It’s an odd thing in Marrakech but if you turn left upon leaving the Hotel Islane, you are entering a world of hassle, crowds and assorted denizens of the dark realms. If, however, you turn right, the world of comfort awaits you. Well, up to a point, anyway.
I know this because today, following my two omelettes (Nicktor didn’t want his) we turned right and started following the Avenue Mohamed V towards the New Town.
Our first stop was the odd Cyber Park which is drenched in wi-fi and odd little Internet terminals as well as trees (mostly growing oranges) and a working fountain.
It’s an odd thing about the fountains we’ve so far seen in Marrakech. Most of them have been dry and inoperable. Some look like they stopped spitting water about 30 years ago and are now used for sticking posters on and dumping rubbish in. This, however, is not the case in the New Town.
The fountain in the middle of the Cyber Park (where the strongest wi-fi signal exists) was gloriously bursting forth. The whole park seemed friendly and welcoming. Maybe that’s the constant wi-fi signals invisibly penetrating everyone.
The reason we popped into the Cyber Park is because Nicktor has been intrigued by a green roof ever since we sat at breakfast on our first morning. The roof is atop a massive structure on one side of the park. We found it, photographed it, tried to walk around it but never found out what it was. Apart from a green roof on a typical Moroccan style building.
So, none the wiser, we headed out of the town walls and were suddenly in a world that looked almost comfortably western. Clearly, when the French arrived in 1912 they were sick of the locals in the Old Town trying to rip them off every two feet and decided to build the New Town instead.
And the best thing about the New Town is that you are safe from the touts and human satnavs that congregate by the million in the Old Town. It was like a breath of fresh air to stroll happily along and not be constantly approached by people claiming to be your friend.
Actually, I’m getting a bit fed up with that. On our way back (just as we reached the city wall) a kaftan wearing man approached us, called me “my friend” and asked me what I thought of Marrakech. I almost told him but figured he’d probably not understand half of what I said and bit my tongue, instead.
As we reached the end of Avenue Mohamed V (it turns into another street as it continues on through a roundabout) I spotted an ice cream parlour and dragged Nicktor in for some.
Interestingly, Nicktor isn’t overly fond of ice cream. I question his sanity sometimes. We’ll never be going to Sorrento together, I can tell you! Still, for me, he followed me into the store where he had a tiny little pistachio cone and I had a massive great tub of pistachio and Moroccan Cream. We then sat outside and ate them, while watching a group of seriously risky builders working across the road.
We were then approached by an odd chap. He was a European. I thought he was Swiss because he was so neat and tidy but he could have been anything but British. His English was tinged with a slight accent that defied analysis. I’ll call him Herve.
So Herve walks up to us as we’re sitting enjoying our ice treats and asks how we found the place. Nicktor answered him literally by saying we just walked out of the hotel and eventually found it. This seemed the right thing to say because he then started going on about how he didn’t trust Trip Advisor.
Herve also asked us about the ice cream which we both acknowledged was delicious. He was then about to walk away when a swarthy chap started to to talk to him in what sounded like French. They disappeared then.
Nicktor thinks Herve might be the owner of the shop and was doing a bit of impromptu market research. I just think he was weird.
Following our ice creams we continued along the road until we were obviously outside the city limits. There was a range of hills running along the side of the road topped with a wall. Sort of like the Great Wall only very much smaller and inaccessible to all but the army. We followed the wall for a bit up a side road, just to see what we could see but, apart from the wall and some extremely nimble sheep, we saw nothing of interest and decided to turn back.
And then we found a little bit of home…sort of. Of course there wasn’t any beer and the people sitting around us were mostly Moroccans but, basically we were in a bar with TVs ready to show football. And we were served by a chap who’d lived a long time in Manchester. He was actually Moroccan but spoke English with an odd Mancunian twang. He was an excellent waiter. Although he didn’t bring us any beer.
The two of us then sat back, drank coffee/tea, had burgers and watched Liverpool thrash an unimpressive Arsenal to the delight of the Kop.
We then walked all the way back again, stopping off on the way to sit, looking at a fountain on a roundabout so Nicktor could get the perfect photo of a horse and buggy passing in front of the water while I had a text conversation with Mirinda.
Eventually we were accosted by a rather aggressive chap who didn’t call us his friend. He told Nicktor not to take photographs. I think he explained why but it was all French and neither of us are that good at understanding it. It was as if he owned the bit of path we were sitting on and he was frightened we were stealing the souls of the people on the street. You know how tetchy the natives can be when they meet civilised folk with better technology.
Anyway, rather than cause a scene which would only have ended with us being mugged, kidnapped and eventually waking up naked in the bottom of one of the big vats at the tanneries, we moved on.
Just before we reached the hotel (next door, in fact) we stopped off at a small gift shop that advertises day tours. After asking how much a trip to the sea was, we grabbed our chance and booked ourselves onto a mini-bus tomorrow.
So, first thing in the morning, we are setting off for the fishing town of Essaouira. It’s a port so I’m hoping there’ll be some container ships…