Friday, 24 December 2010

Marrakech, Guéliz The New City

I somehow managed to sleep through the five o’clock call to prayers but was woken instead this morning by the sound of heavy rain thrashing against the window. It didn’t sound very promising and as I tried to get back to sleep I worried about a washout for the day ahead. On a more encouraging note however my stomach seemed to be back to normal.

On our final day in Marrakech we planned to leave the old Arab city and visit the adjacent new city known as Guéliz that was designed and built by the French during the period of the Protectorate. After breakfast we packed and settled the bill, left the Riad and set off. We were careful to take umbrellas today because the forecast promised more rain for later on.

The direct route to the new city was along the most important and the busiest road in Marrakech, the Avenue Mohammed V, named after Morocco’s first post independence king and effectively the spine of the city that links the old to the new. We walked past the Complexe Artisanal where there were shops selling the same things as in the Souks but with prices on them so the sort of shopping we are more familiar with and Kim and Margaret made plans to return later.

We left the old city when we passed through the Bab Nkob which was a gate that would bare little resemblance to the original because the wide four lane highway has punched its way through the rosy pink walls at this point and its construction would have required significant alterations to a gate that was built for donkeys and carts.

Outside of the city walls we were in a completely different environment because now we were in the new city. The French built this new city because they didn’t find the old town with its warren of crooked streets and lack of plumbing and sanitation much to their liking and they designed something altogether more Gallic with tree lined boulevards and villas and parks in which to live and work.

The sun was shining now and it was becoming quite hot as we followed the busy road around the outside of the wall heading in the direction of the Majorelle Gardens. At the next gate the Bab Doukkla there was a wide open square where men were standing waiting with bags of tools. This was like a big open air job centre because it was literally a labour market where tradesmen were waiting for potential clients. Each one advertised himself by his tools, the plasterers with their trowels, the mechanics with their spanners and our favourites, the plumbers with bits of copper pipe complete with taps.

The roads were busy as we had become accustomed to and we had to negotiate a couple of murderous roundabouts and then a street with only intermittent pavement and to be honest this wasn’t the twenty minute walk that we were led to believe it would be so it was quite understandable when Kim began to whinge about the distance. To be fair she wasn’t feeling especially good because of her upset stomach and at one point we did have to make a dash for bathroom facilities in a modern shopping mall.

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