Marrakech City Tour with Kensington Tours
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
From Mosques and tombs, palaces and ancient universities to the bustling street market with local food vendors in every corner, the list of things to see and do in Marrakech appears virtually endless. To be certain of not missing in the virtually endless list of things to see and do in Marrakech, I’m really excited to go on a private city tour with Kensington Tours, something I’ve never done before.
I have a guide, Ahmed, driver and a new Mercedes van as transport for the day. It’s really relaxing to climb into the back seat and not think once about traffic or navigation.
We visit the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque, the enormous El Bahia Palace – built in the 19th century to showcase the very best of Moroccan artisans, the 16th century Saadian Tombs and the Madrasa Ben Youssef – a university dating back to the 14th century that defies belief.
From there comes the highlight of the day for me – walking tiny back alleys into the enormous, sprawling market. I’ve heard stories about the Marrakech market since I first started travelling – here you can find everything your heart desires, I’m told, good and bad.
We’re drawn to a smiling street vendor selling odd-looking spiky green vegetables – or are they fruit? Ahmed, explains they are the fruit of cactus and are called prickly pear – they do somewhat resemble a pear in shape and size. With Ahmed’s help translating we buy a couple and the vendor cuts them open to reveal the soft yellowish flesh inside. They are very sweet and juicy, and have a flavor something like passionfruit, without the hard seeds. We wader into the steel working section with men cutting and welding right in the narrow alleys, sparks flying in every direction and hammers ringing on anvils beating steel into a multitude of shapes. In the fabric dying section we are shown all the natural dyes used and the rainbow of colors that result – amazingly a red powder turns bright violet and a blue powder turns lime green in water. We also see leather working of every kind, shoes, clothes and traditional robes being made right in front of our eyes.
We finish the tour by navigating the labyrinth of streets and alleys until we burst out into bright sunshine in the main market square. It’s bustling with early-afternoon shoppers, and at every stall I’m drawn into the bright sights, unfamiliar sounds and strong aromas on display. Buying a mountain of fresh olives for a dollar is impossible to resist, as-is various packets of Moroccan spices. As we walk into the sunshine I’m enthralled watching a snake charmer coax a cobra to sway and stare hypnotically, something I never dreamed I would actually see in real life.
Ahmed showed me a side of the city I never would have found alone, and he explained details and told stories about aspects I knew nothing about. He was also extremely knowledgeable about Morocco at large, and was more than happy to satisfy my curiosity about many varied topics related to the city, history, Morocco, Ramadan and Islam.
I had a fantastic day and are extremely happy we chose to get a guided tour to soak in as much of Marrakech as possible.
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