In early December 2017 I spent a week anchored in Casablanca (see my blog entry) and took in a day trip to Rabat and now this time a day trip to Marrakesh. Marrakesh is the the fourth largest city in Morocco, 240 km south of Casablanca, and serves as a major economic center and tourist destination. It was a nice sunny day for a day trip by train and I was joined by my friend, Normand, and his colleague who were working from Casablanca for a week. We opted for first class (about $21 CAD) that assured us a seat assignment so that we could seated together. First class has compartments that have 6 seats, the second class compartments seat up to 8 people (and $7 CAD cheaper). This was no frills for the 3 1/2 hour journey, an attendant happened by a few times with a cart of sandwiches and bottles of water and juice. The pano shot below at the Casablanca train station shows the new infrastructure construction for the first high-speed trains in Africa that will connect Tangier with Casablanca in 2018. The French-made double-decker TGVs will reach speeds of 200 miles per hour and will cut travel time by more than half — to just over two hours. This project has been highly controversial in Morocco, the government promoting that the trains will deliver wealth and prestige for the country. The opponents believe there are other higher priorities for the poor country of Morocco.
Upon arrival at the Marrakesh train station we were bombarded by taxi drivers who all refused to use their taxi meters, they would gouge us with a high fair to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square of Marrakesh, used by locals and tourists. So we walked instead, took us about 35 minutes to get to the medina (old city) entrance and then a short 5 minute walk to Jemaa el-Fnaa. We passed by a few snake charmers and a tooth puller and then sought out the highest restaurant with a great view and enjoyed a traditional tajine meal (that’s my friend Normand).
Just shortly after our arrival for dinner it was nearing sunset and off in the distance we could see the night market food stalls being set up. Jemaa el-Fnaa is a must see for its night market and entertainment which includes dancing-boys (Chleuh), storytellers, magicians, and a variety of peddlars. Unfortunately, we would not have time to engage with the night market as we had to catch the 7pm train back to Casablanca. I was here during my summer 2006 trip to Morocco, so it was truly a disappointment that Normand and his colleague would not experience the night market.
We spent the remaining time in the seemingly endless souk adjacent to Jemaa el-Fnaa.
The pathways and alleyways in and about the souk were very crowded and shared by bicycles and motor scooters. One has to be alert or else risk being hit! On one occasion I was panning my camera as a scooter passed by, but the driver abruptly stopped, got off his scooter, and motioned me to delete the photos from my camera. I kept calm and deleted the photos after which he got back on his scooter and continued on his way. Interestingly enough, I never felt that my personal safety was at risk, haha, but it was definitely quite a memory!
We had a snack at the train station and boarded the train for our return trip to Casablanca. Upon arrival we got an excellent rate from a guy that jokingly said he was an Uber driver so we hired him for the ride back to our hotel. We were a bit unsure at first, but after we got underway it was clear from his friendly chatter that he was a family man making some money, so we felt safe (as we sat among the kids toys in the back seat). A day trip to Marrakesh was a fun adventure and highly recommended for longer stays.