Yassine met me at the airport on Saturday evening. Shortly afterwards I was checking into Hotel Adam Park and making my way to my room.
After showering I made my way to the hotel bar. Here I saw Billy with a trio of mates from the US who were also doing the tour. After a couple of beers, we got a taxi to Jemaa el-Fna Square. Billy found a restaurant overlooking the square serving traditional Moroccan cuisine.
I had a tagine which went well with the local red wine. A good night was enjoyed by all. The long flight and time zone difference was taking its toll so I opted to return to the hotel for an early night.
1 May, 2022
Getting to sleep wasn’t an issue for me on Saturday night. Staying asleep was though. I awoke at around 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep. This would be a recurring trend whilst in Morocco. Breakfast at the hotel wasn’t until 7:30am. At around 6am I decided to take a walk to check out Zone Touristique De L’Agdal, Agdal, Marrakech. Even though only 5km from Jemaa el-Fnaa Square, it appeared to be a recently developed area. Plenty of new buildings, hotels and shopping malls. Many empty blocks of land for future tourism related developments.
Hotel Adam Park could have been in any big city in any arid country. This wasn’t the Moroccan experience I’d been looking forward to.
As it was early on a Sunday morning, nothing was open – not even a café to get a take away double espresso. I made my way back to the hotel in search of a coffee. I got into the breakfast buffet 15 mins before it’s scheduled opening. They let me get a coffee from the self serve machines and it was ok. It had to be – there weren’t any other options nearby. The buffet was ok but the cooked to order omelette was better. Given breakfast came with the room tariff I was pleasantly sated. Another coffee and it was time for my half day tour of Marrakech with Yassine.
Yassine was right on time and our first stop was Bahia Palace, a mid to late 19th-century palace. The palace was first begun in 1859 by Si Musa, grand vizier of Alaouite sultan Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman. It was further expanded by his son between 1894 and 1900. Today it is a well-known historic monument and tourist attraction.
I quickly learned Yassine was not a tour guide. He took me to places of interest and left me to my own devices. When I’d finished I texted him and he’d appear to drive me to the next attraction. So be it. I was glad to be seeing some of Marrakech even if it was missing historical context.
Next stop was the Saadian Tombs, the historic royal necropolis in Marrakesh. The Tombs are located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque, inside the Royal Kasbah district. They date to the time of the Saadian dynasty and in particular to the reign of Ahmad al-Mansur. Members of Morocco’s monarchy continued to be buried here for a time afterwards. Featuring luxurious decoration and careful interior design, they are considered the high point of Moroccan architecture in the Saadian period.
Yassine greeted me with a most welcome bottle of cold water and dropped me off at Ets Bouchaib Complexe D’Artisanat – a sort of fixed price souk. It showcases the work of local artisans. A spacious marketplace stocking classic Moroccan crafts, clothing, jewellery & home décor items. All absent the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s Medinas. I took my time browsing and taking photos. The whole time I was never asked if I needed any help let alone the hard sell treatment. I didn’t buy anything.
I’m not quite sure what to say about the next “attraction” Yassine took me to. Greeted on arrival my guide provided a bunch mint leaves to hold in my hand in case the odour was not to my liking. I was at a traditional Tannery, inside the city wall near the Bab Debbagh-Kawtar Gate. The guide explained the tanning process which I found interesting. The mint came in handy too. Post tour I went to their gift shop. An eager salesman wasn’t able to persuade me to buy any of the leather products found within. A bit obscure but worth the visit.
The final destination of my half day tour was Kutubiyya Mosque. This was within easy walking distance of Parc Lalla Hasna and Jemaa el-fna Square. The Square seemed less hectic than my brief visit for dinner the previous night. I treated myself to a freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the many vendors vying for my business. It was delicious! How lucky am I? I’m in Marrakech, Morocco!
Yassine dropped me back at the hotel. It was well past lunch time and I was feeling a little peckish. So I walked down the road to Al Mazar Mall to find something to eat. The few cafes and restaurants on the way hadn’t opened because of Ramadan. No point opening for lunch if the locals aren’t eating.
There wasn’t much on offer at the mall either. I ended up at Venezia Ice, one of a chain of franchised eateries in Morocco. The chicken sandwich I ordered took an eternity. It was ok and would keep me going until our first tour dinner after the pre-tour welcome and briefing at 5pm.
We assembled at 5pm at an outside table near the hotel bar. There were 8 paying customers, Billy as lead rider and a support vehicle making 10 of us in total on tour. Billy gave us a rundown on what to expect over the next 7 days. We were each given 35l roll bag to pack our clothes and personal items for the tour. The roll bag was be transported in the support vehicle. We were to leave our luggage and suitcases at the hotel. I’d do my packing later after dinner.
Abdoul, a Moroccan national, would be driving the support vehicle. He would deal with locals on Tour logistical matters. The support vehicle would have bottled water at all times. We should hydrate often and use CamelBaks if we had them (luckily I brought mine). We agreed to give Abdoul 200 Moroccan Dirhams per day to sort out drinks and lunch for the group. This proved to be a great idea and worked very well in practice.
Billy gave everyone a hard copy Tour Information Pack. We should read this and keep on our person when riding. It contained important telephone numbers and nightly hotel addresses and contact details. It would be vital should we get separated from the group.
The What’s App Group would be for sharing photos amongst riding the Group. We had already purchased a Moroccan SIM card with an adequate call and data allowance for the trip. It was good value and enabled email contact with our family and friends back home.
We’d all need to be in the lobby at 8am in the morning with our roll bags packed and ready to go in the support vehicle. Then a transfer by minibus to Wheels of Morocco depot, about 8km from the hotel. This didn’t leave much time for breakfast.
After some Q&A with Billy & Abdoul we were ready for dinner. This would be in the Italian themed Restaurant Traviata at the hotel. But the restaurant wasn’t ready for us. Another Ramadan related issue we hear. When in Rome go with the flow.
Dinner was enjoyable and we were all eager for the riding to begin. But first, I need to pack the roll bag. Hope I sleep ok.