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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Morocco and Tunisia

Today's blog is on two visits to North Africa, being Marrakesh (Morocco) and Sousse (Tunisia), of which one was good and one was disappointing. I've combined both in this blog.

My early 1990s visit to Tunisia included a hotel stay in Sousse, a city trip to Tunis by train, and a short visit to a modern harbour called Port El Kantaoui. It's hard to say anything positive about this trip. I shall explain why. During my stay, I suddenly noticed a human face in the hedges surrounding the hotel. Actually, several male faces were watching the women at the hotel pool. I have never experienced this Peeping Tom behaviour anywhere else.

The all-inclusive hotel food wasn't great and I visited a local restaurant instead. It was my first ever experience with white female sex tourism. I noticed a European woman with her Tunisian boyfriend and his many male friends, celebrating life at her expense. Today this female behaviour is more common in Africa although these women typically claim it's about love. Also see the 2012 movie / documentary “Paradise: Love” (IMDb) on this phenomenon.

The city trip from Sousse to Tunis took several hours by train. Tunis was hot, dusty, almost deserted, and without shadow as it lacked trees. European tourists appeared to be an anomaly and I felt being watched. After suddenly passing the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), I decided it was time for a quick departure.

My October 2012 visit to Marrakesh is a fond memory. I opted for a stay in the medina of Marrakesh, which is part of UN World Heritage. Old town Marrakesh provides an authentic Arab feeling with distinct smells (e.g., herbs, meat, soap, spices). Streets in the medina are usually not named. Some houses will be numbered, like your riad, a.k.a. boutique hotel. You will quickly adjust to the prayer calls from the nearby mosque.

The medina of Marrakesh features many beautiful riads, often hidden behind rather anonymous ancient wooden gates. Some of these riads will feel like royal palaces and probably they once were, centuries ago. Some riads will allow (paid) use of their exotic swimming pool. Drinking coffee/tea or sipping cocktails in these surroundings, gives a kind of colonial feeling.

Marrakesh is famous for its big central square. I preferred visiting the Majorelle botanical garden at the Yves Saint Laurent estate which was one of my personal delights. The garden was beautiful but the use of colours in adjacent buildings was superb. The blue, green, orange and yellow of YSL have no match. Obviously, the abundant sunlight helps them to excel.

Marrakesh is a perfect place for dining & wining and art & history. I recommend visiting the Bahia Palace. Transport outside the medina is easy as there are many (French) taxis. Once you are outside the medina then you will be impressed by the beauty of the city walls and the very many orange trees. Until then I had never realised how supermarket oranges actually grow.

Marrakesh Express (1969) by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2