Flew from Gatwick. Car arrived to pick us up at 3.15. You never quite know if they're going to arrive but they always do. At the airport in the departure lounge we had pancakes which arrived quickly and the coffee was good. I had to finish Pol's pancakes. This set up a pattern which lasted two or three days until we both realised that I was eating too much. Pol went off to get booze and made Kis worry when they said go to gate 554 and Pol decided to come back none too quickly. Of course when we got to the gate with me walking ahead in a frothy rush everyone was just sitting around. But a flight is a flight isn't it ? Kis slept on the flight. Pol didn't. Arrived lunchtime. We had to wait an hour in the queue to get through passport control. I phoned the shuttle company and they told us not to worry. Our driver was called Youssef and we were the only ones in his minibus going to Marrakech. Once there an older man whose name escapes me met us with a luggage cart to take us into the medina, the streets being too narrow. I was relieved to find out from Youssef that everyone spoke french which was going to make things a lot easier. The walk into the medina down the Rue Sidi el Yamani from our gate on the Boulevard Fatima Zahra eased us incrementally into the forthcoming madness passing early emporia filled with a taste the ornate exotica to come. After a gruff fifteen minute walk, we got to a very unpromising archway which had the air of rubbish and cat piss and a make shift sign announcing, with equal parts assurance and perturbation, that we had arrived at our Riad. Or at least the entrance to it. From there, we went down a series of passage ways along which I made visual reminders not knowing how much of this we would have. Soon however we reached the mysterious front door where with satisfaction I saw made flesh the clearly announced address that I had so diligently committed to memory: Derb Azzouz 11. We were at Riad Kamar Zamane with it's small but life saving plunge pool. We tried to give the man 20 dhiram but he got 50 out of us. Pol didn't know how much that was. I told her i reckoned it was about £4.10 using my invaluable mental eight times table.When we got in there was a woman called Wahida who looked a little like my cousin Marie and no doubt shared some genes somewhere down the line. We were told that the room wasn't ready so, shagged out as we were, there was nothing for it but to go into town. They didn't seem to be fully aware of our provenance and I later learned that Wahida was really only hands on with the cooking and cleaning and that it was Soufiane who would know what was what. She did however make a couple of confirming phone calls and that seemed to give us the ok to be there. We were also greeted with the ubiquitous mint tea. After this we were told that the square, Jemaa el-Fna, was tout droit for about ten minutes and so, having piled our bags into a quivering corner, off we duly went.
We were told that the square was straight down a souky street (Rue Fehl Chidmi) and here we met our first taste of the famous hard sell that we were told about. after ten minutes or less of fairly tout droit walking the lane opened out onto a small square with a donkey cart in the middle of it. Pol dutifully made a note of a restaurant price board which was never to be in quite the same position. This smaller square opened out onto the craziest open space I've yet to seen. Jemaa el-Fna leaves little room for contemplation. You immediately feel your brain speed accelerate in order to allow you to jump on to the mental merry go round. All the time I was looking out for the dreaded snakes but on this first time I never saw any. Of course they were there but we simply didn't see them.
Turning right and walking along past fragrant herb stalls, I felt the only decent thing to do was to eat so we stopped off at a street side cooking station run by a nice chap in a Ronaldo T shirt who i called Ronaldo. (There are many Ronaldo T shirt wearers in Marrakech.) I had some splayed sardines which were delicious and a chicken tagine which was disappointingly unspicy if your an anglo-curryholic, which I am. A great tomato salad (which Pol liked!) and heaps of melon. Like true dive in brits we had no idea of the cost of any of this but this wasn't the Hilton and needless to say the whole thing came to about a fiver. From there we ventured accross to the south side and got waylaid by a clothes shop owner again called Youssef. He beckoned us in with the usual alacrity. Strangely I was never aware of his shop on subsequent visits.Things have a pop up feel in Marrakech. It's not habitual. as if it's all one everchanging unity. Carrying on along the line of the southside we were funneled into Derb Dabachi were we turned right into Rue Kennaria and Bob music. There I tried the Gnawa bass instrument variously called among other things, Sintir or Gimbri. It's broom handle fret board was a bit tricky for western me and it was a bit early for splashing out our entire budget on a an unknown three note twanger but good to get one on the lap. (there's another branch of Bob which does guitars, nice very cheap ones. After that we must have wended our way back home. My notes say that Pol had a swim and I met Soufiane for the first time and we did lots of info boring stuff. We finally got into our room for the time which was small but perfectly formed with it's own shower ,toilet and most importantly, air con !
That night, on S's recommendation, we went to a local restaurant called Table du Palais which, despite the assiduous attention of a young guide, was three doors down. Once seated I ran back to call the lad back and give him some change. Change by the way, is very hard to come by in Morocco. Anyone traveling there should start their own separate jingle box without delay. The restaurant was very beautiful, and out door garden in the Moroccan style. The food was OK. I had my first pastillia which is a round pie usually containing savoury meat but dusted on the outside with icing sugar.