Day 5
Thursday, 15th October 2009

After last night's early end we were up bright and early this morning.

As today was our last day in Marrakech we could easily have run around cramming in some last minute sightseeing but we decided against that, choosing instead to take it all at a very leisurely pace.

So we began with mint tea delivered to our room around 8am and slowly made a start on packing our suitcase.

We felt a little downbeat as we realised this was going to be our last breakfast on the rooftop terrace and to worsen our depression it was the tastiest breakfast of the week with a delcious mango and prune dish, pancakes with honey, fresh fruits, cake and coffee.

Having eaten our fill we relaxed checking our e-mails on Riad Zolah's whiffy connection and read a newspaper they had printed for us from the internet.

We watched our cake shuffle its way crumb by crumb across the linen towards the table's edge, carried on the back of a few brave ants.

We had company again this morning as Ali (the "alley" cat) joined us for breakfast sitting on the chair opposite us. He was well behaved waiting patiently for cake but when a wasp arrived at the table the temptation to chase the buzz got the better of him. He ended up jumping onto the table swiping at thin air.

We left them to it.

At 11am we checked out and paid our bill which was remarkably good value. "Are you sure that's all?" asked Julie. "Yes, yes, I'm sure" said Ismail. We arranged with him our transfer to the airport for 3:30pm, which was half an hour earlier than he suggested. "We'd like to get there early" we explained.

That meant we had over four hours to kill which in hindsight perhaps we should have filled it with at least one visit to somewhere we hadn't seen such as the Majorelle Gardens or the Bahia Palace. Instead we drifted about without any direction or purpose.

Our first port of call was another cup of mint tea sitting in the shade of Cafe Glacier's patio watching the carnival of Jemaa El Fna roll past. We didn't enjoy our tea as much this morning. The quality of the mint in our tea was a little suspect with the stalks showing a little decomposition.

Whilst it was a little unpleasant to look at it was nowhere near as repulsive as this drink this guy attempted to sell us.

He had shuffled across our view, looked at us hopefully and raised a clear plastic bottle in our direction filled with what could only have been warm donkey piss.

We politely declined.

Having filled in a few postcards we left, leaving half our skanky tea behind and went to find the main post office. It was probably the easiest landmark to find being the largest building directly on Jemma El Fna square.

We stood outside licking the postage stamps onto the cards when another guy shuffled up towards us speaking out the side of his mouth like a bad ventriloquist "Good Hash. Cheap price".

"No, thanks, we're good" I replied which made me sound as if I was sufficently stocked. Anyway, it worked and he left us alone.

We continued our aimless amble in the direct opposite of following our noses as we walked past the caleches, the horse drawn carriages with their shitbags full and stinking gloriously to high heaven. For some curious reason our thoughts then turned to lunch.

We had now reached Avenue Mohammed V and stood oppostite the Koutoubia Mosque. With guide books already scoured we knew of an Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Venezia a short distance away.

We weren't too sure if we had found it at first as all that identified it was a small pizzeria sign. There was no mention of Venice. It didn't have a ground floor presence either just a small entrance and a flight of steps.

"It must be the right place" we said re-assuring each other and trying to get the otherone to walk up first.

It turned out we were in the right place.

We had the place to ourselves and chose a table on the first floor balcony with a great view of the mosque.

Moments later a large coach load of tourists arrived and swamped the place. Fortunately we had ordered in the nick of time and our food arrived quickly.

Unfortunately the meal was terribly disappointing. The rubbery mozzarella in the caprese salad was poor but almost expected. Julie's chicken with pomme frites was dismal. The bird was greasy and scrawny, easily the worst meal of the trip. I chose what I thought would be the best choice on the menu, their signature dish, the Pizza Venezia. An asparagus and egg pizza sounded a little weird but also intriguing. It however failed to score on all accounts. The egg was hard not runny as I expected so that it oozed over the al dente asparagus. At first I didn't even think I had any asparagus spears on top of my pizza but Julie pointed them out to me.

"They'll be the long mushy white things darling"

The pizza looked anaemic, tasted odd and the base was just too thin for my personal taste. It was like a crackerbread.

It did have a lovely view though.

With time on our hands we decided to walk some unexplored areas of the medina back towards Riad Zolah and our pick up. We looked at the map and even scheduled in a tea stop half way.

We took Rue Fatima Zohra north towards the Bab Doukkala mosque. It was an interesting street, not in the same was as the alleyways of the souks but in a more day to day real people living their lives sort of a way.

It was certainly a more residential and functional area. The shops here were to service the community. The cafes here had rows of tagine pots steaming away to entice passer bys.

The walk was a lot longer than I had anticipated and the further along the less interesting the street became. In the end there wasn't anything much to look at, not even a pavement.

"Are you sure we're going the right way?" asked Julie. I do have a habit of walking for miles in the wrong direction but this time I was confident we were heading down the right raod.

We eventually arrived outside the imposing Bab Doukkala mosque. With it being hemmed in by the buildings around it, it probably appeared to be even larger than it really was.

Just down a narrow side street from here we found Hotel Le Maison Arabe. We had heard that its Salon de The was open to non-residents. Inside we stood in a small reception area and waited to be shown to the tea rooms.

We would never have found it on our own as we followed a member of staff up and down stairs and corridors until we arrived outside by the pool.

It was a lovely tranquil spot to sit an sip some more mint tea.

Despite all its elegance and facilities we both agreed that we preferred the charm and beauty of Riad Zolah. Also it's location was just that little bit further out that you would probably end up using taxis to get to and from and I have a deep rooted hatred of using taxis when I can walk instead.

We moved on, around the large mosque and back towards the centre of the medina along Rue Bab Doukkala, through the district of R'mila. The street was devoid of anything of interest.

That was until we reached a junction and passed a building called Dar El Bacha. It had a heavy police presence guarding the entrance. We gathered it must have been some government building? I was itching to take some photos but decided against it. I didn't want risk being arrested like we almost did in Moscow.

Before we knew it we had reached the familiar Rue Mouassine and turned down towards Riad Zolah. We still had an hour spare and we spent it relaxing on the roof top terrace of Cafe Arabe.

We had become regulars here in our short stay. The waitress recognised us and second guessed our order, one Casablanca beer and a mineral water. Even the owner (or perhaps the manager) came over to us and said "Welcome back. Are you surviving Marrakech?"

"Yes, thanks to this place." we answered, which seemed to please her.

Our time was up and we returned to Riad Zolah for our luggage and our taxi to the airport.

The charming Ismail wished us a good journey home.

"We hope to see you again" we said.

"Inshalah" he mystically replied. There's something beautiful about that word.

We followed Omar as he wheeled our large suitcase along the narrow streets to our taxi waiting for us just outside the Bab Laksour gate.

"Goodbye my friend" he said as he lifted our case into the boot and that's what they had all become, Omar, Aziz, Fattima and Ismail, all friends.

We were driven to the airport by Jemal (he drove us up to Kasbah du Toukbal).

Check-in was just due to open at 4pm but the queue had already filled the width of the room and begun to snake around the corner. We joined the back and was making good progress towards the counter when the queue split in two.

"Oh no, left or right?" asked Julie. What a dilema.

Of course we chose the wrong one. We stood and watched the other queue shrink as ours stalled because this guy at the front was refusing to pay extra for his excess baggage. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes of arguing the toss. The stalemate was only broken when he and his girlfriend decided to wear the content of their second rucksack. They must have put on five layers of extra clothing.

Julie was getting more and more agitated. She worried we were going to be put into boarding group Z and be the last onto the plane, ending up being seated apart. At least they don't fly with standing room only, well not yet anyway.

We ended up in group B, which essentially the third and least priority boarding.

After quickly off loading all our dirhams on a pair of glass tea cups and a pair of Fezs we walked towards the security checks only to be turned away. We hadn't completed some immigration form.

Time was running out. With each obstacle Julie was getting increasingly animated, huffing and puffing at the injustice of it all. We scribbled the exit form as quick as we could and tried again. This time they were happy to let us leave the country.

We only had enough time to shove down a cheese baguette and get changed into warmer clothes in the toilets before they opened our gate.

Julie's relief was immense when our luck changed as we walked up to the gate at the precise moment they announced it opened. We stood at the front of the group B queue quite safe in the knowledge that we would be seated together.

We walked across the tarmac, boarded the plane and sat in exactly the same seat on exactly the same plane we flew over on Sunday. It had the same defaced bearded lady on the front of the Easy Jet magazine. This was a good omen and it pleased Julie. Inshallah.

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