Road to Marrakech - Part One

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 13 July 2008

Where do I begin....there's a song in there somewhere.

We left England on Wednesday June 25th.
The weather bright and crisp as I recall. The drive through Ashdown Forest was smooth and unruffled.
Gatwick - North terminal - was empty, our lovely neighbour drove us to the door.
The tickets were automated so we literally handed over our passports and walked through.

Nobody was interested in our travelling equipment so the security gates were easy.

We decided to start our trip with a tasty morsel, so tasty I can't even remember what it was, and a stiff cuppa.

And then we boarded.

The plane was only a third full, we should have known then....

When we arrived in Marrakech, some three hours later, the time remained the same, but that was the only thing that had.

As we stepped out of the plane there was a whoosh of hot air. So hot I could feel my eye balls shrivel.

It was like stepping into a sauna, without the water, so hot was it that there was a moment of panic.

I asked God to turn down the thermostat but the North african sun was having none of it. The walk to the terminal was interminable. I could feel the sweat inside my trouser legs.
The key was to walk very slowly, and pretend that 56 degrees was like a day out in Pitlochry.

Waiting for us was a delightful Moroccan lad holding up our names writ in very well crafted English - his name was Sharraf - he took our bags and drove out of the city.

The earth was pink, the air was thick and Jim and I were clear out of Dirhams - bank machines don't exist until you get to big towns and you can't get Dirhams out of Morrocco, so dear old Sharraf had to cough up.

Some two hours later Sharraf parked up in Chichaoua, a two donkey town, he ordered us mint tea, Mísemmen, moroccan pancakes and rich dark coffee. Our conversation with Sharraf was part French, part English and part rubbish, as by this stage were were totally knackered.

As the sun set we watched the flies buzzing around the tables and the waiters buzzing around the women wearing Hejab's, Hiak's and the full Abayah's. Men sat with men, women with women whilst Jim and I sat in awe. Three and half hours from the UK and we were in a totally foreign environment. The only thing that was familier to us was the setting of everbodies sun.

We arrived in Essaouira as the wind whipped in from the Atlantic, and Sharraf accepted our tip of £10.00. We found out later it was eqivalent to a thousand Dirhams, the normal tip is 200 D, eqivalent to about 2 quid.....

We were met by a man in a djellaba, pushing a wooden cart. He loaded our cases and we entered the Medina. Some lights glowed but by the time we reached the souk we were plunged into pitch black.

'Blimy.' I thought, it really was like going back to the 15th century.

Some ten minutes later a man leapt out of the shadows brandishing a lantern.

'Ah! Zhennifer.' he exclaimed. 'And Zhames'.

It felt like were being kidnapped by Vincent Price.

'Come zis way' said the disembodied voice.

We were led up a cobbled alley-way, to a door, which was flung open.

'Ah! Welcome to our Riad' said Monsieur John-Gabriel, who turned out to be our Host.
It was a staggering three storied affair, with gardens, two tortoises, parquet flooring, roof terrace, fantastic art work, a dining table to sit all the guests and a noble history. All was revealed by candlelight.

JG, an ex adventurer, took our bags up to our room. His macho gesture left him wheezing on the landing. It was my suitcase which, whilst looking innocent enough, contained enough reading matter for the whole of the French Foreign Legion.

Back down to the dining room where a delicious home made omelette was prepared for us. It wasn't until our second swig of mint tea that we were told there was a major electricity break down. The candles were merely an emergency measure. The Essaouira music festival, had robbed the rest of the town of power.

Both the old git and myself had been prepared to operate in the dark, so up for a foreign adventure were we, in the end it was just a piddling power cut just like back in good old Blighty.

That night, as the candles flickered, we slid into our cool sheets, and before you could say pass me my tagine, we were both out like a light. Literally.

To be cont.....

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At July 14, 2008 8:17 AM Glenn wrote:

Ah, Jeni, lovely to have you back. The first instalment reads like a Dan Brown novel. I hope you discovered the secret basement where the mysterious brotherhood are exercising their pagan rites. Of all the gin joints....:-)
More please....
love from Hamburg, Glenn

2. At July 14, 2008 2:14 PM Fee wrote:

Missed ya girl! Good to have you back.

Looking forward to part 2.

Love and hugs Fee xxxx

3. At July 14, 2008 6:16 PM christian wrote:

Sounds to me like yoou went to Morley the long way round......and where's my FEZ


4. At July 14, 2008 9:49 PM Tessieh wrote:

Yippee, your back ! can't wait to read some more


tesshie x x

5. At July 15, 2008 2:11 PM Lapaz Lane wrote:

I think there is a bit of confusion about exchange rates here - at today's rate, £1 buys you approximately 16.5 Moroccan Dirhams (so Sharraf's £10 tip would be a still very welcome 165 Dh). Am looking forward to more instalments though, as I am off to there with Road Weasel and Emma Cold Sore at end of September 08 for 3 weeks.

6. At July 15, 2008 6:53 PM Hymie wrote:

Nice to have you back Jeni.
looking forward to part 2.

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.