Thursday 17th May
Marrakech airport is what I imagine Bankstown airport must be like, very, very basic. You disembark onto the tarmac, walk through a glass door, run to get an immigration form, complete and submit this, collect your bags and walk out to empty space. A dust storm had blown up that afternoon due to the extreme heat, 40oC, which meant we couldn’t see much but, there wasn’t much to see. That all changed very shortly though. Our driver loaded us and all of our bags into an old Mercedes, using an ‘octopus’strap to hold down the lid of the over loaded boot, and we set off for the Medina.
The Medina is the ancient walled city in the centre of Marrakech that dates back to the 11th century. The wall is tinged a pinkish colour and makes for a spectacular approach into the Medina proper. As amazing as this entrance was though, it was nothing compared to the journey once inside the walls and onwards to our Riad. I am again concerned that my words will be inadequate to convey this scene accurately. It was sheer mayhem. My initial thought was ‘Oh my God, what have I got us into?’ I could not imagine that the maze of narrow lanes (derbs) winding through masses of pinkish mud brick buildings (like the wall) crowded with people, not a single westerner though, would lead to anything that was going to be habitable. At times our path was blocked by donkeys, people and bikes or, by all three. All of the women were fully covered causing extra concern for me about my wardrobe, especially in this heat. There were masses of people walking and surrounding our car, making friendly taps on the front and rear. I did keep turning around to make sure that our boot was still loaded with our bags though. We finally came to a stop in a small square where we stopped and got out. Our bags were loaded into a barrow to be pushed by some pour soul (who we forgot to tip) and we all had to walk the last 100m or so through even narrower lanes, passable only by foot, motor bike or donkey, to reach our Riad.
We were all greatly relieved though once we stepped over the high threshold through the small, carved wooden entrance door into our Riad. Riad Karmela was an oasis of beauty set back from all the mayhem of the outside world. My second thought at this stage was ‘well, it doesn’t matter if we don’t leave the doors of the Riad for the entire week’. Our host, Philippe, was friendly and our rooms Oum Kaltoum were spacious and beautiful. We then busied ourselves unpacking, trying not to ponder our immediate fate and eventually fell into very comfortable beds for a good night of sleep.