After my recent travel experiences in West Africa I was looking forward to a slightly simpler, easier experience in Morocco.
Harri and I arrived in Marrakesh just after 0100 and after a sailing through passport control and customs we were outside, talking to a taxi driver, trying to explain where we wanted to go. Unfortunately, our booking confirmation from AirB&B had an incomplete address, although eventually another driver knew the place we wanted and instructed our driver where to go. £15 lighter we were dropped off and pointed through an arch and down an alley to where our ‘Riad’ should be. Despite walking around all the surrounding streets there was no evidence of the elusive accommodation. We asked some locals who said they would take us there, it didn’t take long to ascertain that they were drunk and had no clue of where we were heading, I then lead us to where the location (according to a screenshot of a map) should be, about 20-minute walk from our current location. When we finally got there again it wasn’t looking too promising however there were three teenagers who were stood around so I asked where our property was, one of them knew it and took us down a nearby street, when at an impressive wooden door he asked for some money for taking us to the correct address, I was happy to pay him a small amount but I wanted to double check it was the correct place so waited until someone answered the door, however, despite banging on the door nobody came and when I looked through the letter box there was a sign saying that this was a completely different Riad, turning around to the boy he knew the game was up and walked away, still saying he could take us to the correct place. In the end it resulted in banging on another door, waking up the owner and receiving directions from him (which took us back to where the teens were) and then getting pointed to a door about 30m away (by a different one of the teens) which did indeed turn out to be the correct place. A poor start for Harri’s first experience of Morocco and a shame that the locals were dishonest and just wanted to make some quick money. We eventually crashed onto the bed just after 0315.
Surprisingly we didn’t wake too early the following morning but we had had breakfast and all packed by 1100 when a taxi took us across the city to the Central Bus Station where we were going to head south, over the Atlas Mountains to Ait Ben Haddou, a famous, old Saharan caravan stop, made famous by numerous films using it as a location including ‘Gladiator’. Fortunately, the next bus left in three quarters of an hour so we didn’t have to wait too long but it was enough to withdraw some more money and buy some lunch to take with us. The journey itself however wasn’t too pleasant, the fact that there were hundreds of corners and bends, once we were outside the city, and the fact that the bus wasn’t properly ventilated meant that both of us felt rather queasy and we were extremely relieved when we made a stop and when we finally jumped off the coach at a road junction (the bus was continuing onto Ouazarzate) a short taxi ride later and we were at our hotel.
Having been cramped on the bus for the best part of five hours we went for an explore, walking to the end of town and the view point across to Ait Ben Haddou itself. We arrived just at the right time as one of the most incredible sunsets was unfolding, creating amazingly beautiful pink and red skies, with an incredible back drop of a UNESCO World Heritage site, a long day which started poorly but finished on a high.