I have been very fortunate over my short travelling years, with several dodgy and not so dodgy places visited under my belt, in that I have never once had a bad trip. Sure there are always disappointments, tragedies, mistakes, general cock-ups and the rest, but they have always paled insignificance to the positives of travelling and left me wanting to go back time and time again. This is one of the reasons why we all love to do it. Unfortunately for me it was time for that to all change.
We flew over to Marrakesh on the 28th May 2011 as a group of 8 which is always going to be a struggle when organising each day but as we were all good mates and staying in one spot for 4 days/3 nights there were not perceived to be any concerns. And by and large there were not. Everyone, thankfully, just got on with doing what they wanted to do and see with only several minor bickerings and squabbles.
|The Spice Stalls in the Souk|
Upon arrival in to the Old Medina, we were dropped off next to the friendliest little kids playing football and they were kind enough to show us to our hotel, the fantastic Riad La Maison Rouge (converted hotel), for a small fee of course. For some reason they managed to take us the longest way possible through the winding narrow alleys and in the morning we realised we had basically walked in circles to get to the riad. All good fun though to support the locals. After a beautiful peppermint tea we headed down town to the amazing souks (markets) and Djemaa el Fna Square for some late night shopping and dinner. What an amazing/crazy/mind blowing experience. I have been to Bali before and while I thought that was crazy, while this was another whole level. The colours, sights, people, sounds and smells were overwhelming, in a good way, with everyone enjoying themselves and trying to haggle over everything. The sad parts are the chained monkeys who are getting dragged around by the owners trying to entice people to take pictures with them. Please please please, whatever you do never support this sort of animal cruelty. However, while avoiding the monkeys is a must, another must is trying the street stall foods. We managed to find ourselves a table after strolling around in our jandals for half an hour and tucked into some beautiful food. I had the traditional tagine, a sort of crock pot of yumminess. The total meal only came to <£15 per couple and was well worth it with full bellies for tomorrows adventures.
With the mornings and evenings reserved for the souks and sightseeing and the afternoons reserved for lounging by the pool we were set. Coming over from Scotland didn’t really help us to acclimatise to the weather with 30+ degree days melting us and the plunge pool at the riad was welcomed with open arms. I unfortunately suffered pretty badly with mild dehydration kicking in after we had toured the souks for the better part of the morning. Adela wanted to buy everything in sight while I was conscious of our severely limited baggage allowances on Ryan Air. With a new handbag, scarves and knick-knacks she was happy enough. I must say though if we were as ingenious with our packing as the locals are with packing people and objects onto scooters from the 70’s then surely we could solve half the congestion issues in every city. Its pretty daunting with no footpaths and blind corners to contend with although they are such experts that they put up with us crowding their roads as we stroll along craning our necks at every sights.
By day we took in the amazing sights of the Koutoubia Mosque, the alleys of the Medina and the new town outside the walls. One of my favourite places was the Jardin Majorelle, which is home to a variety of plant species in a sub-tropical climate. It was a great place to chill out and get away from the chaos outside the walls. Highly recommended for anyone who heads in that direction. The nights were filled with story telling between our friends as we recounted the crazy things we had seen and done while enjoying the sunsets.
|Sunsets not to be missed over the Medina|
|Jumping for joy at Jardin Majorelle prior to the incident|
So you must be wondering about now why I had such a rough time and unfortunately don’t wish to head back to Marrakesh ever again. Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute I was there and always love embracing the cultures that are so radically different to our own. As you can see we had a fantastic time. However, this is when it all seemed to go wrong. We headed out on our last day for a quick bite to eat and to spend the last of our Dirham. I made the mistake of catching the snake charmers eyes and knew I was in trouble. Now I don’t like snakes in the slightest and he could tell I was not keen to get involved so we continued on our way and he knew he had lost a chance to make some quick cash so offered me his hand and I gladly shook it to carry on. Unfortunately, as quick as a flash he had a snake around my neck and strolled away. I was trying to be all calm, cool and collected but I had a freaking snake around my neck! To cut a long story short we haggled over how much I owed him for “taking his snake for photos” and I left him with a few dirham in his back pocket. Of course he made me kiss it for luck before he unwrapped it…
Now I would never wish what happened to me at the airport for our return flight and subsequent days upon my worst enemies. You may wish to skip this part… On getting to the airport my stomach took a literal turn for the worst and proceeded to outpour everything I had consumed over the past 25 years of my life. I have never felt so rough. I spent the next 72 hours hugging the sink with my arms and the toilet with my “cheeks”. I managed to lose 5 kilo’s in the space of 5 days and it took me another 2 weeks after that to fully recover to eating properly again.
Mum, being the super hero that she is googled my symptoms and apparently most snakes carry a form of Salmonella poisoning (food poisoning) that can be transmitted to humans. Now I know its not Marrakech’s fault and it may not have even been the snakes fault that I got sick. But we used hand sanitizer and were very careful with everything we touched and ate. Unfortunately, even though it was a fantastic place while I was there, its a shame that just one little (maybe not so little) incident can ruin an entire destination for me. Adela on the other hand cannot wait to get over there again and I am sure I might return one day once the memories have passed…