Marrakesh is the chalk to Oualidia’s cheese. Actually in this scenario I think Marrakesh is the cheese. Its delicious, sometimes stinky, exotic, and quite an experience.
We came to Marrakesh under-prepared, however I would argue that nothing could really prepare you for such an intoxicating place. Our home for the four nights was the Riad Dixneuf la Ksour booked through Mr & Mrs Smith. It was a sanctuary, furnished in my favourite hues, white, white and a splash of gold. The one preparation I made sure to research was the proper decorum in Morocco which included appropriate attire – covering shoulders and legs, photo etiquette – always ask for permission for a photo, and finally bartering.. something I am still a complete novice at.
I wanted to start by sharing our day trip adventure with you, which was something less touristy and off the beaten track. The day trip was booked through 4X4 CAMEL. Our guide Aziz accompanied us to three valleys to meet the Berber people and experience a day in the life of a local. Aziz was a fountain of knowledge, himself from a Bedouin village. He sees his wife and children three times a year, at three different locations and the drive to get there is southward for twenty-four hours. He was passionate, and like all the Moroccan locals we encountered, able to speak more than three different languages, one of them being French. He was keen to know which languages Hugh and I had learnt at school and the age we started learning, lets just say it was an awkward conversation all round. We had armed ourselves with lollies and stationary for the Berber kids who we would meet along the way and my camera was charged and ready to go. But before I get too ahead of myself…. breakfast
With the fuel required for our day trip we headed off with Aziz to our first stop, a Berber market. Never one to shy away from a beauty treatment, Hugh had his beard tended to in one of the ‘salons’. The talented hairdressers also perform dentistry work for those who live in villages and make the journey to the local market once a week. Aziz also explained that the market served as a social function as well as an economic one, many arranged marriages come to fruition due to the networking aspect of the markets. Trying to place myself in the shoes of a young Berber woman I imagined how my dad would go about finding a suitable husband for his only daughter. I can imagine he would scare off most potential father in-laws with tales of my messy bedroom and long sleep ins. Aziz explained to me later that a Berber woman was unable to marry until she was able to knit a specific item for the house. So between my dads ability to talk up his daughter and my own domestic goddess ranking things were not looking good for my hypothetical marriage….
Aziz walked us through the market describing different areas, I was especially taken with the ‘car park’ where donkeys and carts were tied for the market hours where they could have a rest, and someone was on hand to attend to hooves, grooming, etc
Next stop, a much-anticipated part of our trip, the camel ride! I was very concerned for the poor camel ‘Shakira’ who had to carry Hugh. In his defense Hugh did his best to befriend most of the camels and before long we were perched on top of our humped amigos ambling through the beautiful terrain
We bid our friends Asia and Shakira a fond farewell and set off to traverse across three valleys. stopping river side, for some mint tea on leather couches, it was glorious. The Marrakesh locals escape the intense summer heat by holidaying in this green shaded valley. Many holiday homes were dotted along the river bank and the views were breathtaking..
After our tea break we stopped in at the Women’s Argan oil co-operative. We watched the women break the exterior and interior of the nut down. They utilise every part of the plant which was impressive. The co-ops between Marrakesh and Essaouira are the only places in the world where Argan oil is made in the traditional way. The women who work at the co-ops are either widowed, or divorced (and extremely hard workers). Hugh was all over the Argan nut butter and we went crazy with the soaps, lotions and oils.
Our final stop was lunch and as we wound across another valley Aziz pointed out one village that the locals have dubbed ‘Brad Pitt Village’. He paid for the electricity in the village to remain after he and his team had finished filming Babel. The two boys in the start of the movie come from the village and after working with them he made sure the electricity lines remained. It is one of the few villages in the area with electricity. I was not, up until this point a Brad Pitt fan (big J.An fan over here) however my feelings have definitely been swayed on this occasion.
At around 1:30pm we arrived for lunch at the home of the village Imam. Tagine, couscous and juicy fresh fruit complete with panoramic views, couldn’t fault it.
All along our drive we met little faces walking home from school. By lunch our lolly supply was at a critically low level and luckily we had some felt tip pens and coloured pencils to hand out.I didn’t think to open the packet and divvy them up but after a bit of wrangling things worked out well… much better than it would have between my own brothers and I…
Finally home again to the Riad to reflect on the most magical day.
The day was phenomenal and I’m not sure I’ll ever experience something like it again. If you have any questions about our day or would like any information please leave a comment below! I would love to offer further endorsement! And I would recommend Aziz one hundred times over.