Day 12 |
Sep 13, 2012

Safi, Morocco

By Imogen Corrigan, Medieval Historian

Co-ordinates: 32, 18, 22 N, 9, 14, 52 W
Weather: sunshine
Air Temperature: 32C, 94F
Pressure: 1019.1
Wind: 3

We arrived good and early – no need for alarm clocks on this ship. Africa smells different, exciting and ready to be explored!

It’s a long drive to Marrakesh (150 kms) but an interesting one, the land being richer near the coast than expected, although it soon gets stony inland. We had an amazing coffee stop on the way. Carpets were laid out on the ground for us inside an exotic tent. Incense burned in bright brass thuribles and we were offered quite an array of hot drinks with cakes and biscuits.

Then we had another food stop outside Marrakesh where we enjoyed magnificent local dishes, entertainment, and another beautifully arrayed tent.

Then, at last, we were in terracotta-tinted Marrakesh. We went to the Marjorelle Gardens, originally designed by a Frenchman. They are cool, shady and royal blue! They were certainly different and included graffiti cut into the bamboos as well as a memorial to Yves Saint-Laurent who once owned the place.

We had a tour of Marrakesh with a very knowledgeable local guide who showed us the glories of the Theological College – stunning – and how the calligraphy works with / on the building. He also talked to us about the training that had taken place there in previous years. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I was glad to have been able to give my lecture on Islamic Art in advance.

The souks are something else, not so much beautiful, as vibrant, colourful and full of shopping temptations. You can often see the items being made and the souk is divided into specific areas so that one whole alley is devoted to lamps, another to shoes, another to souks and so on – I suspect we were only shown the pretty ones, but the principle of the layout is very medieval. I could have stayed there all day.

Finally we were let loose into Djmâa el Fna Square. It’s big and noisy and full of entertainers, from snake charmers and acrobats to horse-carts for hire. Over all of this teeming life rises the minaret of the mosque with the regular calls to prayer.

This is a fascinating place and a Must-Visit for anyone, no matter what their personal interests or tastes. This was my second chance to see it all which was wonderful and it’s surprising how much you miss the first time round. It was a tired group that climbed into the buses to return to the ship (another tea stop on the way back). It’s a long day out, but a great one.