Day 8 |
May 02, 2012

 Safi and Marrakech, Morocco

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 32º18’20”, W 009º14’50”
Weather: Sunny Air Temperature: 25ºC

I came back on board today with a big grin on my face. I must say that I had a fabulous time today. Marrakech was truly wonderful, it was everything I expected it to be and then some.

The Silver Explorer came alongside in the port of Safi in the early hours of the morning and shortly thereafter we were en-route to Marrakech. We drove through Safi and continued east through an arid landscape of colourful, rolling low hills. Shepherds with their herds of sheep and goats were to be seen everywhere along the way, something I found reminiscent of Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”. Beautiful countryside.

About an hour and a half into our journey we got to an area pretty much in the middle of nowhere and as the coaches got closer we started seeing some Bedouin tents set up. Our ground operator had arranged for tents, red carpets, portable toilets and a spread of coffee, tea, juice and canapés to break up our journey. Our guests sat on big pillows and enjoyed their tea in an almost surreal setting.

We then moved on towards Marrakech and we were in for a treat. If the first stop seemed surreal, our lunch venue was something that could have been extracted from “1001 Arabian Nights”. A red carpet with musicians, dancers and camels led us into a much larger camp set up for us, with bigger tents, music, exquisite food and the fanciest bathroom facilities I have ever seen in an outdoor setting. Truly extraordinary.

Once we finished lunch we went to visit the tranquil Majorelle Gardens, designed by the French artist Louis Majorelle with lush greenery, palm trees, cacti, still pools and shady nooks.

The name Marrakech originates from the Amazigh (Berber) words mur (n) akush, which means "Land of God." It is the third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat,
and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.

The city is divided into two distinct parts: the Medina, the historical city, and the new European modern district called Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle. The Medina is full of intertwining
narrow passageways and local shops full of character. In contrast, Gueliz plays host to modern restaurants, fast food chains and big brand stores.

We got off the coaches in the Medina and went on foot to visit a Koran School, the Islamic equivalent of a Catholic Monastery. We then took a stroll through the labyrinth of alleyways in the ancient, 12th-century Medina. It was truly a multi-sensorial experience, the colours, the smells, the sounds, everything. I had a wonderful time browsing through the antique, spices, textile and carpet shops. The many colourful and varied souqs enticed us to shop for local and Berber handicrafts in leather, brass, copper, silver or gold; beautiful carpets; polished wood; a myriad of perfumes and an amazing selection of spices.

Our guided tour ended with a visit to the famous Djmâa el Fna Square, where we saw a theatre of musicians, snake charmers, food stalls and storytellers. After all this fun we got back to the coaches and headed back to Safi.

Since we came back to the Silver Explorer quite late after a fun filled, but long day, the Hotel Department had thoughtfully prepared a delicious dinner buffet, so we all could have a quick meal and an early night. A well deserved good night of sleep.