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Sleepless in Marrakech Starting With the 4 am Call to Prayer

April 26, 2014 by  

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First, in the dark of night before day-break, comes the muffled but rhythmic 4:00 AM call to prayer; to the left, to the right, from mosque to mosque throughout the medina, the central and oldest part of town.

 

Drift into sleep before dawn breaks with the 05:00 am bird song and chatter, which gets louder and louder as it reverberates back and forth, from the orange fruit trees in the courtyard to the thick walls of the traditional homes and riads.

Then as the birds settle down, human life begins to stir.  The muffled sound of a baby crying and women opening the shutters drifts over the centuries old thick walls.

This, mixed with the smell of freshly baked bread, brewed coffee and mint tea, sets you up perfectly for the day ahead – wandering through the winding alleys of the souk, where market sellers are grouped into leather goods, spices, jewellery, carpets and metal work.  Anything and everything is here to taste and buy.

A common complaint for travellers in North Africa, especially female travelers, is that you often get harassed or hissed at in the streets and in the souks.

But in Morocco, and in Marrakesh in particular, the king has made an edict making it a punishable offence to harass or hiss at tourists. So apart from the usual bartering over prices and good natured invitations to come into their shops or stalls, shopping and browsing in Marrakesh a safe, easy and enjoyable experience.

Morocco is also one of the few countries in the region, which has remained unaffected by the recent troubles in North Africa – or the Arab spring. Marrakesh “la ville rose” (the pink city) is the perfect starting point for any trip to the region. Not only is it easy to get to from anywhere in Europe, but it is also geared towards high end and affordable tourism, and safe for single and group travel.

The delicious fresh, slightly spicy food and relaxed breezy rooftop bars also make it a favorite with young French and British girls going for long weekends or “hen parties” before they get married.

This relaxed town is also a favorite of the Moroccan royal family, who enjoy spending time at their palace within the walls of the cobbled old town. On invitation from the king, or credit card permitting, a beautiful palace-like hotel to stay or to visit to experience the most exquisite Maghreb hospitality, design, mint tea, or the light and refreshing local wine, is the luxury LA Mamounia Hotel. 

For a break from the busy humanity of the souk, take a short trip to Les Jardins de Majorelle, to visit the memorial to Yves Saint Laurent and the gardens he so loved and helped design. The cobalt blue and sunny yellow linear coffee shop and museum contrasts perfectly with the zen layout of the cactus garden.

The perfect time to visit Marrakech is from May to OCtober. Temperatures in the day reach into the 20`s, but then drop down to 9 -12°C at night, so it is essential to bring a sweater, scarf or a light jacket as most of the houses are built to resist, not to retain heat. In July and August, temperatures go up to 40–50° C or higher in the desert.

Dress code: bikinis and shorts are fine on the beach, but in town or country it is advisable and respectful to wear dresses or clothes which reach below the knee and cover the shoulders. Holding hands in public is fine, but nothing more.  Jeans and sparkly shirts are popular for going out and there is a hip and happening music scene. But because of the cobble-stones, most people wear flat shoes.

Stay in the Medina in the traditional homes or riads, which are built around a courtyard with a fountain, beautiful hand painted cobalt blue, emerald green or black and white tiles. Wake up with the birds and go to sleep to the call of the Muezzin -  the perfect way to start and end your trip to Marrakesh.