Unfortunately the heavens really did open during our brief stay in Marrakech but a number of the competitors braved the weather and took a stroll into the Jemaa el Fna and to try their hand at bartering in the souks. A couple of others took the opportunity to go to the Majorelle Gardens (http://www.jardinmajorelle.com) that apparently were delightful, even in the wet. Many of the crew took the opportunity to catch up on some admin and other work thanks to having good internet connection and of course the mechanics were hard at work on a couple of the cars that required some attention. The camera crew started to edit their images and the video.
In the afternoon the rain eased off and we took an early promenade past the impressive Koutoubia Minaret and gardens and into Jemaa el Fna.
Around 4pm seems to be a pretty good time to go, particularly to sit out on one of the terraces with a coffee or mint tea and watch the square come to life below you. It soon becomes a kaleidoscope of activity with musicians, story tellers, snake charmers and monkey handlers gathering crowds around them whilst the food stalls busy themselves setting up for the evening. Not having a huge amount of time before getting back to the hotel for the 7.30 briefing, we still managed a quick pit-stop around a tiny part of the souk and did our fair share of bargaining in that time … returning with a few pairs of brightly coloured slippers, intricate brass ware and some fabled argon oil.
In the evening we descended on the square again, which was now teeming with both locals and tourists coming to soak up the vibe, listen to the various stories being told and of course, eat. To get the most from the experience you need to be prepared to submerse yourself totally into the atmosphere and take some time to walk around and hear the patter from each competing stall before deciding where to eat.
Apart from one or two men who seemed put out that we and others were not going to be eating at their stall, the rest provided good-humoured banter and added to the sense of theatre. Often when the stall holders realise you are English you will hear calls of ‘ Better price than Asda!’ ‘Cor Blimey my son’ ‘ Ducking and Diving’ and my favourite ‘ Alright my old China!’ Not brave enough to try the stalls offering brains and other offally-delights, and bypassing the snail broth stall, we plumped for one that; had the friendliest patter, had a good number of locals, looked busy and smelt delicious. As it happens it was stall No 1 and we found out it was owned and run by the warm and welcoming Aisha and her niece and nephews. We had excellent bread and dips (tomato and chilli and another garlic and herb) followed by vegetable tagine and delicious grilled meats and merguez sausages.
At about 11pm we decided to go back have a quick birthday drink with John B in the Laurence Bar at the hotel, sipping delicious cocktails in this sumptuous bar was a lovely way to end our stay in Marrakech. One word of warning – the beige ‘petit taxis’ should all have meters and they should all be on and working – if not just walk away or risk being stung for nearer 200 Dhirams for the fare on getting back to the hotel…. Other than that a brief experience of Marrakech was lovely. Whilst many might suggest staying in a more traditional riad, for the purpose of the rally the Palais Imperial was absolutely perfect due to the amount of secure parking that we needed.