9 August 2006: The alarm clock started ringing from 08:30am. We started packing and I went to the parking with our suitcases to put them on the motorcycles. After I finished I went to the hotel’s cafeteria for a coffee before we start our journey. There Ploumisti told me that the Ibis Hotel in Marrakech was full, however there were many hotels there and shouldn’t be a problem to find one.
From the first time we entered the town, I realized how difficult is to drive in this city. There are 2 main problems. First, there is no sign (…and if it exists is written in Arabic language) and second the drivers’ behaviour. I have driven to many European countries, although I cannot compare this situation with them. Anyway, everyone is driving with his own rules and without paying attention to priorities. Many traffic lights are violated and attention is needed for anyone who wants to drive in this country.
At 10:00o clock in the morning we left from the hotel and we went to the gas station across the road to fill in our tanks. Likely for us there were signs for Ifrane, a small town, which is on our route so we followed them. The route is beautiful and passes through small olive plantations. We were driving upwards and we found more floras while we could handle the heat because of the altitude.
By reaching Ifrane I feel that I am not in Morocco any more but in the central Europe. Planes and a lake make a physical scene, combined with the beautiful architectonic of the houses. There are many hotels there and the place looks like an oasis. The same things we met at our next destination at Azrou. The difference here is that the town is smaller in size with fewer floras. However, the town is clean while the stores look like the European ones.
We kept driving following the signs to Khenifra. The scene is different here. There are forests with planes and cedars and a big route passing next to fallow lands. The road is not so good so we cannot drive fast. Ploumisti started complaining that she was hungry so we decided to stop at the next village so as to eat something.
I didn’t hold the name of the village as we entered and when I looked in the map I couldn’t find it. The houses have a yellow colour while their face looks to the road. We try to find a place to eat and we found one outside the bus station. Outside the restaurant there are some children playing around. As we were looking at the menu what to eat a guy outside wave to me and told me not to take my eyes from our motorcycles. Anyway, 2 children came to our table. The first one was curious about our presence there and the second one was sitting next to our motorcycles. He did not seem like a thief but I had my eye on him in case.
I started looking around and observing the people. They were many decades back from our society. Although, I am in a highland place I cannot feel the rakishness that I felt in other cities. I believed that the people here wouldn’t have been alienated by the money like the ones in the cities. The answer to this concern came when we were ready to depart. One child who happened to pass next to us with his mother approached us asking for money. His mother watched him doing that without any reaction. What impressed me was that they were “well-placed”. Anyway we left with destination to Beni-Mellal. The condition of the road was the same but we did not meet any heavy traffic.
What we met for first time was red soil. All the mountains around us were full in red soil giving a special attraction to the scene. The colours of the houses in the area were based on the red. It is impressing. The temperature has risen enough although we are on a high altitude. Next to the road there are children who wave to us with a big smile.
We arrived at Beni-Mellal and made a stop for a coffee. At the cafeteria that we sit they brought a can of water along with our coffee. This happened for the first time since the beginning of our trip. This means that either the owner has visited Greece or either the area has plenty of water to share. We discovered later on, that big canals where used to transfer the water from the mountain, while some children were playing with the water on a huge canal full in water. We decided to visit the Ouzoud water falls although the route to there would add more kilometres to our trip.
We made a turn at the node which is 22km after Beni-Mellal to Afoufer and Azilal. The uphill route has a narrow road with many turnings. From this spot we have a panoramic view of the area, which is magnificent. While we are in a forest with cedars we find at our right a river and far away a tunnel, where below it there is a dam. The signs that exist there forbid the photographs and confirm the existence of the dam. Before the tunnel we passed above the dam having the ability to view this manmade lake. The soldiers there wave to us friendly.
We did not take any photos until we were far away from this facility. The road from there rises up sharply, while the cool wind confirms our assumption that we are in a high altitude. According to the map we were at 1500metres above the sea level. After a few km we reach at Azilal. The town is dressed in red colour and probably is the command centre of the area and the base of operations for whoever wants to wander in the area. We stopped in a gas station and in front of us where French jeeps with red soil all over them.
We continue our ride fast for the water falls. The node for the Cascades d’Ouzoud is almost 22km and from there another 20km for the parking. The road ends outside a hotel where some people try to makes us use their parking by waving to us. Anyway, we found a parking and we moved on to the highest spot to see the water falls.
Actually, this stop was worth it. The water, falls from 110metres and gathered in a small lake. Next to the lake there are 2-3 cafe and restaurants. Many people use the stairs to go down to the lake. We find out that down there, there are caves but we need 2 hours to explore them. Anyway, since we did not have so much time to loose we only took some photos.
We returned to our motorcycles and we gave 10dihram to the parking and left for Marrakech. The route has the same style as the previous ones. The positive thing is that we did not find any traffic so we were able to drive fast. At Tamelelt-el-Kdima we found the main road which connects Beni-Mellal with Marrakech. From this spot and on the road becomes wider but with more traffic. I started to feel tired and hungry. It is the first time for me that I did so many km with so many turnings, on roads with bad condition and high temperatures.
At 21:00pm we finally entered in Marrakech. We use the map as a guide to find cheap hotels in the area, next to medina so as to be able to visit it until late every day. Again someone on a motorcycle came and provided his help but we ignored him. In the beginning we chose the “Le Grand Imilchil” hotel but it was full. For our luck there was a room-from a cancellation- at the hotel “Akabar” (Av. Echouhada -Q.Hivernage) next to it. So we parked our motorcycles, put our stuff to the room and directly left for the Medina and the famous square Djemaa-el-Fna.
On foot we entered the main gate and we followed the road “Ave Mohammed V” which leads to the “Koutoubia” Square where the mosque is located. The route is only 15 minutes on foot. There, I was impressed by the amount of the people in the area. It was a fiesta! There were steak houses, barbeques, and the smell of the cooked foods attracted me to eat although I said to myself not to try junk food. We sat on the first table that we found empty sits. Let me describe you the situation. At the centre of the square there are numbered steak houses and barbeques and among them there are stands where you sit to eat. The only certain thing is that you will sit among strangers if you want to eat something.
There are people that try to attracted you to sit to their store by holding high the menus and speak any foreign language they know-or better by using any word they know in any foreign language. Anyway, we sat on a table where next to us there was a big family. Ploumisti ordered couscous while I wanted to eat chicken kabob. I said to the waitress “sistaouk” but he did not understand me. Anyway, we finally communicate and he brought us 2 plates with salad alike the Mediterranean ones and a bowl with olives before the main dishes.
After a while I realized that the family next to us started to mutter to the owner and spotting our side. In the beginning I thought that they were asserting because he put us next to them. Then they started fighting with the owner. After a while a couple of locals came and sat next to us and Ploumisti asked them what the family was arguing about. They told us that they were arguing because their salad was musty whereas ours was fresh. Anyway, the food was tasty-although it was junk -but it did not had something impressing.
We finished our food and we left for a walk so as to see what is going on in the square. In the area you could see, dancers, musicians, boxing games and women who made tattoos among other things. Marrakech is different than Fes. It is more developed and makes you feel more secure. The people there stay up until late. The women there either they wore their veils or they wore clothes alike to European ones. This is another town that has been influenced by European life style. Having in our minds the next day we decided to return to our hotel and sleep while the time was almost 01:00am.