlas. It began with a very bad hiccup with accommodation on arrival, initial plan had been to do the real Marrakech experience – stay in a riad (guest house) in the Medina but the one booked couldn’t house me. Too many reasons to remember now, and I have far more many happy memories to cherish. At the time it had me frightened and almost planning to return home but with Nick’s help and a pleasant young Moroccan called Hussein, who worked for the Riad I should have stayed at, I relocated to a hotel.
I am so glad I didn’t impulsively fly back early. Abdulia(?) my guide for tour of Marrakech convinced me to do the tour, as had Nick via IM on Facebook, rather than go to a travel agent to book a return flight ASAP..
Like Edinburgh, it has an Old and New city. The old city; the medina, the souks and the riads. The new cosmopolitan; influenced by their time as a French colony and of course centuries of cross cultural pollination from its proximity to Europe.
Marrakech offers, to me, what I miss about Spain – wide boulevards, café culture amazing quality fruit and vegetables plus the more exotic element of the bazaar and bartering and architecture.. This is my own opinion but in comparison to both India and Turkey where similar shopping styles exist, I felt the Moroccan traders were not so much in your face or aggressive as either of the other two places.
One of the pieces of info I had learned before leaving was – Morocco is one of the world’s largest exporters of handbags. As a handbag addict I had done an audit before leaving, I didn’t have a blue one.
Serendipity and Colour
I was left to my own devices in the garden, walked into the boutique and fell in love, hanging on a metal tree display was a handbag in YSL Rive gauche blue, one of my fav perfumes. A bit pricey, I wandered round the gardens to discover I was colour coordinated. The plant pots in the Majorelle are bright royal blue and sunny canary yellow. This had not been my planned gear, after the fiasco of the night before I had not unpacked and pulled what I could from the case in the morning. As long as my leggings matched, I wasn’t bothered. Colour coordinated in the Majorelle.
Soothed and restored, I love gardens; I met two lovely young American women and asked them to take some photos. They agreed, serendipitous colour coordination in the YSL memorial had to be celebrated; the handbag had to be bought. It is square and opens and folds like the paper fortune tellers / snap dragons we used to make as children. Probably make them on their phones these days – not so much fun. It was perfect on the shoulder, inside zip pocket for my keys. However, the shopping bug had been awakened, the sensation of a shopping bag in hand contents swishing in the inside I asked my guide to look at some silver. I had seen some amazing bracelets when I visited the medina in the morning.
Three bracelets, beautiful craftsmanship of filigree Berber silver, a vase to add to my collection and a made to measure leather jacket inspired by Chanel, Coco is my other fav perfume I had bought my refill in the duty free the day before; the jacket to be delivered to the hotel the following evening. I had done the same in India had clothes made to measure which are then delivered to your hotel. The leather jacket, which everyone who has seen it so far agrees suits me and is a classic investment.
Shattered but culture and shopping satisfied I returned to the hotel, to unpack and rest and as I was to discover things were going to get better, much better – more hiccups more serendipity – a new passion was stirring.