From Phuket to Marrakech
I left on the early morning of January 25 on an Emirates Airlines flight from Phuket to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris via Dubai.
Upon landing, I transferred on a bus to Orly Airport, which took about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and checked in at the Best Western Hotel close to the Airport so I could take a morning flight to Marrakech in Morocco.
I flew with Royal Air Maroc from Paris Orly to Marrakech. The flight was calm and the service basic; I guess I am spoiled from my flights with Asian carriers.
Why Marrakech? The central region of Morocco is the most exiting and diverse destination in the country, the biggest draw-card is the pink city of Marrakech. The city in the Maghreb region is approx. 1,000-years-old and features a stunning setting against the towering snow-capped Atlas mountains.
Somehow, this vibrant “bursting at the seams” city exists on the edge of the Sahara. Beyond the souks, the Medina is an ideal place to explore private palaces and Riad mansions, many of which now provide the city’s most atmospheric accommodation.
After a short taxi ride from the airport, I arrived on the “Jemaa el fna”, a crazy place for the common European tourist. After a few minute’s walk with one of the Riad’s very friendly staff, I reached a place of peace and quiet – just what I was looking for. Everyone at the Riad is trying to make you feel at home and any wish is taken care of.
The reception desk helps to make arrangements without pushing you to buy what you don’t want. The rooms are spacious with a homey feel and the breakfast is good. I found no reason to complain. Note that this Angsana branded Resort, or Riad, is a place located in the Medina, which you have to go through to get anywhere when you go out.
I wanted exactly that, but some might feel annoyed. For those who want to avoid the Medina, there are hotels in the new town area.
Paris has its Cathedrals, New York its Sky scrapers, but Riads are what set Marrakech apart. These spectacular mud brick court yard mansions are the place to unwind after a busy day.
Push through the brass studded doors and you find yourself in a calm place. Once in a while, you can spot a cat, or two or three, sitting relaxed on a sofa.
Over the years these typical family homes have been sold and converted to small guest houses.
The Main Square is like an open air theatre. In the daytime, snake charmers blast oboes to keep the serpents calm. Not for me.
There’s also henna tattoos, artists, and plenty of options to enjoy a freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice. The various activities don’t stop until shadows fall and hundreds of chefs come to the square, accompanied with music and dancers galore. Come early to witness the spectacular shows.
I also visited the museum of Marrakech, which was formerly a palace. Inside are traditional arts and crafts, including embroidery, colourful pottery, inlaid knives and swords.
I also went to Maison Tiskwin to get a feel of what it was like to travel to Timbuktu and back in the old days. The journey is displayed in each room, which represents a caravan, showing the Sahara to Marrakech route via Camel through the Atlas mountains. Lots of carpets and other artefacts to bring you to another time.
As it was January, it was quite cold, dropping down to a degree Celsius at night, but warming back up to 18-20 degrees during the day.
This journey will continue in a fortnight.