I awoke on my final day to bright, blue, and beautiful sky. My hammam (steam bath) was booked for 5pm. My plan – to visit the medina, locate the spa and return to relax in the Majorelle gardens. I should have known better, plans did not go to plan in Morocco.
Tackling the Medina Alone
After breakfast I took a taxi to the café de France, I could remember where I had left the souks after the cooking class on Saturday and was sure I’d be there in a couple of turns. For the first time unaccompanied, I entered the medina. I began by looking for the bunting that I had seen on Saturday when Karima the cooking teacher had taken us to the spa to book. The banners were nowhere to be seen; my first signpost had vanished. I realised later it had been extra publicity due to the weekend of the marathon.
I got hideously lost, had wares touted in my face at every stall and as I passed the same stalls for the third time, the stall owners were beginning to recognise me. Feet aching, I managed to make my way back to the main square and ordered a coffee, single espresso of course, at the café de France and checked out my map, cursing the lack of mobile coverage.
The medina is a labyrinth and I needed to locate my mental thread on something. The tallest buildings were the minarets on the mosques; each one was a different colour, one was white, another green and one pink. The minaret nearest the entrance I needed was the green one. Revived and refreshed I trailed round again. I discovered the Marrakesh cultural heritage museum and went in gladly paying the small fee.
Located in a riad, these are oases of calm from the hustle and bustle of the souks. I spent a gentle hour wandering around, ordered a mint tea on the roof top restaurant and relaxed. The young woman on reception had studied in York in the UK and gave me directions.
I set out again, once more I went passed the same stalls, I purchased my last gifts and by the time I passed the Tuareg stall holder, swathed in Sahara blue, for the fourth time; he stopped me. I explained, he spoke to the carpet stall holders in front, they got out their mobile, located the spa on Google and let me speak to the bloke on reception. I wasn’t far.
I took a deep breath and made the turn again and I realised my mistake. There are main streets and the lanes off them are cul-de-sacs but connect to the main street by name. I had been in the right street but had turned down the first alley not the second. At the corner of the correct alley, there was an underwear shop, convenient if you fancied a hamman and hadn’t brought a change of underwear with you. I made my way to the spa, now sure of my bearings and added a pedicure to my treatment package. It was now 2 o’clock, I had arrived before 11, the Majorelle was now out of the question so I made my way back, keeping the minaret in sight. I decided to return to the heritage museum and have lunch. Passing the same traders again, I sensed their admiration as I walked confidently and I located the museum.
Meatballs in the Museum
The tension had gone and I ordered cucumber and mint juice to accompany one of my favourite dishes kofta, spicy meatballs. Bathed in chilli tomato sauce and set with egg, they were juicy, moreish, and comforting.
I met a couple of fellow Scots, and we found we were on the same flight back the following day. We met again at the luggage carousel, none of looking forward to the dark bitter February night that waited outside after the wonderful sunshine.
The final treat
However, I had my final Moroccan experience to do. Relaxed and confident I made my way to the spa once more. Crossing the threshold was entering another world, the décor inspired by ancient Egypt. I was lead up stairs to the steam room. An hour later, scrubbed and sluiced I was lead to the massage room.
With muscles warmed and relaxed, it was the most beneficial massage I have ever had. Finally the pedicure, done in the traditional manner, the young podiatrist managed to tackle my toes in a way no one has in a long time. The pumice stone was the size of a brick, not an electrical buffer or cutter in sight all was undertaken with professional precision, manually. The best pedicure I have ever had in my life. My only regret is not having booked a hamman for my first day, as I would gladly have gone for two.
My flight was mid afternoon so I was able to pack in the morning and arrived at the airport with both suitcase and on flight luggage full. My in-flight bag had gone empty inside my case on my outward journey. I love shopping in markets too much, not to travel with empty outward luggage.
Marvellous Morocco; I hope and look forward to returning.