We took Nathan to Marrakech at the end of May, to see the new house that Yasmina’s Aunt & Uncle have built there. He’s been to Morocco before but this time was different because he’s 19 months old, so he runs around and is generally harder to keep up with. He’s in his new blue pushchair – the nice red Mclaren pushchair he had was stolen shortly before we left .
I was last in Marrakech around 2002; I first went there in 1999. That first visit, eight years ago, was to the south of Marrakech too – the Ourika valley. Today, the road out south of Morocco to that valley is unrecognisable compared to 1999. There’s been a high level of development with new roads, housing and infrastructure. The house we visited is just off that road, in the Palmeraie region near a golf course. For part of the journey from central Marrakech you go along about 2 miles of road (the Boulevard Mohammed VI, named after the current king who has encouraged development in Marrakech – a key region for tourism) with a central strip of well cultivated and tended gardens with walkways. Even late at night you can see families walking in the gardens – even though there’s a road either side it’s quite a wide central part – and there are fountains, benches and lawns. Before, this area was just a concrete and bitumen track, waste land and a few palm trees.
The main market and central plaza – Djmaa el Fna – hasn’t changed much though. Still the same snake charmers, Gnaoua musicians, and traditional water sellers, etc. as back then, but this time they had eager children to ply their wooden snakes and toys to, so brushing them off was more of a challenge. Let’s just say it helps to be with Moroccans and to speak a bit of the language yourself. I still had to dig into my pockets to get balloons for the children though – Nathan’s cousin Mina (on the right) and two of her friends (the youngest is also pictured) from London were there and they weren’t going home empty handed.
Being back in the market – albeit briefly, since there were five adults and four children all trailing around together – was nice. You can see pictured the spice stall we stopped off at for the girls to pick up Henna (for hair colour and temporary tatoos), fresh mint (for tea) and Kohl (used for makeup).
It feels like I spent a lot of the holiday telling children off – of Moroccan and French mothers respectively – in English. There’s a swimming pool in the garden and so they needed to be told to put shoes on when they got out, to keep their heads covered, to make sure they were suntan lotioned before going out in the sun and after swimming. Since the other children there are schooled in England, I suppose English is more of a language of “authority” than the French they hear at home. Or perhaps not… but it worked.
Now I’m back, refreshed, and already after a small amount of time back at work I’m eagerly waiting for the next holiday to arrive.