Yes, today we were officially rocked by the kasbah! We are on holiday – finally – in Marrakesh, Morocco. First time in Africa, the closest I have been before was southern Spain, but Morocco is a whole different ball game. It’s hot, sweaty, dirty, smelly, slightly intimidating but so interesting, full of activity and action. After not much sleep at the Luton Airport hotel, we caught our 6:30am flight and arrived at Marrakesh airport around 9am, followed by an hour in a queue in the hot and humid passport control area. We were got away somewhat scammed by the taxi that took us to our hotel, charging only double what they should have. We alighted at a square and phoned the hotel, who said they would send someone to find us. Meanwhile a man decided he would be our guide, although we said we had one coming. Even when the real guide turned up, the other man continued to lead the party, looking as important and official as possible. After turning a few corners in the winding red plastered alleyways of ever decreasing size, we were joined by a woman. Barely a word was spoken, but we proceeded in state, accompanied by our increasing entourage, until we were cheek by jowl in the narrowest alley of all. Justin thought we’d be mugged, I was making mental Hansel and Gretel crumb trails to remember the path. Eventually we reached a tiny wooden door in the wall and the woman led us inside revealing her role as one of our hosts – and we stumbled inside with the clamour for a tip from our guides ringing in our ears. Yes we did give them one, which rankled, surely it’s part of the service? Anyway since then we’ve been accosted by many many many people trying to be our guides, and I am quite proud of how good we have become at getting rid of them. Even to the point of walking confidently in any direction to give the impression we know where we’re going. This city is the most confusing place in the world, we have a map but it’s useless, as there are about three street names written on it, and most of the streets don’t have names on them anyway. I think we have spent about 90% of our time here lost. Mostly that’s ok as we don’t really have anywhere to be at any particular time, although it was kind of annoying to spend the entirety of this afternoon walking through the streets of the Kasbah trying to find the Bahia Palace, only to realise once we’d actually left the city limits that we’d been going in completely the wrong direction. Two hours and three sets of directions from random people in the street later, and we found the Saadian Tombs where we’d set out from, and thence the Palace, about 10 minutes walk away. It was closed. Early, for Ramadan. Not in the guidebook, nor on the map we had which stated other early closing times. However we had a decent sightseeing day, we went to the Ben Youssef Medersa (religious centre of learning) from the 16th century, and the Koubba baths which serviced the mosque nearby, dating from the Almorovid empire of the 11th century. We’ve also spent quite a bit of time wandering (lost) through the Souks in the old medina – these are markets on a grand scale. Tiny winding alleys with timber slat or palm frond roofs giving a dappled light to the stalls below, full of wares in large shops, small stalls, or tiny cupboards in walls stashed to the ceiling with goods. Glinting lanterns, embroidered slippers in every colour, polished chess-sets, clothing, carpets, woven baskets, pet tortoises, fresh mint, preserved olives, ceramic tagines, mountains of spices, jewellery, everthing for sale. Absolutely amazing, vivid colours, noise, movement. Yet as it’s Ramadan, stall holders shut around 5, then there is a manic hustle and bustle as they buy mounds of dates and fresh khoubz bread and rush home to break the fast, followed around 7 by the chorus of muezzin from every mosque signalling prayer time. Then they’re back out to Djema el Fna, the main square, to sell, eat, and entertain. I don’t approve of everything in the main square – monkeys on leads and snake charmers’ cobras probably don’t lead great lives – but it’s certainly very exotic and interesting to watch the action. We’re back at the Riad (guesthouse) now, on the roof terrace to catch the evening breeze and get a bit less hot and sticky, lazing on a long banquette with mounds of cushions. Life is so hard! Well it’s a long awaited holiday so we’ll make the most of it. Off to Fez tomorrow.