I stayed up late last night working on my photos & watching a horror film, Darkness Falls. The result was an unplanned lie in; I awoke just before ten, cursing as I realised I'd missed breakfast. Oh well, I figured I needed it...and I am on holiday after all. The one remaining "must see" on my list was Majorelle Gardens, so I set off. Whilst the streets of the old, walled city are narrow and interesting, the old city's thoroughfares are a tad on the dull side - traffic, pollution, that's about it - hence me bussing it into the more enticing old city most of the time. I am surprised at how few cars are on them, for a city. The streets are wide, and at nowhere near their capacity, which is unusual to see either at home or abroad.
Jacques Majorelle was a French-born artist who settled in Marrakech in 1919. The Majorelle Garden is a botanical garden that also houses the Islamic Art Museum (no photos - boo!), and has been open to the public for 60 years. The museum and many of the walls are painted the most delightful shade of cobalt blue, which is known as Majorelle Blue after the artist. Other bright colours have been used to paint plant pots and other surfaces creating an interesting contrast to the organic plants. It was a pleasant place to wander around, and wonderfully photogenic too - have a look. The friendliest cat in the world sat on a tiled bench by the entrance, happy to pose for photos and sit on your lap for a while.
Afterwards I decided to go on the open-top, hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus (terribly touristy, I know). For around £8 I got a ticket that was valid for 24 hours over two routes, plus headphones to listen to pre-recorded information about Marrakech. Looking at the leaflet that came with the ticket, I was surprised to see that the bus company operates in a number of locations worldwide including Canterbury, although I've never noticed one there. I went first on the blue route, which visits a number of places outside of the city, including the palmery, an area outside of the city with 50,000 date palms. I have to admit that I found this route a little dull, and wondered whether I could have spent my money better elsewhere.
The terminus for the bus was a couple of blocks from my hotel, so when the bus tour finished I popped back to change my wide-angle lens for a telephoto, and hopped aboard the red route which tours the city centre. I listened to the informative commentary whilst snapping shots from the top deck, enjoying this tour much more than the first. I had promised myself that I'd revisit El Badi Palace with my long lens, to get some close-up shots of the storks nesting there, so hopped off the bus at the appropriate stop. I was rather disappointed to find a great many less storks at home than on my previous visit - damned inconsiderate of them, I thought. After a short while a few more turned up though - maybe they'd been off delivering babies!
My photos taken, I made my way to Jemaa el Fna and found a quiet roof-top cafe where I ordered a mint tea (atay bi nana), and settled in to enjoy my bird's eye view of the hectic square. I spied on the snake charmers, and watched the watersellers persuade tourists to take their photograph. The watersellers are really the only "entertainers" aimed solely at tourists; everyone else from the fortune-tellers to tooth-pullers are their predominantly for the locals. I watched transactions taking place, and crowds gathering around the story-tellers and musicians, smiling contentedly down on the activities below.
I had chosen a good vantage point, and at around five o'clock I raised my eyes from the busy square to see the sun preparing to set behind the attractive minaret of Koutoubia Mosque. The day had been hazy, but now the sun peeped out from under a cloud, lending long shadows to the people coming and going to the square. Lightbulbs were switched on above the stalls, and clouds of smoke drifted up from the food stalls, as that section of the square got into full swing.
I alternated between photographing the action down below, and the sunset. The Koutoubia minaret made for a striking silhouette, and I experimented with different compositions and exposures, watching delighted as the clouds were painted gold by the rays of the setting sun. By now I was clicking away furiously, attracting some strange looks from the men at the table next to me, who obviously thought my behaviour was a little OTT. Little did I care, I was having a wonderful time, in my element as nature treated my to a wonderful display of colour. The sun made its exit, leaving a final farewell on the highest clouds, and the new moon began to glow against the darkening sky. I returned my attention to the square for a while before leaving the cafe and walking home, satisfied after another super day.
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