Sorry no posts for a while - work's been incredibly busy, and me and pater have just got back from five days in Marrakech. What a place - about the most hectic, hot and colourful city I've ever been to. We were staying at a fab hotel (Les Borjs de la Kasbah, highly recommended) in the kasbah, which is the residential bit of Marrakech. Most hotels are in the new bit, which is basically just sand, palm trees, and other hotels. There's a lot of development going on here, so I guess the country's doing well in terms of tourism. They're expanding the airport too, and the posters they had up to promote this were absolutely hilarious - but more of that later.
Walking through the kasbah involves getting approached by random people who either want to a) guide you somewhere (often somewhere you don't want to go) or b) recommend a shop (which they either own or get commission from). The key is to say "no thank you" in a very smiley, polite way. Sometimes you trust them despite yourself, and end up in a carpet shop. This is where I bought a lovely handmade rug (dyed with poppy petals, apparently) for £80, having bartered the guy down from £240. The other guys in the shop thought Dad was my husband, and clapped him on the back to congratulate him on choosing a wife who was so tight with the pursestrings ("you will have a good life with this woman").
My bartering skills were otherwise pretty rubbish (when your host's shop is basically a cupboard on the street, you feel really stingey trying to save £10 when that's not really a lot of money to you, but might be to them) - if I'd pay that much in the UK for something made in a factory, I'd happily pay the same for a handmade version. Feeling like a rich Westerner was not a very pleasant experience though.
To get to Jemaa el Fna, the main square, we would walk through the winding streets of the local market, pungent with the aroma of mint, cooking meat, smoke and coriander. Some women sold nothing but mint, sitting on the street with a tea towel full of leaves. The butchers were a bit much for a vegetarian girl like me - unidentifiable skinned animals with their tails still attached swing in your face as you walk past, alongside rows of dried and dessicated animal heads.
The souks were more appealing, full of gaudy mirrors and delicately patterned metal lamps, and reams and reams of shocking pink, turquoise and purple fabric. The main square itself really comes alive at night, when it's packed with food stalls, orange juice sellers, snake charmers and storytellers, and smoke billows up into the sky.
Back at the airport, suffering from a joyous bout of food poisoning, I entertained myself by playing "recognise the celeb" on the posters promoting the new terminal. Someone's obviously had fun with a few copies of Heat and Photoshop - I'm not sure if the celebrities are actually famous in Morocco or not, but my guess is not!
Gwyneth Paltrow: "hey! I'm over here! just calling a cab."
Robert De Niro: "come with me, I know a great rug shop"
Katie Holmes: "Hey, isn't that Luke Wilson?"
Liz Hurley: "Hey, isn't that Katie Holmes?"