Marrakesh – Semi Finals

Tuesday morning and I was up at 7a.m. to catch the train to Marrakech. Unfortunately the exit door was locked. I knocked on the door next to me and after a few minutes a light came on and I was able to leave and catch the 7.45 a.m. train.

The train was packed, not surprisingly with lots of football supporters making an unexpected visit to Marrakech to see Real Madrid.

Arriving back in Marrakech I headed for Jemaa el-fna, the heart of the city. My accommodation was nearby, somewhere in the maze of alleyways that surround the market place.

Certain I was near, I gave in and asked someone for directions, they pointed to the sign they had been obscuring with “Casa del Sol”. Home!

I explored the alleyways further, upon taking one photo a gentleman stopped me and advised that this place was used in a Hitchcock movie. He did tell me which one, but I have forgotten already, but rest assured if I see it in the film you’ll hear me point it out.

I stopped to listen, and he offered to show me around, so I took him up and was introduced to a variety of craftsmen and street vendors. I asked him how I could get to the stadium, and he disappeared, asking me to wait. He had got me a lift there and back for 50 dirhams. He introduced me to a young man who was going to the game we agreed to meet at 16.00 We went to a Berber shop where traditional hand crafted clothes and goods were made.

The owner made a point of making me welcome with mint tea and saying I didn’t have to buy anything. But when I showed interest in a pair leather slippers he then said I would have to give him a price, as is traditional in Morocco. I declined saying that I wouldn’t want to offend him. He insisted and gave his price 550 dirhams (£42), he bartered with himself and brought the price down to 480. Eventually I gave in, as I could do with a pair and they would fit in my rucksack. “100 dirhams!” I had managed to offend him. He came down to 380.

I was ready to leave, but he still wanted to haggle. “150 (£11) my final offer”.

300, he said. I apologised that we couldn’t do a deal, but with a sad look on his face he agreed to my price.

Back for the meeting at 16.00 sure enough he was there, but he had some bad news. The person that was driving the car had just been involved in an accident and was in hospital!

I asked him if he was going to come with me, but the driver had his match ticket.

So I quickly set off to find out how to get to the stadium. There was no sign of any busses, so I asked some locals, if they were going to the game. They were. I asked if I could join them, and was invited along. They were going by taxi. They were asking taxi drivers for the price. 30 dirhams each…too much, they haggled until they got one for 20.

The four youths, were not locals, they were actually from Kenitra, less than an hour north of Rabat on the coast. They produced a Kenitra flag, and I told them that they lost at the weekend. Stunned by the fact that I knew about there team, they wanted to know more about what I was doing in Morocco. In the end they insisted on paying my taxi fare and arranged a meeting place for the way back.

The taxi dropped us off at least 2k from the ground, and we all wondered how all the people were going to fit in the stadium, as the tickets were for Rabat and the stadium in Marrakech.

My new friends had Tickets bought in Morocco and so were seated behind the goal, I was directed down the side.

Upon entering the ground I chose a seat not far from the half way line, the time was now 17.15 and there were over two hours till kick off. I noted that the ends of the main stand opposite looked like they were not going to be used.

Around me it got quite busy, and like Wydad on Sunday spectators packed the nearby aisles, yet large parts of the stadium were still not occupied. As the game kicked off I believe the stadium was just over half full – around 22,000. The official attendance given later was 35,000.

Once again arguments raged about people standing and spoiling the view of those seated, and predictably sporadic fights broke out.

After the match we all met up again and headed for our waiting taxi, somewhere ahead in the dark. After a long walk, sure enough the same taxi driver was waiting.

Two of my friends were going back to Kenitra tonight and the other two, Hamza and Ashraf were staying in Marrakesh.

Hamza invited me along to his house, so off I went. As they wouldn’t let me pay for the taxi I offered to take them for something to eat, I thought we had agreed this, but Hamza produced chicken and pasta! They played music and asked what I liked, I tried hard to find something they would know, but when the Red Hot Chilli Peppers drew blank looks I knew PJ Harvey or The Tindersticks were not going to be popular in Morocco.

Hamza was studying film and made his own music, on his computer. He was proud to play his own ambient soundtrack, he then went on to explain his love of water, and in particular the waves as he brought up a You Tube film on surfing.

As it was now approaching midnight I decided I should make my way home. I heard them talking and understood they would come with me and go for a drink. So I offered to take them for a coffee, they laughed! I found they were going for an alcoholic drink. So I went with them. The bar was situated at the top of a block of flats, with no stairs, just an elevator, with an attendant and two buttons G and 6.

I wasn’t sure where I was, Hamza pointed out the Koutoubia Mosque, which is right next to Jamaa el fna, in the distance.

The next day I arranged to meet Angelo and we had lunch before visiting the Saadian tombs. After this it was time to head to today’s football matches. I was surprised when Angelo announced that he wasn’t coming- his team Western Sydney Wanderers were playing at 16.30.

So I set off on my own, to find a way to the game. I visited the fan fest, they told me there were busses leaving from Jama el fna, I had just come from there and hadn’t spotted any. So next I headed to the train station where the told that busses left from just down the road a few minutes ago (I am not sure that I believed them either).

I asked the waiting taxi drivers how much and was told 120 dirhams, when they saw I wasn’t interested they came down to 80. I still had time so I went to try and find someone else going to the game.

I asked at the CWC ticket booth, they understood, and within a couple of minutes directed me towards a man I had heard in a rather loud conversation a few minutes earlier.

He beckoned me to come with him and asked how much I would pay. 50 dirhams.

We got in a taxi and another heated debate ensued, he asked for more money, but I reminded him that was all I was going to pay. During the seven mile journey different people came and went and he appeared to have an argument with everyone of them, yet inbetween he talked calmly to me in English.

This time the taxi was allowed to drive within 500m of the stadium. I said my goodbyes, this time I was on my own.

My seat was very close to where I had sat the previous evening. Of course I didn’t sit in it.

I waited to hear Julio chanting “We’re from the streets of Western Sydney”, but there was no sound in the almost empty stadium as they opened the scoring in the 5th minute.

During the game, San Lorenzo fans started to arrive and the area around me filled up. After a while I spotted Juan, who was with us in Rabat and had travelled with me as far as Casablanca when I returned to Marrakesh yesterday. The next person I spotted was Mariano, the Argentine with the djeballa. He told me that 50 Argentinians from his hostel had hired a bus to get to the stadium,with Mariano, was Farouk, my guide from last Sunday in Casablanca.

In the second half I saw the familiar red and white hooped Sydney top, belonging to Julio, and he joined us.

Who said I was on my own!

After the match Julio and I went for a taxi, there was no cordon around the ground and we got one very quickly without walking far.

The driver wanted 100 dirhams each, but I would only pay 70. Julio told me it was his birthday, so I offered to take him for something to eat, and arranged to meet tomorrow. I didn’t tell him that it would be my birthday! (Maybe that’s why he called off at the last minute the next night.)

On Thursday, I decided to visit the Majorelle Gardens by foot. I tried to follow a route through the twisted backstreets of Jamaa el fna, but it was impossible to know exactly where you were, in this Aladdin’s den.

Eventually I came to the city walls, went through the gate and saw I was near the bus station. ( I recognised it from my first day when I came into town with the bus from the airport). I knew from here it wasn’t too far.

The botanical gardens feature a cobalt blue colour, which made it good for photographs, so I spent a few hours there.

Afterwards I headed back by taxi for 20 dirhams. In the evening I met Angelo for dinner and then went for dessert, with a roof top view of all that was happening in Jamaa el fna.



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1 Response to Marrakesh – Semi Finals

  1. hamzamorchid says:

    It was a great pleasure to meet you Mr. Ross, and learn from your great traveler experience, and you’re welcome whenever you want ! thank you for sharing your passion with us, I hope to see you soon. Hamza morchid 🙂

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