It was after midday by now and time for a break from walking and sightseeing so we selected a café with a roof top balcony on a noisy road leading to Djemma el Fna. There had been some hints of blue sky on and off this morning but now as we sat in the open air the cloud was noticeably thickening from the west and turning from chalky white to peppery grey and we had to admit that this was probably about the best we could expect now for the rest of the day.
The plan now was to make our way from the Bahia Palace through Djemma el Fna and the around the Souks to visit the next site the Medersa Ben Youssef in the northern part of the old city and we found our way without any difficulty back to the main square and we congratulated ourselves on our grasp of navigation around Marrakech.
To get to Medersa Ben Youssef the direct route now was to walk through the Souks again so we took the main route in through an arch and past a Mosque which led us to the Rue Semarine which is a perpetually busy street with shops selling robes, kaftans, carpets and antiques then into the Souk el Kebir with a tight warren of alleys all with tiny shops and kiosks.
The Souks were busier today because Sunday is a main trading day and all of the shops were open, there were more people and more noise. There are signs at the entrance to the Souks which clearly say ‘no bikes’ but they were only there for decoration because no one took any notice of this at all and people on push bikes whizzed past and there was the constant rasping of moped horns as impatient drivers forced their way between the shoppers and the tourists and we had to keep a permanent eye out for danger.
Half way through and we were in the Souk des Babouches where every shop sold a range of brightly coloured, pointy toed soft leather slippers and then the Souk de Tapis where the shops were larger and most specialised in carpets and then finally the Souk des Ferronniers where metal workers and carpenters were working in cramped workshops making furniture and lanterns and intricately designed silver jewellery and belt buckles.
Eventually we were through and out of the Souks and outside Medersa Ben Youssef which is supposed to be one of the best buildings to visit in Marrakech but unfortunately I am unable to confirm that because today it was closed. We walked around all four sides of the building looking for an entrance and when we had circumnavigated it someone told us that it didn’t open today because of the leather auctions at the nearby tannery although I couldn’t really understand what the connection might be.
So now we had to rethink the itinerary and we must have looked as though we needed assistance because people kept stopping to give unrequested help with the map. Most wanted to take us to the leather auctions and they assured us that they didn’t want money but we were suspicious and politely said no thank you. Some were more persistent than others and kept insisting on leading us and as we doubled back and slipped around corners we managed to disorientate ourselves and we lost our sense of direction, a situation that wasn’t helped by the fact there was no sun in the sky so we couldn’t establish any sort of directional fix.
We thought we were walking in a north-easterly direction and the plan was to reach the wall and one of the twenty city gates. This quickly proved difficult and made even more so by the fact that although the streets were named on the map there were no corresponding signs on the streets themselves so establishing location and direction quickly became a matter of guesswork and we had to admit that we hadn’t grasped Marrakech navigation at all.