Snapshots of Marrakech

***6th October 17:34hrs: am not leaving till Saturday, but felt obliged to write something about travel right now since it sounds more like Snapshots of Morocco…

The plane arrives at Agadir airport and I hadn’t realised Agadir airport was so far from Marrakech – about 250km. The journey is three and a half hours! The BA website didn’t give the option of other airports…

Moroccans apparently have a novel form of taxi travel: grande taxis which are relatively cheap, as you have to wait for six bods to make up the full complement thus sharing the cost. You can of course opt to pay for a grande taxi all by yourself… which I may do as it is about the right UK price. What is more annoying is having to take a taxi from the airport to the taxi station in the city prior to even getting on a grande taxi! We’ll see… but I can’t breathe a word of that to Ma or she’ll fret.

***10th October 15:25hrs
Emails to, but not from the Imperial Borj (hotel I am staying at in Marrakech). The hotel rang me saying they had emailed but were worried because from my emails it was obvious I had not received theirs. They then rang again the following day to confirm the taxi would be waiting at Agadir. So that’s given me a nice warm feeling!

Finally decided to pay higher price because if Agadir/Morocco is anything like Egypt and Tunisia, it’ll be hellish when I arrive, with multiple bossy men clamouring for trade. Even if I manage to get on a taxi easily, I’ll feel tense, with some strange bloke, for three and a half hours. I reckon the double price is worth some peace of mind. Plus they aren’t rich so it’ll be my form of tithing.

I am finding it difficult to relax because of Sarah’s baby… and Morocco isn’t a country where you can light candles.

***19:44hrs
Unbelievable. Abluted and packed, I’ve locked the damned case with my usual numbers and now the blasted thing won’t open! I’ll have to break it open at the hotel and concern myself about replacement thereafter. Right, glass of wine and read… more when I get back.

***11th October Gatwick Airport/North Terminal
Arrived much too early. Swapped camera I had bought on previous visit for perfume and hairstuff. Also bought deodorant, Diocalm, paper, Vitamin C capsules and watch for swimming.

Bloke laughing hysterically and loudly, like he’s auditioning for a horror film.

Dreadful “service” in Garfunkels where I went to get some breakfast. The waiters looked at you without acknowledging you, then walked off in the opposite direction or continued their private conversation. They had the cheek to say they were busy. I even got a bent plastic fork. Left 2p to register disgust which the Eastern European waiter held up to show to his colleague, saying really loudly, look what she’s left. I was not remotely embarrassed and merely told him that if he provided a good service he would have got a good tip. Heaven’s knows what that other client left, since he kept repeating out loud, any chance of getting served some time today?

Went into Lloyds Café Bar for another coffee as the flight has been delayed nearly two hours!!! Well-spoken bloke told me I was sensible. He was drinking a whole bottle of white wine (this was way before lunch). Transpires he too was using up his air miles – to Mexico. His came through Delta Airlines and expired after two years. Neither my British Airways miles nor the Air Miles miles expire but I just thought I’d get them out of the way.

Supervisor in World Shop who swapped the camera, told me he had forgotten his case combination … and spent hours going through every possible permutation till he got it in the mid-300s! Like I can see me doing THAT.

Took chance getting Moroccan Dirhams – not allowed to take them into or out country. They could get confiscated. However I need to pay the taxi driver. If he’s still waiting.

Will possibly just sit by pool reading rather than doing culture-vulture thing … tea at La Mamounia? I’m not really a holiday person, and have taken work with me: Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, Writing Articles from the Heart… and hoping to write a series of short articles while I am there, if something catches my creativity.

*** On flight at last:
Nothing on Executive Club website about stopping at Marrakech BEFORE Agadir. Am not a happy bunny as they won’t let you off and that taxi driver may be waiting too. Plus a MASSIVE woman is sitting beside me. There is actually a seat in between us but you’d never know as she has requisitioned it with an equally large handbag.

Barely 5 minutes seated and there is a very loud walrus bark. No cough I’ve ever heard before, not sustained. Just loud one-off barks. Yes it’s my neighbour. And she’s wearing the most appalling perfume. She has asthma, so I try to think kind thoughts. Very challenging. Have two of those mini bottles of wine – pre and during dinner. After several of these loud barks, I ask her if she could possibly be a little quieter. Believe me it is so loud other people are turning round – and I have it right next to me! She does.

Follow her out to loo, and she coughs “normally” in the loo, a bit like Dad, so I send her healing light. On the way to the loo, I do some leg flexing exercises. A woman in an aisle seat eyes me strangely, unsmiling. I joke that it’s to get the blood flowing. Her male companion puts his hand on her arm and tells me she’s panic-stricken about flying. I stroke her arm and tell her she’ll be fine because I’m on the flight and my God doesn’t want me yet. Am rewarded with very big smile from both.

My big neighbour really does have a crackingly loud bark. Even tuning up doesn’t seem to stop it from shocking me as it seems to happen just as there is a relaxing lull. Plus it is a single bark and not a sustained cough one can get used to. So no dozing off unfortunately.

The impatient (not with me) air hostess has just managed to slam her trolley into the head of some sleeping bloke. That also was LOUD. She keeps apologising but luckily for her, he doesn’t seem to mind. I joke about a compensation claim to my neighbour, and she replies that she’s okay as long as there is no blood.

The sun is so magical this high. Despite the plane’s judderings, it feels like another world, peaceful and bright and full of promise. Actually this plane is so full of very white mostly older faces, it is impossible not to remark on it. The exception is right at the very back of the plane by the loos. One very, very black billiard ball head, reading the Daily Express. Seem like middle-class Brits but are actually multi-European.

Arrive at Marrakech and have to wait approximately forty minutes while they clean the plane and let the new passengers on board. Transpires they are going back to Britain – via Agadir. Before they get on, it’s a bit like the old days of flying with multiple stops and a blitz spirit with the original passengers. Certainly lots of them are interested in my unique flying schedule. One woman tells me that maybe someone can share my taxi back to Marrakech.

Sure enough, in front of me is a chap who asks me how much I am paying and works out a one way half share of thirty euros – which he proceeds to give me. I agree but give him back his money till I have spoken with the taxi driver. I don’t want to get clobbered for a passenger…

The chap is a Danish maths teacher on hiking trip.

***Finally arrive at Agadir.
Taxi drivers are forbidden from entering the terminal so I thought I was stood up. However, he was waiting, smilingly, outside and the sun was shining. And he accepted the Dane with no extra charge. I requisitioned the thirty euros.

***Imperial Borj
What a terrible and extremely LONG car journey that was! Much longer than three hours, all curves, steep inclines and blind spots on a single carriageway through the Atlas Mountains.

Still I managed to speak a lot of French and the driver was a kindly chap. Despite terrifying overtaking techniques, I more or less felt safe. Told him about my car accident and he replied he had a five month old baby and he didn’t plan on leaving her alone!

I regret to say the Dane was very self-centred, never asking either of us a thing. He couldn’t speak French (the main language along with Moroccan Arabic) so kept asking me questions about his hiking and hotel arrangements to translate as the driver didn’t speak English. Plus, five minutes into the journey, he starting eating a carrot! Quite apart from my feelings about people eating, he didn’t even offer us anything. He asked about some obscure hikers’ hotel although he planned to trek alone , without a guide, camping under the stars…

En route, we saw several goat herds who seemed extraordinarily content. The driver confirmed that, saying they were happy with food to eat, friends to chat with and a roof over their heads. And there is the so-called First World with money to burn and every material comfort, with extraordinary levels of stress and lack of fulfilment.

We stopped for a quick snack as the driver had left Marrakech at 9am to meet me and then had been hanging around the outside of the airport terminal for another couple of hours for my delayed flight….!

Finally got to the hotel and forgot to ask for a receipt as the charming driver suddenly toughened up – not with me – but with the demanding Dane. I didn’t even look back to see what they were going to arrange. It was late and I was very tired.

The receptionist who was on duty, despite a fixed smile, was a miserable so and so, and proved to be so for the entire stay. The others were fine. He practically bit my head off when I asked for an iron. No, we do the laundry here. Great well get my clothes ironed then.

The chap who took my luggage up, then took me down into the bowels of the hotel to get it opened (after I’d had a quick meal in the restaurant). He showed pathetic gratitude when I let him keep the (broken) case. Said he had a baby and his wife needed to carry things around and it would be perfect. I also gave him the freebie one I got from Dolce and Gabbana with the perfume. He was sharp enough to ask me to write and sign a note saying I had given them to him and he had not stolen them…

Distinctly unimpressed with British Airways. Didn’t realise from the website that Marrakech was a drop off to Agadir. Sunday plans will start with changing my flight to make sure I can depart from here and not have to drive all the way back to Agadir!

The first thing I did when I got into the bedroom was smell the bed. The carpet was rather shabby but thankfully, everything else seemed to be clean and spacious.

***12th October 6am
The hotel might look 5 star from the outside, and be in a 5 star location, but it has that shabby feel very similar to Tunisia. It’s Moroccan 5 star. If I ever venture into the Middle East again, I’ll choose a chain like the Sheraton or Le Meridien or Sofitel. At least the quality is reasonably guaranteed.

Because of the so-called upmarket location, there is nothing nearby except other upmarket hotels. It’s a bit like a quiet Belgravia street. On the plus side, the guide books exaggerate the need for guides. According to both the taxi driver and my grateful bag carrier, it is safe and I will not get lost in the souks.

***later
The TV is about 300 years old and the remote control is so manky, I’m surprised there is any life in it. Every time I use it, I have to get up and wash my hands. You can’t even read the buttons….however, there are loads of clean towels and the bed smells clean. There is also a wonderful power shower and plentiful hot water. After the sweaty Tunisian 4-star bed, I couldn’t bear to be depressed with the same here. But, like I said, middle-eastern 5-star is generally meaningless.

Moaned about the BBC in Krakow – here they don’t get a look in. It’s CNN and it makes BBC World look fantastic. It’s truly bad.

***Same day nearly 10:00hrs (10:45 UK-time Sunday)
Sitting in glorious sunshine in La Mamounia, drinking mint tea. Utterly peaceful, beautiful gardens. Birds singing their own hymns, quite unlike the usual gossipy chirping. All for 35 dirhams. About £3. It is only later that I get a surfeit of richbods sensation.

Already been to airport. While I changed my departure airport, the taxi driver waited, then took me to the Centre Commercial as the souks were not yet open. Bought another case, bag (Burberry copies) and soft dual colour leather jacket for very good price indeed. Some nerves paying with credit card, but as they kept pointing out, it was electronic with no zip zaps involved. They found my concerns amusing, all except one who looked slightly miffed that I should think that of their shop. And that is the thing about Moroccans. They do want you to find them honest. If you think they are pulling a fast one, they will say, well what do you want to pay?

Marrakech is heaving with Frenchies. We Brits self-flagellate about our past colonialising, but forget the French and the Belgians swarming all over Africa, to name but one overseas territory. Despite Morocco being an Islamic country, with Friday as their day of rest, all official buildings are closed on a Sunday, as well as some shops. The souks open later in the day.

Tomorrow I am hoping to go to Fez which is a preserved city.

Books and writing make great companions in the absence of the two-legged variety. Thankfully, the indigenous people are not a pongy lot as air conditioning is rare. They also do not pester, which is even better. Apparently, they will go to prison if caught, as tourism is their number one industry. Number two is film-making – more of which later.

Non, merci works fine and Bonjour to workers ensures civilised smiles and nothing more. Sattin says Moroccans have a “wall mentality”, suspicious of strangers – not in my experience so far. All a very welcome change from Krakow.

Eleven o’clock, back in my hotel, sitting by the pool, as I cannot find a caleche. God knows why I am rushing around so much. Had pleasurable butterflies when I asked God to be my companion –as if the Big E was thrilled to be asked.

***2:45pm Back by pool.
I’m not really a holiday person despite Ma asking me why I was “taking all these holidays” (to use up my air miles!). I have to be up and doing something. Then I get satiated with culture or ethnic diversity and yearn to hear even estuary English.

Anyway I greatly enjoyed the caleche trip (a two-horse-drawn barouche) round the old town of Marrakech. I’m still flabbergasted that two horses could get into such tiny alleyways… all jostling with people, motorbikes and the occasional large car. Amazing. Talk about being “in your face”.

It was also quite sufficient for seeing the souk. I asked him to leave me in the Djemaa el-Fna, which is their busy market place. Had lunch on an upper terrasse – vegetable couscous and nothing to write home about. La Place as it is also known gets hectic later in the evening, but this was enough for me. I started to get nauseous with the discordant sounds and multi-coloured sights and headed back to the Imperial Borj… which is where I now am – waiting fifteen minutes to get the waiter’s attention!

Unspectacular avocado salad with artichokes and a sorbet, with the pool to myself. Which is rather nice except I am too shy to get in. My bod looks good in a bikini, but unfortunately my swimming skills leave a lot to be desired.

Have finally managed to get name of the chap who rang me re taxi (Shaqib). He’s still not on duty and I keep getting the grumpy one. Tried asking about tours as well as the receipt for the taxi. He doesn’t just answer, he gets hyper so I am trying to avoid him.

***17:15hrs
Shaqib is now on duty but seems extraordinarily vague about group tours. Says I won’t like them. Says Fez is eight hours drive away. Says he has another single woman who he wants me to go with. Says she’s American and big. Sounds fun.

Having a little giggle… and it’s not the vodka and tonic. A little earlier, annoyed because I couldn’t get the concierge here to find out what tours are available, I marched off to La Mamounia. Teams of security men were stopping people going through. Head bouncer started to cross-examine me, except I wasn’t in the mood for more prats and said I’d been there earlier and wished to speak with the concierge and was he the concierge. No? In that case let me through…. and he did. The expression on his face was utterly priceless…

The security was for the FIFA conference being hosted.

Anyway, no Fez. It really is about eight hours drive away. In fact, most of the really interesting places are a good few hours drive from Marrakech. Here is good for sun, souks and lots of eating. Which of course is ideal for many. For singletons, it is a little trying. I’m lucky that I can talk to an ant if need be – and indeed I just have. It was scurrying around on the table and I blew it gently away from my plate. Except it thought it knew better and headed at max speed back in the same direction – straight over the edge of the table, splotted down right onto the marble floor. I swear to God, its limbs were splayed out like a cartoon character, though with zilch chance of another life. Daft bugger!

Riads are hotel/restaurants which offer the best of both 5 star cultures, apparently. May try and check them out tomorrow. They are in the Medina, small, hip and often luxurious.

They really are a very good-natured and forgiving bunch. Women can feel safe – even if bored!

***7:15hrs pm
Jane, room 309 or 307. Introduced by Shaqib. She’s English. 5’2” and a really strange shape. Huge up top, tapering down to a point. A bit like a toad standing upright. Her hair is cut short on the top then you notice it is flowing behind past her shoulders. A bit like a hairy root vegetable. Very bossy but I seem happy enough to be bossed around.

She does not want to go to Essouria, my choice, about 3 hours drive, so we agree on her choice of Ourika Valley (2 hours), including a Berber village. It costs 400 dhs each. She’s been at a sales conference at the Sofitel and has moved to a cheaper hotel to stay on for a couple more days. Shaqib got her almost right so he either asks a lot of questions or she told him her life history. God knows what he told her about me! We’re off at 09:30 tomorrow.

***13th October 08:30hrs
Strange dreams: Electric-fence, modern-style but with Auschwitz-Birkenau feel. Robert Carlyle as Hitler. Another man. My love? We have an unspoken need to be together; rather than we will be together. Very well-spoken English, but like the chap from the dream of last week, he too has Germanic-feel.

***waiting
Today my jaw aches. I’m seriously bored… and CNN doesn’t help. It’s diabolically uninteresting. Right now we have a very long interview with some bods called Siegfried and Roy from – wait for it – September 3rd 1999! One could be forgiven for thinking one is in a time warp. Dreadful. Have finally switched it off as I couldn’t even doze with it on. Am not really looking forward to today and am still hacked off at lack of organised tours. Shaqib has assured me our guide of today is excellent and really understands far more than a mere organised tour guide and will give us the personal touch…. on va voir.

Asking the concierges here for anything is like drawing blood from a stone.

By the way, the 5 star fridge is empty. It doesn’t even look like it’s ever been switched on. The 5 star is probably because of the spaciousness. I certainly cannot fault that. This is certainly a big, airy place.

I am probably not doing justice to this form of tourism. Djemaa el-Fna is a Unesco “Immaterial Heritage of Mankind”. Must admit that a mass of humanity, snake charmers, acrobats, singers, alongside market stalls and passing vendors, fortune tellers etc etc is definitely my idea of hell. In fact, yesterday’s early afternoon session is still vibrating in my brain even now.

***11.45 Ourika Valley
It’s pissing down with rain and utterly freezing. Our ‘excellent’ guide speaks a mere handful of French and no English. On the drive down, his excellent guiding consisted of saying Berber, Berber anytime we passed something remotely resembling Berber culture – of which they are inordinately proud. Anything else he says is totally incomprehensible. Complete silence when we pass anything that might be of interest. In contrast Jane has verbal diarrhoea for half the journey.

Jane was determined to go for a walk (“to get my money’s worth”) and see the waterfall and so she has – in the freezing, pouring rain. I think she thinks I am a party pooper but I am wearing utterly ridiculous gear, for a sunny day, not a rainy, freezing one, so tough shit. Plus she managed to annoy me right from the off. As I waited in the lounge, she appeared at the right time, only to say she was going off to the bank. I got into the campervan and sat on one of the seats. There were plenty of empty ones.

She returned and sat her bulk next to me with a very ugly foot up on the seat in front. She said she hoped I didn’t mind as she preferred sitting there. I initially moved next to the ugly foot but then decided to sit in a seat behind.

In fact I am writing this still sitting there, desperate to go for a pee because I am so cold. The driver asks me if I want some tea but I explain I need the ladies. He tells me it is not “propre” so I have to wait for Her Ladyship to get back. I’m kicking myself for forgetting to bring a shawl.

En route here we stopped to visit a Berber house … early-Ammappati in style without the cow smells. Five generations live there according to one of the sons who spoke excellent English. He was a bit defensive about the desire to have satellite TV, and other mod cons, so I was a bit loathe to believe that he actually did live there. Left big tip. Jane doesn’t like tipping but I made her feel guilty so she left something small.

Finally did get pestered by modern Berber chap wanting me to buy beads. He got a bit aggressive so I got back into the campervan. He was still making moon eyes through the window.

It’s pity it’s raining so much because this does look like it could be an attractive and popular spot. There are many many outdoor tables with large spaces for parking. But it’s hardly the luxe environment that the guide books intimate. It’s a mountain village, extended somewhat, that is home to a whole community. As an extra, it has all these indigenous cafes and even hotels for the hikers and hippies. Heavens knows where they buy clothes since I was prepared to get a jacket and have seen nothing remotely resembling a shop.

The driver has just earned his stripes. He asked one of his mates for a clothes shop and has just driven me down to some blocked up buildings – the shop! A man came out from another “shop” and opened up his. Not a shop as we would know it though it was indeed crammed with clothes. I spotted something yellow which turned out to be a fake yellow V-neck Lacoste jumper for men. And bought it. 70dhs – apprx £5. Ah the warmth! I think I smiled for the first time in hours.

I gather they close up everything when it rains. Well it is technically a “dead end”. We literally have to turn round and drive back down the way we came. The only things they sell are clay pots and the odd knick-knack… Ourika Valley is indeed a most odd place. The road is exceptionally narrow with shops and houses on one side and wooden cabins or stone houses nestling into the mountain on the other. The cascade or waterfall is not visible from the road and in one instance has totally dried up. But they are a friendly bunch.

My yellow jumper is like a comfort blanket. But it amuses me to see how these poor people like their labels. The “Burberry” and now the “Lacoste”. I only got them because they fitted a need – a suitcase without a bloody combination lock and a warm brightly-coloured jumper. Actually, if anything, I’m rather concerned that the “Burberry” does not look real as it might attract thieves at the airport. Will do inventory just in case and keep leather jacket with me.

Kids returning home from school for lunch. Look just like small kids anywhere – jeans, jackets, trainers, rucksacks – perhaps not chasing a donkey – but playful and serious, sociable and alone.

***18:45hrs
We stopped for lunch at a hilltop restaurant and had a very good lunch. Jane, who came back wet and dirty (she had fallen over on the wet rocks), seemed a bit more interested in me enough to ask again about my name. She told me about the film people she had met at the Saadi hotel and also the Sofitel. The driver dropped us off at Le Meridien so we could ask if it was possible to get a day pass to Alexander the Great.

No. Apparently the Moroccan Army is involved and security is very tight. Plus it is two hours drive away in the desert. Had tea together at the Sofitel.

Jane is very persuasive as I not only walked to the Menara Gardens (boring and not much to see) with her, but am prepped ready to walk to Boule de Neige this evening. Trouble is I truly want to be home again. However friendly these Moroccans are, with the exception of one grumpy concierge, I don’t think I gel much with the general ambience. And, after those true 5 star hotels, this now seems shabbier than ever, although they have now filled the mini-bar.

Jane keeps asking about my metaphysics. Well more like arguing – like Marianne. I show this to her because she says she is a Scorpio and I say so is Marianne. I also said I didn’t want to discuss it but she said she was actually interested, so I don’t want to let God down if she is truly genuine….

***October 14th 10:15am
Sitting in another hotel (Jardin de la Koutoubiere) which looks a little like a riad but isn’t. I have been walking for miles to “sweat off” the horrid towel but road names are non-existent so it truly is a voyage of discovery.

Re towel: they have been replaced every day even if not used and today the maid “replaced” my clean one with one that someone else had used to wipe their arse. Yuk. As they were folded neatly on the rail, I didn’t notice till AFTER my shower. V unhappy and cross but today’s maid said it was someone else and cleaned room, bath, replaced towels. I re-showered but two hours later am still trying to clear the memory from my mind.

After Jane’s awful choices – Boule de Neige was nothing like Time Out’s amusing description – she let me make a choice. Begrudgingly. BTW Boule de Neige was in the Gueliz district. Very western-style, busy, commercial – could be almost anywhere in continental Europe.

Following instincts, I found a relatively new place called Costa Smeralda. Excellent location and design and good, plentiful food. Pity we were the only diners. The waiter said, it differed from day to day and that locals usually ate from 10pm but with Ramadan approaching and the end of the tourist season, things had started slowing down. Still we had a nice natter. Jane’s family were in the arts and her father married three times. She is from the second marriage. Her older half-brother was blown up in his plane at Shoreham earlier this year. I vaguely remember it being on Meridien News. She’s sorting out his estate.

On our promenade of the “new” town, we passed a music show in aid of Morocco’s bid for football world cup in 2010. They are also building a lot more hotels just outside the “ramparts”.

Tourism is their primary source of income, followed very closely by film-making – Alexander the Great, The Sheltering Sky, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down not to mention “Casablanca” (the romance of as it was probably shot in studios!) Next year Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif are in Epic of Gilgamesh and there is also another Ridley Scott film: Kingdom of Heaven – about the Crusades. Plus Tony Scott is making a film of the life of Emma McCune. In fact, they would probably make loads of moolah if they just organised film site tours. Mark you, some of the sites are fairly unremarkable. La Mamounia had hired out one of its “portes” in the pink walled ramparts to Alexander the Great. Sure it looks relatively antique, but just the door???

Just a thought as I am typing this up: the Scott brothers’ films concern Islam versus Christianity so it may not be a good time to visit next year. Al-Qaeda bombs killed 45 in Casablanca in May of this year too.

I’m glad our hotel is nothing special as it has forced me to get out and see more. I am going for a promenade, having re-showered post-yukky towel, and Jane is doing her thing this morning. We loosely agreed to meet by the pool afternoonish.

***Later
Went circuitous route to Djemaa el-Fna, through riad Zitounel Kedun, Palais el Badi, the Saadian Tombs before I got a tad bored and asked someone the way. He told me I was going the wrong way and then asked me if I wanted to buy some spices. As it happens I did want to get some Ras-el-Hanout (a melange of about thirty spices). I’d already bought two pairs of babouches from the Souk de la Babouche but wasn’t in a spending sort of mood. I let him show me the spice shop as he said he owned it. Naughty fibber! He was an unofficial guide. Only discovered it when I spotted a restaurant I wanted to eat at. He came up with me and when I was in the loo, told the owner we were companions and that he would be eating with me! They can be clapped in irons for less but happily he had been told to push off by the owner.

The delicious aubergine puree which was part of a moroccan “salad” starter was slightly spoiled for me when I discovered that it was a teeny part of a massive set of courses for £30. I had specifically told him, demonstrating with my flat stomach, that I did not eat very much. I thought they were bringing them to show me what I was missing. I got cross. They got cross. But it blew over in seconds. One of them said I could have what I’d eaten for free but I refused and paid them 150dhs (inc large bottle of water). I was just relieved to get out. Made straight for a cop to avoid being caught again by the unofficial guide. I had been going the right way the last time but decided to hike round the outer ramparts and head for “home”. The nice cop thought I was mad. I said the English are mad.

Got Marianne’s text message while I was in the restaurant but I couldn’t seem to text her back so I called. They are still v sad re Sarah. Am praying that she will let baby live. I do miss my family.

***14:30 poolside waiting for Jane
Just one other couple. No Jane.
***16:30 Hotel El-Saadi – by their pool
Much nicer in every way. And more expensive, busier, more people, though they do look rather decrepit. Had an omelette and then headed back after about an hour. Walking to lift, heard keys jangling. It went on and on, so I looked round and it was Jane, trying to get my attention. Lord knows why I didn’t sock her then and there. Instead, she told me once again the arrangements, said is that okay with you, and then let the lift door close before I could open my mouth.

I wrote “she evidently has a problem with short-term memory…” I also wrote that the more I think of it the more I want to go alone somewhere. Meaning not with her. I had even packed ready for home despite the flight not leaving till the following evening. (My journal notes are full of pondering what I should do, what time to leave the hotel etc including this gem “Do I want to spend my last night alone or with some overweight woman with a peculiar haircut who rattles her keys to get my attention? She loses. I’m not a dog, for heaven’s sake.”)

***7pm La Mamounia
Table booked in L’Orangerie for 8pm. Enjoying vodka and tonic and feeling calmer. Anyway Jane did not want to spend any money and I wanted a fine meal. Plus she changed the arrangements without letting me know – I waited by the poolside for a couple of hours!

Delicious meal in outside restaurant. Only one sad star though. Plenty of attentive waiters. In fact, one waiter tells me that normally the sky is full of them but tonight, just for me, there is one. No, I didn’t buy that either but the thought was sweet. Especially since a humourless couple of German women sat adjacent to me and proceeded to find fault with absolutely everything. And I mean everything. On the other side of the column were two attractive men but I’d never have got a look in there ?… the older man was definitely trawling.

My princely two course meal with wine and true 5 star ambience came to £35. Not bad at all. As I leave, one of the women finds a fly in her meal…

Can’t bear the thought of going back to my hotel so wander back via the Sofitel. Cognac under at least three stars. There’s a team meal in the restaurant so I sit in the upper terrace. It is very quiet indeed, but I can’t complain as the alternative is Djemaa el-Fna or similar. The waiter is interested in the book I am reading (Straw Dogs). He seems to be interested in theology and philosophy. All the Moslems I have spoken to have been quite happy with my personal beliefs as I seem to refer to God a lot.

***20 to 11 – A middle-eastern chap says hello and chats for a moment. Oddly, he is the owner of the restaurant where I had the delicious aubergine! He says, if it’s okay with his friends, would I like to join them. Sure, why not.

Taking out some money to pay the metaphysical waiter, I rip a 100dhs note. I tell him if he can get it sellotaped he can have half! He comes back out with euros (which I had given him by accident in the dim lighting – and let him keep) and asks me what I think of the singer. To be perfectly honest I had not really noticed but followed him into the piano bar as the restaurateur’s friends must not have wanted other company. Not bothered as the chap singing is actually quite good. He looks like a slimmer version of Barry White and is singing his songs plus Bob Marley (not such a good rendition according to my earlier notes) and others. The pianist is Eastern European, very good but very intense.

After their gig is finished, they come over and sit with me. The singer is a black American Yank who has left Florida, converted to Islam and married a Moroccan Moslem girl. Says he’s blissfully happy now. The younger boy is Armenian Russian Jew, converted to Islam – and not happy although he keeps saying he is.

They write their email addresses in my jotter: axxxxxr70@yahoo.com and txxxxxxg79@hotmail.com – Wxxxey Axx Oxxxx and Vxxxxx Gxxxxxxxn and Aziz the waiter.

***02:30am – finally in bed
What a wonderful evening. Ali and Vartan also talked of their faith and what brought them to work together at the Sofitel. I told them they were obviously soulmates as they balanced each other very well.

The only blot was a message waiting for me – a very rude one from Jane. I slowly ripped it up and gave it back to the night concierge. [My jotter notes are full of the stupid fat lump with a stupid fat brain variety followed by a Sorry God, sending love and light to her. And I was supposed to be pissed!]

***15th October 08:00hrs
Karmic retribution is a massive hangover – and thinking Mme Mim (wicked wicked wicked thought but truly that is what she looks like) had long gone to catch her flight. She hasn’t. She’s sitting by the pool…

***Later
Well that was very very childish – and I managed to not enjoy brekky. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if she’d come in and accost me but she didn’t. And I saw her again as she was checking out, desperately hoping she hadn’t seen me… How silly. We barely know each other, simply sharing one tour of her choice, plus one meal, of my choice.

***1:45pm – Marrakech Airport
Even with a detour to the Centre Artisanat and a fairly leisurely drive to the airport via a tour of the town, I have HOURS to kill. And they don’t check in luggage early so I am stuck in what is a relatively primitive terminal. The taxi driver tried his hardest to make it stretch out but here I am and check in is at 6pm!!! I overpaid the taxi driver because he had been so engaging when I refused his earlier fee. He said whatever makes you happy and meant it. When I told him I had been madly overtipping and buying stuff I did not want in order to boost the Moroccan economy, he said God would bless me ten thousand-fold. Bloody well hope so – although truly that is not why I did it. Moroccan men really are very charming and not aggressive although they are not pushovers either – as the Dane found out.

Had pedicure and hand massage before leaving Imperial Borj (another planned time-waster). The chap who did my hand (Reiki/massage) was very overweight and slightly effeminate but seemed a good egg. He told me afterwards that his gut sensed a massive energy in me which was good. Pleased to hear that. He came from a family of healers and said that he picked up that my “thoughts were bigger than the world”. Madame Mim probably wouldn’t have agreed.

So – final views of Morocco? Really just Marrakech and Ourika Valley as I did not see Agadir, and the Atlas Mountains lack something in the dark. Reddish-pink. Friendly. Safe. Cheeky curious kids. Dreadful concept of 5 star. As cheap as Krakow. Lots of Frenchies, many of them like our worst Brits, including this blessed woman heading towards me with her fag, looking for a “cendrier” – and then stubbing it out on the floor. Not a smelly place generally and that includes the men; and, scatologically-speaking, that end of things passed without nasal affront.

In the airport, I run out of dirhams and the shopkeeper says not to worry. Later, he asks me if I am hungry as he would have given me some more. I buy a Daily Mail for £2!!! And then, bliss, we can check in – but not get into the departure lounge for a further forty minutes…… then we discover they have messed up the seating. Instead of being in the front, I am in the equivalent of the boot. Not happy and ask to be moved. As do many others in the same position. I get moved to the front.

Sit next to Tia and her husband. She is very suspicious indeed and glares at me for a while before I crack open her interest and then it’s off… she’s interested in metaphysics and looping – and politics – v anti asylum seekers. She works for Pitney Bowes, her husband is retired but is a devout Catholic and they love Morocco. Have been here several times. So all end’s well… sort of.

I was terrified driving back as it was one o’clock in the morning. Combination of tiredness and fear of crashing meant I kept braking and driving at a crawl with the radio on full blast and the windows wide open. Got home round about two but it was about four before I fell asleep – to be awoken by Marianne ringing….

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