Spana (Society for the protection of animals abroad) works hard to provide veterinary care for donkeys, mules and horses in Marrakech. If you are interested in their work and in making a contribution to their coffers, it is worth a visit to their centre at Cite Mohammadi Daoudiat where they will show you what they do - and where you will be able to see some of the animals at first hand. There are also cats and dogs in need of adoption. If visiting, do bear in mind that it is not a place of family entertainment but of care and veterinary treatment for poorly animals. If, like us, you saw many mules and donkeys in the city that were overworked and undernourished, why not give something back by contributing to this extremely worthy organisation?
This new restaurant serves delicious Moroccan food (by the cook formerly at Villa Maroc) in beautiful, simple surroundings. The chicken pastilla was by far the best we tasted anywhere on our trip - deliciously moist and worth going there just for this. This is a small restaurant which means we were able to pick and choose from all the various menus rather than feeling bound by one particular set menu. Very reasonable prices too. We got a table for two without reserving but as it becomes better known it may be preferable to book ahead, especially for larger parties. It's down a little street not far from Les Alizes (which was also an excellent restaurant choice).
6 Rue Med Diouri, Essaouira near the Musee L'Alliance Francaise. 024 78 58 54.
This great little patisserie and juice shop is on Rue Dabachi about 50 metres west of Chez Chegrouni (the NW corner of Djemma el-Fna) - the sign is in Arabic only but you'll know it's the one because it's just at the corner of Route Kennaria D. It is open all day but particularly humming with life at about 10-11pm. Join the locals in choosing what to have in your freshly made smoothie/milkshake. Try milk and almonds (lait et amandes), or peach and plum (peche et prune), or a mix (panache - pronounced panashee). Ask for it without sugar if you prefer (sans sucre). The fruit is wonderful. They also do pastries, yoghurts with fruit etc. And they'll make up boxes of Moroccan mini-pastries for you to take home for your friends - a big box holds up to 500g (the cost is very reasonable - think it was 60 dirhams per half kilo). Smoothies and milkshakes are around 9 dirhams each - excellent value even by Moroccan standards. And the staff were very friendly - we became evening regulars and were quite sad to leave. Why doesn't someone set one of these up in London?
Patisserie Al Jawda, Rue Dabachi 16-18, Marrakech, tel 024 38 73 05
There are lots of young men who will accost you as you walk around Marrakech and try to act as your guide to take you to wherever you are going and then demand a fee. This is particularly so once you leave the main square and are heading out to somewhere less easy to find - for example the Bahia Palace, or the Dar Zellij restaurant. Be aware too that some of them will pretend that somewhere is closed when it is not, or will send you off on the wrong direction in order then to get one of their friends to set you right. This is a great shame because it means that, rather than interacting with people, you sometimes have to blank them or even pretend to speak a different language. If you do need directions to somewhere it may be preferable to ask a woman or an older man or a storekeeper - they are more likely to give you accurate directions out of common courtesy without then wanting to accompany you or expecting money in return. If you do end up being accompanied by a 'faux guide' against your will, you may want to explain that you are happy to talk to them along the way but do not wish to have a guide and will not be paying them any money if they accompany you. At least that way, when you reach your destination, you can feel comfortable sticking to your guns and refusing to pay - though be prepared to be pestered repeatedly and to have to hold your resolve. Of course there may be no harm giving a few coins to a boy who has taken some time to get you to the right place, but they should not expect to charge more than this and should be prepared to give you correct and honest information for free. So when one lad demanded 20 dirhams (more than a taxi fare across town) just for telling us which door on the street we were looking for we robustly refused - pour decourager les autres.
Houssine is a kind and friendly guide who will arrange a trek to suit your needs. We spent four days walking in the area around Jebel Toubkal, staying in gites/refuges in Berber villages, with a guide (Hassan), a cook (Mohamed) and a very lovely mule (Hasht-hasht). The mule carried our spare clothes, the food, and occasionally also the cook! We opted for four quite tough days walking (5-9 hours walking per day), culminating in a starlit ascent of Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4167m.
Whilst it would have been possible to go up the mountain itself without a guide, having the guide enabled us to spend longer in the surrounding area and see more of the local villages than we would have done on our own; plus we had all our meals prepared for us and didn't have to carry too much gear. The extra few days trekking also ensured we had no altitude problems ascending the peak as we were well acclimatised to the altitude by that point.
Houssine's Ouassaggou Guest House was lovely - a good 15 minute walk from Imlil but small (just two guest rooms), peaceful and comfortable. Houssine met us off the bus and the mule carried our bags up to the guest house.
A four-day trek with just two of us in the group cost 360 euros total, including food and accommodation. This may be more than arranging something locally, but worth it for the security of having trek arranged in advance from the UK. A double room in the guest house cost about £28 a night including breakfast.
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