The TDA Global Cycling ‘Marrakesh Express’ Has Arrived

 

I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.” ― Tahir Shah, Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

After a very roundabout route the TDA Marrakesh Express that started in Casablanca, that traveled north along the Atlantic Coast to Tangier, that then turned east along the Mediterranean coast to the famed blue city of Chefchaouen, then south over the mountains to Fez and after a few more serious climbs followed by the same number of severe descents, the cycling ‘express’ of the Morocco: Kingdom of the West cycling tour has arrived in the fabled city of Marrakesh.

So, you could say Mr. Tahir Shah, that we have ‘earned’ Marrakesh. It is called the ‘Red City’ due to the red ochre pigment that adorns the walls and buildings, at least in the Medina, the original old part of the city. Now that we have earned being here, what have we been up to?

First and foremost, wandering and wondering among the labyrinth of narrow streets and their souks (markets) interspersed with ancient palaces and mansions now turned into museums, fancy hotels and restaurants. Sooner or later we would all end up at Jamma El Fna, described by my travel guide as the world’s most amazing city square. As the sun begins to set, an open-air circus begins with acrobats, dancers, musicians and story tellers all vying for your attention and, more importantly, for some of your dough as a reward for their efforts.

Not to be outdone by the performing artists, a large variety of food stalls, fruit juice vendors and a multiplicity of  other merchants are trying their best to also attract your attention, so they too can share in some of the bread in your pockets. If you are tired of drifting in the square, or are in a serious need of sitting down, the square is surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops, where you can park your bottom and watch the scene. If you are really ambitious, you can climb a set of stairs a level or two up and park your bum for a more grandiose view of the happenings on the square.

Once you have completed this compulsory event, you are free to do what you want or need to do. Some of our riders used the occasion for an early morning balloon ride to catch the sunrise over the Atlas Mountains, others took guided tours of the Medina to learn its history and its legends, yet others went to learn a few things in the several museums in the city. And let’s not forget that we’ve  all partaken in the smorgasbord of food, whether that would have been some daring street food or some Marrakesh tagine and couscous.

As for myself, I choose to visit a couple of gardens. One, the Jardin Majorelle, is so popular that you have to buy a ticket a day or two before you plan to go. The second one, Le Jardin Secret in the Medina itself, was recently renovated. Upon buying a ticket I was given a brochure which explained the history of the place and the garden – “an oasis of peace and quiet, protected from outside by high windowless walls.” On the back of the brochure is the following poem by Georges de Noyar in both French and English. Here is the English version:

Thou unknown pilgrim
Who from afar doth come
Pray leave of thy rumbling
And for a moment listen

Seek out behind the courtyard’s
The orange grove green
The palm trees and the ancient tower
Like the mirage of a dream

Open thence this door
Across its three levels pass over
And spell-bound discover A secret garden wonder

Dive therefore into the lushness
Forget all woes and cares
And in this Heaven in a nook
Relish therefore your happiness

Our own stay in Marrakesh is now done and we are relishing in our happiness.

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