Out of Africa

Days: 471-472 (9 October 2015 – 10 October 2015)

Total distance travelled: 124,988.4 kilometres (77,632.52 miles)

Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, our return to Marrakesh seemed all too familiar… because it really was a case of arrive, and repeat.

We were welcomed back to the Hotel Andalous, issued room keys and finally things began to separate themselves from our earlier time here.

Okay, so it wasn’t really all that Groundhog Day at all, maybe I was just looking at any excuse to refer to Bill Murray?

Anyway, given that we’d spent the bulk of the afternoon in transit from Essaouira to the capital, there wasn’t really all that much left of the day, what was essentially our last as a tour group.

With that in mind, the plan was hatched for us to all gather for one last supper, a rooftop joint overlooking the large open square at the heart of the medina.

The view was nice, aided by the fact that the medina was again a hive of activity, unlike our first visits which had coincided with the end of the Eid festival.

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This time, the medina looked a bit more lively

For a fair portion of the group, this was also not their first visit to this particular dining establishment, but it was recommended for both its food and views, so in the spirit of group harmony, we tagged along (after all, it’s no group farewell dinner, if it it’s not the group now is it).

A fortnight ago, they were probably right, the food probably was truly decent.

After dining from essentially the same menu for the entirety of our time in Morocco, it failed to excite (at least for us) on this particular night.

Now if you’ve been following our adventures through Morocco, you may recall that the famed leather tanneries of Fes proved to be a bit of a bust (thanks some unfortunate timing it was closed for repairs).

Well as they say beggars can’t be choosers, so with a final day in the country, we decided to make the best of it and instead check out the less famous tanneries here in Marrakesh.

There was no real plan, just a vague idea of the direction we needed to head, and interest from much of the tour group saw our small posse’s numbers swell until almost everybody was present.

It wasn’t long after we’d set out through the maze of narrow streets that are the souks of old Marrakesh, when, seemingly wandering with no true idea of where, we asked for some directions (in truth, it was probably more likely somebody just offered them).

After being led through a route that I have little doubt was circuitous, we were eventually at the entrance to a tannery, but not the tannery that we’d originally sought.

No matter, we had no allegiance to one over the other in any case.

Unique masks were issued (to protect us from the wonderful aroma of skinned hides and urine) in the form of bunches of mint, and in we went.

Here things quickly went south, in a figurative and I guess in some ways literal sense as well.

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Not quite the tanneries of Fes, but it would have to do

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The place had an odour… (left) & But fear not, ‘masks’ were included (right)

The place was crowded, pools in which the animal skins soaked were in abundance, and piles of hide in all manner of states were everywhere.

As we navigated our way along a narrow isthmus between a wall and beautifully scented, yet partially covered vat (a reed mat had been lain across it), one of our party Tom mistook it for solid ground.

A scene of violent confusion followed, as with his full body weight committed to a combination of concrete lip and reed map, something quickly gave, and just like that he was tumbling over, one leg now cut and grazed and knee deep in filth (although the gentleman who had been guiding us through assured all that it was just water…).

Just like that, we were beating a retreat out of there, although there was a successful effort made to get us inside a shop where we could wash Tom’s wounds and they could put the hard sell on a few members of our party.

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From this… (left) …to this (right)

This also worked, and whilst still sore, our wounded was still very much walking, and a few leather articles had been purchased.

Harassment and annoyance followed us from then on, as our non-solicited guide, who’d earlier insisted that he was leading us to the tannery out of kindness, began doggedly pursuing us, all the while requesting cash.

It was an annoying time, eventually I threw a few dirham his way (maybe twenty when he was requesting hundreds) just to be done with him,

When he realised there was nothing more forthcoming, he quickly disappeared, leaving us to find our own way back (which we eventually did).

Thus ended our last adventure in Morocco, and indeed, after almost two months together, it was the end of our travels with Sarah’s mum Julie.

Early morning (probably a good time, as it was too early to get too emotional) found us bidding our farewells, a short taxi ride getting us to the airport for our onward journey out of Africa…

 

Notes:

* Our flights from London Gatwick to Marrakesh (via Casablanca) with Royal Air Maroc cost us £88.09 per person.

* Our 15 night Morocco tour was booked through On-the-go travel, and costs per person vary depending on the season.

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5 Responses to Out of Africa

  1. heather says:

    it wouldn’t be true Morocco without a few stories of being scammed, harassed and being left behind. I do hope the positive outweighed the negative and weird.

  2. Tami says:

    Based on your very detailed description, I think I will bypass all visits to tanneries! But I would enjoy shopping for some of the finished products!

  3. siddharthandshruti says:

    Oh! That sounds like quite a misadventure. Tom’s wound sounds nasty. Hope it did not end in any serious infection. Like Tami, I think we would avoid the tanneries. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Marrakech is a place I find very fascinating with a strange and compelling allure. You are privileged to go back there. I would give the tanneries a miss and also be on the lookout while walking the streets. Would not want to encounter what poor Tom did.

  5. That is so scary! We’re glad that Tom didn’t get seriously injured. The tanneries don’t sound very appealing so we will more than likely avoid them when we visit Marrakech.

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