Day 2
Monday, 12nd October 2009

I was expecting to be woken up at dawn by the muezzin's call to prayer from our local Mouassine Mosque but either we slept through it (which I very much doubt) or he'd slept in!

Anyway, we made the most of not having a wake-up call.

We woke up when we felt like it which was a wonderful feeling, one we normally reserve for Sundays, if we're lucky.

Half awake I lay in bed loosing myself in the coloured glass panes of our window. My sleepy eyes were having trouble focusing which created a swirling kaleidoscope effect.

Before I ended up permanently cross-eyed I rolled over and looked the other way. We decided to get up when we heard the clinking of cutlery against plate coming from the inner courtyard below. Breakfast was being prepared.

John and Sheila were already down there.

We politely said "Hello" and "Good Morning" to them but were completely ignored. Ignorant arse. Julie and I reverted into speaking Welsh so we could slag them off. "Son am pen bach! Y diawl uffar. Coc oen go iawn. Twll ei din o."

Conversation lulled after that but we were entertained by one of my most vivid memories I have from my visit to Tangier in 1979, the huge giant ants! Not as large as those killer variety from the B-Movies but they were still an impressive 1.5cm long. Although if the workers were this big I wondered how large the queen would be?

We watched as a pair of gangly ants roamed the central basin, bumping into each other then whizzing away in opposite directions.

Raheema served us breakfast which was well worth getting up for. We had tasty pancakes with honey, bread with jam, a pot of yogurt and some fruit juice. All washed down with quite passable coffee.

It was really peaceful sitting here in the courtyard, al fresco, taking our time over breakfast.

The day had started in relax mode once again. We even spent sometime staring at the moon that was still in the sky.

After breakfast we returned to our room to pack everything. We were moving to Riad Zolah today. Our luggage had arranged to be transferred at 11am. We didn't have to stay but we decided it would be nice to spend some time lounging around the riad. It was such a tranquil hotel or at least it was after John and Sheila left.

Before we knew it was time to walk the very short distance over to Riad Zolah. We rang the doorbell and the door was answered by another member of the team, Aziz, the one Ismail said last night we should consult for his solitaire know-how.

We didn't stay long, just enough for Fattima to give us a local mobile phone to use during our stay. "Phone us if you get lost" she said "and we'll come and get you". That was such a great idea. We could also use it to phone restaurants to make reservations if we wanted.

We took a different route out of the alleyways, skirting the back of the mosque, following a narrow burrow called Derb Laghnaiz Lamouassine.

Tucked away in the middle of this was a little store selling glass tea cups and silver tea pots.

The owner was sitting outside waiting patiently for someone, any one, to just walk past.

He almost fell off his stool as we came around the corner. Jumping to his feet, head bowed with his hands rubbing together he tried to usher us into his shop. "Please look"

We politely rejected his request but promised him we would have a look when we returned. He resigned himself to allowing us to pass without making a sale. I couldn't imagine him getting many passers by down this way.

A few more twists and turns and we popped out onto Rue Mouassine.

We headed south down the busy street towards the centre of the Medina, into the pulsating heart of the Marrakech, the Jemaa El Fna square.

Apparently it roughly translates to "The Assembly of the Dead" and as its name suggests this wide open space was once the location for public executions where the beheaded criminals were then displayed on spikes.

It's peculiar how a gloriously gruesome past always sparks a macabre interest. Or is that just me?

We entered the square at the Cafe Argana corner and made our way towards the centre of the square.

I don't know quite what I was expecting but it all seemed far too tame to be the "confluence of humanity" as it's described by some. We must have been too early for all the action.

We did walk past a row of henna tattooist and fortune tellers sitting on their stools calling us over and on the other side were several stalls set up in identical green painted carts selling freshly squeezed orange juice or bundles of fresh mint and herbs.

However after the first row the square was surprisingly empty.

At the end of these stalls we came across the infamous snake charmers.

Julie was dreading this encounter and as soon as she realised that these five guys sitting in a circle playing music were actually antagonising a cobra she set off at speed.

I stopped to take a photo. By the time I had lowered the camera from my eyes the one banging the drum was now in my face demanding money.

I must have misheard him but I'm sure he asked for 200 dirhams. That was just ridiculous!

I refused his extortionate rate for a quick snap shot and began to walk away.

He then in one slick move pulled a snake from his pocket, draped it on my shoulders and attempted to pull my camera from my hand. I appreciate that they need to make a living but what he did really annoyed me.

I felt like grabbing the snake from around my neck and wrap it tightly around his. So I did.

I reclaimed my camera, removed the baby cobra and began to wind it around his neck. I almost wrapped it twice around but stopped myself. I didn't want to hurt the venomous slithering reptile.

I dropped 8 dirhams into his collection hat, it was all the change I had in my pocket. Yet despite my obvious displeasure he still wouldn't let me go, harassing me to the point of snapping. I pulled the lining of my pockets inside out and said "Look, no more change, now leave me alone". He huffed. I huffed even louder. He eventually let me go.

"Why are they called snake charmers?" asked Julie "because there was nothing charming about him!"

We crossed to the other side of the square and sought refuge from the hassle in the shaded patio of Cafe Glacier. It was in a good spot to offer ring side seats where we could observe all the action from a trouble-free distance.

We ordered a mint tea each.

It was served in rustic style with a large sprig of mint shoved in the glass.

Julie was pleased to see the sugar lumps were on the side as she preferred hers unsweetened. I dropped all four cubes into mine.

We sat and watched the circus of Jemaa El Fna square, (which is pronounced as one word - jemaf'na).
Monkeys on leashes dressed in little jackets were being placed on unsuspecting tourists' shoulders. Water sellers in their bright clown like costumes weren't so much selling water but earning a living from being photographed.

Brightly dressed dancers were bouncing up and down spinning tassels on their hats to the incessant beat of their drums.

It was all very entertaining and relaxing from the comfort of our table.

It had now just turned midday. Julie had read that several of the sights we had scheduled to visit today were shut between 12pm-2.30pm so we decided to walk over to the Koutoubia Mosque and then find somewhere for lunch.

We headed out of the square westwards passing along the way a line of horse drawn carriages waiting to take tourists on a ride around the Medina. They are known as calèches here in Marrakech.

We had to cross to the other side of the street, not so much to avoid the "Wanna ride?" advances of the calèche drivers but because in the midday sun the stench of horse manure was overpowering. My word it reeked!

Julie had to stop herself from barfing.

We reached the wide and busy Avenue Mohammed V crossing it tentatively at the lights. The fact they were on red didn't necessarily mean it was safe to cross.

At 77m tall it's not exactly very tall but it towers above everything else in the city. It owes its dominance of the skyline to a legislation introduced by the French which is still enforced today.

It forbids any new buildings within the Medina to be built above the height of a palm tree. The restrictions extend throughout the entire city where no building can exceed the height of Koutoubia's minaret.

The nearer we got to the Koutoubia Mosque the more impressed we got by its immaculate condition. It amazed us to think that the minaret had stood here for over eight hundred of years. It was flawless.

The detail of the windows carved from the red stone was quite dramatic and unique to what I've seen elsewhere. The arches were deeply escalloped.

From the highest level two large megaphones were positioned in the open windows ready to broadcast the muezzin's call. Then above them ran a blue mosaic strip creating a contrasting border to frame the top of the minaret. It was then crowned by small dome and finally a series of reducing copper globes. (Although legend has it they are solid gold)

It's a shame we couldn't go inside. Apparently there's a ramp that is wide enough to ride a horse all the way up. Although I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to?

We walked around the area next to the Koutoubia where the ruins of the Almohad Mosque stood, the site of the original mosque.

One guide book attributed its collapse to an earthquake in 1775, another described how it was torn down in the 12th century by Caliph Yacoub el-Mansour when it was shown to be misaligned with Mecca. One of them has got the wrong information there!

We didn't stop to admire the ruins. There not much to see now but row upon row of neatly stacked piles of 12th century bricks. We just continued around the site and along the back of the mosque.

To the south of the mosque we entered the Koutoubia Gardens. This area wasn't forbidden so we were free to enter and find much needed shade beneath a palm.

We sat down on a park bench with a glorious view across the garden towards the minaret.

It was now approaching 12:30pm and the sun was definitely at its hottest. With sweat pouring we weren't in any rush to move.

We decided to stay here at least until we heard the city's most prestigious call to prayer. The Koutoubia is definitely the top muezzin gig in Marrakech.

We gave up waiting after hearing the adhan being called across the city but not a peep came from the Koutoubia minaret.

Next on our agenda was lunch so we had a look in our guide book and mapped out our route to Place des Ferblantiers.

We crossed a wide avenue and walked down the rather unpleasant Rue Sidi Mimoun, a busy fume filled street lined mostly with garages with their repaired mopeds and motorbikes spilling out onto the pavements.

It was one of those horrible streets that made you think "What the hell are we doing here?"

Adding to our dislike of Rue Sidi Mimoun we had a number of perilous free-style road crossings (i.e. unaided by traffic control lights) to perform. Julie was becoming a little stressed by it all.

Another factor was the lack of shade on this side of the street. Rather cruelly there was plenty on the other side but there wasn't a walkway.

By the time we reached the end of the road we were both struggling with the extreme temperature and melting quite profusely out of every pore.

Despite the oppressive heat we took a little detour down to the attractive Bab Agnaou city gates, just in case we didn't come down this way again.

Of the numerous entrances through the Medina Walls this is known as the most impressive.

Back on our route we walked along Rue Arset el Maahl which was filled with local cafes and then stores that were literally filled to the rafters with large bulk buy goods. Some wholesalers were busy accepting deliveries from the back of lorries and squeezing them inside their shops whilst others were busy distributing their goods back out on the back of hand drawn carts.

It was a far more interesting walk than the mechanic's mile of Rue Sidi Mimoun plus it had the bonus of being in the shade.

Our little sanctuary amidst the dusty streets was waiting for us at Kosybar, a trendy little venue in Place des Ferblantiers. It was located in the South East corner of this lovely palm fringed square.

We walked upstairs to their rooftop terrace and we so relieved to sit down. It was a very popular place with only a few vacant tables.

The first thing we did was order our drinks and in this heat water was the only sensible choice.

From the menu I ordered the very un-Moroccan dish of Sweet & Sour tofu & veg and Julie ordered whatever the man sitting next to us was having. She quite literally pointed to his plate and asked the waiter "Pollo?". It turned out to be Aromatic Chicken with Pomme Frites.

The food was good if a little basic. It however did the job of re-fuelling our energy tanks for the afternoon ahead.

The best feature of the Kosybar's rooftop terrace was the fantastic view of the Badii Palace walls and the storks who have nested on them. On every raised part a stork stood on top of an oversize pile of twigs.

Storks are naturally migratory birds but these ones have decided to stay all year round which is probably why they are held in very high regard; to such an extent that if you were caught disturbing them you would experience the wrath of the law and land yourself in jail.

"They're just standing there." I astutely remarked "I wonder what they're thinking?"

"Mmm .... who's having the next baby?" replied Julie.

I wonder where the whole "new born baby gets delivered by the stork" comes from?

It's probably as a result of fairy tales and fables from old storytellers from distant lands. It is an old Berber belief that storks are transformed humans but I don't think they are associated with childbirth.

We wanted to visit the Baadi Palace next but it was closed until 2:30pm so once we had finished eating we stalled for time by ordering a pot of mint tea each and sipped as slowly as possible. Come 2pm we couldn't face another round of tea so we had to leave.

We spent the spare time walking over to a nearby restaurant called Le Tanja and reserved a table for Wednesday night. The guide book promised great food and belly dancers. Sounded great!

We returned back across Place des Ferblantiers and through Bab Berrima gate.

After offering a thousand apologies to an angry fruit seller for photographing his cart full of melons (he probably didn't have a permit to be selling there) we turned right along the palace walls.

High above looking down on us we could see the statuesque storks, still standing, surveying their city.

They were truly magestic.

At the little ticket office where the wall had collapsed we paid our 10 dirhams each entrance fee.

The Badii Palace was built by the Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansour in the late 16th century. The Saadian dynasty ruled Morocco for only 150 years but under the rule of Ahmad Al-Mansour Marrakech saw great architectural development. He was certainly a renaissance man from the Medici mould.

What we see today are nothing but the pot-holed mud-brick walls but in its prime it was said to be the most glorious of palaces with its walls encrusted with gold from Timbuktu. It's name actually means the incomparable.

The legend most often associated with the Baadi Palace was that at a banquet to celebrate its completion a guest said "This will make a beautiful ruin someday."

Within a century his prohecy came truw when it was sacked by a new ruler and its riches carried away to a new capital. Interestingly the descendants of those new rulers, the Alouites, are still in power today in King Mohammed VI the current King of Morocco.

We stepped inside into a vast open space and into the blaring sunshine. Shade was scarce. We aimed for the ruined Pavillion of Fifty Columns on the west side where we found some respite from the cosmic rays.

The sun was certainly shining on us in more ways than one when Julie spotted a paper note on the floor. I picked it up and noticed it was 10,000 Yen.

I actually said out load to the few tourists who we nearest to us "Anyone from Japan?"

No one answered.

No one looked remotely Oriental either so I slipped the paper note into my pocket. "It's probably only £2" said Julie. (I was shocked and embarrassed when I found out it was worth around £65!)

The huge central courtyard was filled by four sunken gardens overflowing with orange trees, although the green unripened fruit looked more like limes.

They looked empty bathing pools that had run dry and overgrown with shrubbery but they have always been sunken gardens.

We continued along the perimeter wall in as much shadow as we could find until we found the grand columned Khaysuran Pavillion.

The doors were locked but at least we had a cool marble bench to rest our weary selves for a while in the elusive shade.

Having recharged a little we ventured back out again and behind the pavillion to an excavation site.

We entered through a high archway in a tall narrow wall that looked primed for collapse.

Somewhere here there was a warren of underground passages to explore but we couldn't find the entrance hole.

Nor could we find the entrance to the Koutoubia minibar.

We may have been thirsty and in need of refreshments but it's not the kind of minibar you find in your 5 star hotel room. It's the original 12th century pulpit from Koutoubia mosque. It's a real shame it wasn't open as by all accounts it's exceptionally beautiful.

Back inside the great inner court we walked alongside a dried up basin which during the cooler months gets filled up with water.

There were only a few routes out through the permiter walls. Some were just gaping holes where walls had collapsed, a few were huge black wooden doors. We didn't have the nerve to try and see where they lead.

Continuing along to the north eastern corner Julie tucked herself into some shade whilst I ran up some steps to a roof top terrace.

At the top of the stairs there was an uniformed guard keeping an eye on me. Perhaps he was here to protect the storks. I was potentially within disturbing distance to their nests.

The best reason to come up were the wonderful views over the city and the mountains beyond.

Whilst the Medina hasn't changed in centuries it was interesting to note the 21st century additions of mobile phone masts and a plethora of large satellite dishes pointing south.

I turned to look south myself hoping to see a great view of the High Atlas but they were hardly visible in the hazy distance.

I rejoined Julie and we left Badii Palace.

It was probably a good time to return to the riad for a siesta but I wanted to visit the Saadian Tombs today. Julie was exhausted but agreed to follow me all the way back through Place des Ferblantiers and down the busy wholesalers Rue Arset el Maahl to the Bab Agnaou gate.

The large ornate horseshoe gate was named after the black slaves who built it and was the traditional entrance to the Kasbah. I have to admit that the Clash song was humming through my head as we walked through.

"The Sharif don't like it. Rock the Casbah. Rock the Casbah!"

Down Rue de La Kasbah we made our way towards the Kasbah Mosque with its colourful minaret. The mosque is also known as the Mosque El-Mansour. (I don't know why it has dual names?)

It was a far shorter and simpler tower compared to the magnificence of the Koutoubia minaret but the green inlaid tile made it look very striking.

It was originally built in the 12th century but was renovated extensively by the Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansour during the late 16th century.

At the end of the Kasbah mosque and beyond a row of shops spilling their wares out into the open space was where we found the entrance to the Saadian Tombs; the final resting place of most of the prominent members of the ruling Saadi family.

We paid our 20 dirhams fee and entered via the narrowest of alleyways. It was barely shoulder width and certainly heightened a sense of adventure and discovery as we edged our way along.

We popped out into a secret garden filled with ancient palm trees and a long queue of tourists from a newly arrived coach tour.

It's a shame we weren't here during a quieter period and avoided the crowd, the atmosphere was some what tarnished.

The first chamber on the left didn't have much of a queue so we waited a minute and got to look inside. It was originally a prayer hall and not intended as a mausoleum which may explain why it was relatively understated. It did have an attractive mosaic floor with a couple of small slabs of white marble laid across to mark the graves.

A wooden barrier at the door stopped us from entering any further which was probably very necessary. You could easily imagine tourists traipsing all over the graves.

We moved along and made our way down the garden path to the back of the queue snaking it's way down from the Hall of Twelve Columns. I don't do queuing very well, I get very impatient; I was even considering leaving without seeing the main attraction.

We milled around the back for a while where there was a third pavillion.

It had many similarities to Ben Youssef Medersa with its zellij mosaic and ornate carved designs of plaster and cedar wood.

Housed inside were further marble pieces marking the tombs.

We stood at the back of the queue and discussed whether we should spend the next few days waiting to see more mosaic and marble.

"We're here now" said the voice of reason "we may as well stay a little longer." So we joined the queue and waited. It wasn't as bad as I expected.

Time went quicker when our attention was caught by this tiny little lizard. It stood very still in a small pot hole in the path. All of us in the queue were fascinated by it. We all took photographs and took a closer look at it. It just stood there, fearless or petrified I don't know which but It didn't run away.

Soon there came a fresh flood of tourist filtering down the path, squeezing past us.

The first wave stepped unaware over the lizard. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

The next couple in their socks and sandals came much closer to squashing the tiny gecko. The group behind us in the queue were Spanish which may explain our collective reaction being almost one of 'Ole'. It was almost like a game of Russian Roullette!

He was living on borrowed time and after a couple of increasingly near misses we quickly came to our sense. When the next big foot heading it's way was aiming towards a direct hit one of the Spanish contingency leapt out and stopped the bloodbath. Another shooed the lizard away off the path and into the safety of the grass verge.

With the little sideshow over we returned to the monotony of queuing. It didn't take us much more than 15 minutes to work our way to the prime position as the front of the queue. We stood at the barrier. Having spent so long getting there I was in no rush to move away.

It was far more ornate than the prayer hall we first saw. Twelve columns, aligned into four groups of three, held up beautiful arches giving it the feel of a pavillion inside a hall. The floors and walls were completly decorated in mosaic.

In front of us were three large tomb stones made from marble imported from the famous Carrara quarries in Italy.

The tomb of Sultan Ahmed El-Mansour was in the middle with his son and grandson keeping him company.

I took several photographs from every conceivable angle before guilt got the better of me and I stepped away from the coveted front row. My final action was to look up where I saw an incredibly stunning ceiling. However brief our audience with the Sultan was it had been worth the wait.

We left the Saadian Tombs with the view of heading back to Riad Zolah.

Looking at the map we decided to take the long way around.

There was reason to our madness but perhaps not much sense.

We retraced our steps walking down Rue Arset el Maahl for the third time today. Every time we passed the herbalist store at the kink in the street we lingered longer filling our nostrils with the sweet pungent aroma.

The reasonning behind coming this way again was to find our way back to main square Jemma El Fna along Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim an arrow straight street that would be our route back on Wednesday night from Le Tanja restaurant.

The street was as colourful and fascinating as the souks to the north of Jemaf'na. One section specialised in items made from old car tyres. I never knew how versatile a material it must be. It still looked like a car tyre though.

Within no time we had arrived back in the middle of it all. The "square of the dead" was full of life and looking more like the confluence of humanity promised as more and more people were arriving from all corners of the world.

We decided again to stop at Cafe Glacier to view the show from afar, this time however we walked upstairs to the Grand Balcon, the cafe's terrace that overlooked the square.

The price of entry onto the balcony was only a drink each. With a bottle of mineral water from the chiller in our hands we walked around looking for a front row table.

It was 4:30pm and sunset was some time away but it was still very busy up here. We were in luck though as a table became free just as we walked past.

We sat down and watched the square transform itself.

During the day the snake charmers, water sellers and monkey trainers rule the square but in the evening it evolves into an open air restaurant. That process of metamorphisis was underway.

Tables, chairs, fuel for the fires, cooking pots and pans were all being wheeled across the square ready to set up for service.

There was an increasingly local flavour to the square as more and more Marrachis were out.

It had a truly authentic atmosphere. Whilst Marrakech could be described as Arabia for Beginners it wasn't a fake show for the tourists but a real esssential part of daily Marrakechi life, one that takes place 365 days of the year. It's been this way for hundreds of years (although it's a little more sanitised these days) and will still be here in the next few hundred years.
The soundtrack to it all was the hypnotic flute of the snake charmers worming its way inside our heads and the drum beat of the colourful dancers driving the square's ebb and flow.

It created such an absorbing vibe.

Despite my earlier skirmish with the snake charmers the square simply wouldn't be the same without their distinctive sound.

The sun was now casting long shadows, although sunset was still an hour away.

We had long finished sipping our mineral water but we weren't going to give up our front row seat.

There was no requirement to buy another drink or indeed any food. We could have easily stayed here all evening watching Jemma El Fna.

The restaurants had now all set up and were already attracting early diners.

It made us think of our own plans for this evening's food.

It was time to leave and return to Riad Zolah for a siesta. We hadn't even seen our room yet!

We left Le Grand Balcon du Cafe Glacier and stepped out into the melee.

Inside a minute I had my shirt pulled. I turned around to see this barbary ape smiling at me. The smoke rising from the barbecues must have gone straight to my head because it looked very much like a proper smile to me!

It's trainer ran along like a ventriloquist with his hand up the monkey puppet backside. I carried on walking but it wasn't letting go. I shrugged slightly which was enough for it to lose its grip. I smiled back.

Just off the square I stopped at a shop selling clothes and jewellery. There was one item on my shopping list and that was a necklace. The one I had worn for years had just broken a few weeks ago and I needed a replacement. I felt naked without one.

It only cost 5 dirhams. No need for haggling. Eventhough it was just simple wooden beads on string I thought it was a fair price.

From Place Bab Fteuh we walked through the arched gateway leading through to Rue Mouassine.

It was busy with people shopping. It was also surprising how many mopeds whizzed up and down the street, weaving their way through the crowd.

It was actually a little annoying. There you were safely walking in one direction whilst looking in another, usually searching a photo op, then neeeeeahh, a moped ridden by a spotty ten year scoots by at speed narrowly missing your elbow and causing you to shit yourself with shock.

We turned into Derb Laghnaiz Lamouassine. "I wonder if he'll be there waiting for us?" asked Julie.

I'd completely forgotten about our promise to the shopkeeper who fell off his stool earlier this morning.

We turned the corner and there he was. He wasn't sat in his chair but standing in the shop doorway.

"Hello" he said "Please look".

I don't think he remembered us.

We obliged and followed him inside.

It was filled from top to bottom, shelf upon shelf of glass tea cups and silver tea pots.

He showed us to a set of six glasses on a silver tray with a silver teapot. It looked expensive.

"No, we only want some glasses" we explained. We had a quick browse and pointed to a glass that caught our eye. It was very pretty in red with a delicate gold design on the outside.

"That is 400 dirhams" he quoted. "It is crystal" he explained "with gold leaf."

We coughed, "ahem" then immediately began the search for something a little more modest and pointed to another glass. It was relatively plain but had a nice etched design on it .

"That is only 20 dirhams" he said in a slightly deflated tone.

"We'll have two" I said.

He seemed quite happy with the sale but I'm sure he would have prefered for us to have been a little more extravagant in our choice of tea cup.

I gave him 50 dirhams and told him to keep the change. Then asked his permission of I could take his photograph. He was more than happy, even when I directed him to his stool to re-enact this morning's encounter.

A few twists and turns later we were outside Riad Zola ringing the doorbell. Amir answered.

He showed us to our room. It was beautifully decorated. Rose petals were scattered over the bed linen, scatter cushions arranged perfectly across. The walls were a stunning earthy red colour with a small feature rug hung like a work of art.

Candles within ornate lamps were lit in small alcoves at the bedside. The teak furniture was in keeping with the style. A low table was positioned in the centre of the room with a fruit bowl and more rose petals.

We tried on our complimentary slippers or babouches.

They weren't Left or Right but made to slip on either foot. This confused Julie's feet and she didn't find them at all comfortable.

Mine didn't fit on either foot, they didn't even get past my toes. I do have unfeasably large feet for an average height guy. If I were in proportion I should be at least 6ft 4in!

As they were complimentary I didn't feel awkward asking Aziz if I could have a larger pair. He rummaged in a box in the office and found a large pale blue pair.

"Do you have them in yellow?" I asked. It was by far the most popular colour I had seen around the Medina today.

Julie poked me in the ribs. "Colin!" she shrieked as she couldn't believe I could be so cheeky! It wasn't a problem for Aziz as he delved deeper into the box and found exactly what I was looking for. What faultless service.

I slipped my weary dusty feet into the banana yellow pointy slippers and shuffled my way behind Julie up to the roof top terrace for a glass of wine and an hour of rest and relaxation.

I was lucky to make it up in one piece as I almost fell on my face when I caught the tip of the shoe on one of the steps. They took some getting used to those babouches!

Safely up on the roof we stood overlooking the gorgeous inner courtyard and marvelled at the view.

Our room (suite 3) ran the length of one side, with its imposing wooden door locked by a traditional brass bar and padlock.

The rose petal filled basin gave the coutyard a red bulls eye centre around which four small orange trees were planted.

There was something quite calming looking down on it. I'm sure some Feng Shui expert could explain why it promoted a peaceful vibe just by looking at it.

The young newlyweds were already up here relaxing. They had spent the day heading into the new town, Ville Nouvelle. We chatted for a while; we explained how shattered we were after we had spent the day walking for miles in searing heat.

"He always makes me walk everywhere!" Julie pointed out.

The roof top terrace itself was a perfect haven of loungers and comfortable chairs positioned around the open space above the courtyard. Sitting down in the far corner, where the last of the setting sun was still shinning, it almost felt as if we were sitting around a pool.

When Aziz came up with a glass each of chilled Moroccan wine we asked him if it was possible to connect to the Wi-Fi up here. He looked confused as if he didn't understand what I had just said. I asked again about the hotel's wireless internet. "Ah, yes, we have whiffy" he proudly said, "just switch your laptop on and connect."

Julie and I couldn't help but laugh at his pronounciation of Wi-Fi.

I popped down to get the laptop and we sat for a while conversing with Hannah on Facebook and telling our 14 mutual friends where we were.

Julie also checked her eBay account as she had a few items for sale whilst we were away.

At about 6:15pm the call to prayer began to howl across the city. It sounded outstanding, once again causing the hair's stand up on end. Adding to the exotic atmosphere we were surprised that we could hear the snake charmers spellbinding tune rising up from Jemma El Fna.
We stood up and looked at the view over the Medina's rooftops. In the distance the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque looked stunning bathed in the orange glow of the sunset.

A little later the colour scheme changed into a fantastic purple haze. The sight of the minaret illuminated against the lilac sky was breathtaking.

I was just so disappointed I hadn't brought a tripod with me. It was almost impossible to keep the camera still enough to focus.

After my fifteenth attempt at getting the photo right we returned to our room to get washed and ready to out for our evening meal.

With tired limbs we decided that a soak in the bath was necessary.

We filled the large bath, poured in some bubbles and lit a few candles.

The bathroom was up a flight of stairs from the bedroom and although it was beautifully decorated it was very difficult to get a romantic atmosphere because the window above the bath overlooked the kitchen downstairs. We could hear general cooking noise and the cook's banter.

We sat in the bath whispering to each other.

Squeaky clean we ventured out into the night.

We hadn't booked anywhere but were hoping that Cafe Arabe would be able to accomodate us.

The streets were certainly a lot quieter. The gates into the souks had been shut for the evening. All the shops had now closed.

We arrived at Cafe Arabe and asked if we could eat upstairs on their rooftop terrace. Unfortunately it was fully booked. All was not lost however as downstairs they had room.

We were given a choice of eating inside in a large air conditioned room or sit outside in the courtyard.

As al fresco dining is a rarity in the UK we chose to eat outside.

We had to wait five/ten minutes in a very red room whilst they prepared a table for us. Dining in the courtyard seemed to be everyone's preferred choice.

The menu had both traditional Moroccan and Italian influences.

I adore Italian food and couldn't resist ordering bruschetta to start and gnocchi to follow.

Julie went for the lamp chops and was suitably impressed when the waitress asked how she would like her lamb cooked.

Whilst she could ask for them done medium-rare that wasn't a guarantee that they would be cooked to that level. In fact only one chop was at the desired pinkness with the others being more well done. It didn't spoil the flavour though.

I was a little disappointed in my choices. I must admit that I'm more critical when it comes to Italian food. The bruschetta was far too plain. No oil or garlic on the bread. No oil nor seasoning on the tomatoes. And the rubbery cubed "mozarella" cheese wasn't a nice touch.

My gnocchi tasted nice with the sage and butter but the potato dumplings were very dense and heavy. Probably the long life packet variety.

It was a shame about the food as the setting was superb. I suppose it is called Cafe Arabe and not Cafe Italia, we should have gone local and had tagines. The wine we had was local was absolutely lovely despite the unimaginatively title of Sahara Reserve. At 460 dirhams for the meal it felt a little expensive for the quality.

We left Cafe Arabe and made our way slowly back through the dark alleyways to Riad Zolah. Despite having plenty of dark shadows for lurking the streets felt perfectly safe.

Aziz opened the door "Welcome back. You found your way OK!" Apparently they often have to go out into the Medina and rescue guests who have got lost in the dark!

It was now about 10pm and for some reason we felt quite awake. We made a b-line to the rooftop terrace, collecting our laptop along the way.

The young American couple were up here with their laptop sitting in the opposite corner smoking a hooka pipe.

"That looks like fun" I said "I fancy having a go of that tomorrow"

We chatted for a while. "You guys have been all over haven't you?" They had been reading our travelogues which was great.

Julie pointed them in the direction of her most embarassing episodes such as getting locked in the toilets in Rome, and then Prague!

We spent an hour ourselves connected to the hotel's whiffy browsing the internet. We googled Sir Richard's Branson Atlas mountain retreat, the Kasbah Tamadot. It looked absolutely stunning, incredibly idyllic. We were so envious.

Our arabian night came to an end as we caught ourselves falling asleep on the chairs. We toyed with the idea of sleeping on the loungers outside but came to our sense and made our way down to our bedroom.

Tuesday >  

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