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A week in Marrakech: Tourists Flock to the Ancient Moroccan City the Same Way Bees are Attracted to Honey

By Ehi Braimah

Premium Times, May 14, 2023 

A souk in the Medina in Marrakech, in Morocco  


A week in Marrakech,

Marrakech is an exotic destination and tourists flock to the ancient city in much the same way bees are attracted to honey.

The medina is a mazelike medieval quarters built with clay walls stretching for more than 16 kilometres dating to the Berber empire. It is a densely populated and fortified city within Marrakech, with alley ways and thriving souks (markets).

Twenty-five members of the Rotary Club of Lagos, District 9110, embarked on a Friendship Exchange visit to the Rotary Club of Marrakech-Menara in Morocco, from 23-29 April. The trip had all the trappings of fun, excitement, adventure, cultural exchange, hospitality and friendship. In the past, our members had also visited Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, Togo, Senegal and Benin Republic for the same reason.

On our delegation were two visiting Rotarians: Francis Nwankwo, of the Rotary Club of Festac Central, and Eniola Elegushi, a member of the Rotary Club of Admiralty, whose charter was recently sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lagos. Eniola is the daughter of Saidat Olayinka Oladunjoye, a former commissioner of Education in Lagos State and member of the Rotary Club of Lagos.

Saidat chaired the Friendship Exchange Committee that was responsible for planning the trip: flight tickets, accommodation and tours. She was actively supported by Rotarians Abayomi Adeyeri and Adenike Iyelolu. By all accounts, the committee’s performance was impressive. There were many Instagram moments depicted by photographs shared instantly to tell the story. To sum it up, the Marrakech trip created an unforgettable experience for the delegates.

The president of our club, Joe Akhigbe, and the immediate past president, Babawale Agbeyangi, got to Marrakech in two separate flights before the delegates. Past assistant governor, Gbolahan Ayodele was appointed by the president as leader of the delegation, based on his experience on similar visits in the past and for being the most senior past president.

We flew out of Lagos at 5.10 a.m. won the Royal Air Maroc, the national carrier of Morocco, and touched down in Casablanca after four hours and 30 minutes. The connecting flight to Marrakech was ready when we landed and the flight lasted about 30 minutes.

You need a paper visa or e-visa, which is $100, before you can travel to Morocco. Some of our delegates were delayed by immigration officials on account of visa verification but they were cleared after a few minutes.

Marrakech is an exotic destination and tourists flock to the ancient city in much the same way bees are attracted to honey. With several hotel options to choose from for a population of roughly 1.5 million people, according to our guide, Azeez, Marrakech is known as the “Red City” because its buildings are covered in clay.

But the weather was hot, very hot when we visited, with the temperature as high as 42 degrees Celsius. From any corner of the city, the Moorish minaret of the 12th century Koutoubia mosque is clearly visible and unmistakable. This is why no building in the city has more than five floors.

Members of the Rotary Club of Marrakech-Menara waited at the airport to welcome us and we posed for photographs with the Rotary wheel. A bus ride took us to our hotel. We stayed at Riu Tikida Palmeraie – an upscale and all-inclusive four-star hotel on several acres of landscaped grounds dotted with palm trees that are surrounded by lush gardens.

Riu Tikda is an enchanting resort offering three restaurants, three bars, a fitness centre and spa plus indoor and outdoor pools; it became our home for the next six days – a shouting distance from the medina. You can get there after driving for 30 minutes.

The outdoor swimming pool was permanently brimming with visitors from around the world, sun tanning and generally enjoying themselves. A major attraction in Marrakech is the Jardin Majorelle Garden, a one-hectare botanical garden, designed by French artist, Jean Majorelle, in the 1920s, when Morocco was a protectorate of France.

The medina is a mazelike medieval quarters built with clay walls stretching for more than 16 kilometres dating to the Berber empire. It is a densely populated and fortified city within Marrakech, with alley ways and thriving souks (markets).

All the markets in Marrakech are known for their vibrancy and brisk sales. In the heart of medina, you will find the famous Djemaa el-Fna market square, where you can shop for brass wares, ceramics, handicrafts, traditional textiles, pottery, jewelry, metal lanterns and herbal remedies.

Marrakech is a former imperial city in western Morocco, famous for its mosques, palaces and gardens. Tourism is big business in Marrakech, with an incredible value chain, and the cultural influences from Europe on the Berber and Arabian communities are evident.

If you want snake charmers or fortune tellers, you will find them. But don’t miss out on the camel ride, hot-air ballooning and riding in carriages propelled by horses.

Casablanca, on the other hand, is a port city and commercial hub of the country, fronting the Atlantic Ocean. You can describe Casablanca as “their Lagos” while Rabat, the capital of Morocco, is “their Abuja.” Other notable cities are Agadir, Fes and Tangiers.

A train ride from Casablanca to Marrakech will last for two hours but a road trip will take up to three hours. Part of our itinerary was a road trip in a coach to Casablanca on the second day. It was a smooth ride all the way and I struggled in vain searching for potholes.

I was captivated by the picturesque landscapes flanking the highway and breathtaking view of large swathes of plains. On our way back, you could see the golden colour of the sun cast a wide blanket on the sky – a mixture of grey and royal blue – but it gradually disappeared behind the clouds as it began to set.

On the third day, we joined members of the Rotary Club of Marrakech-Menara in District 9010 for their meeting at La Mamounia – a luxurious, vibrant, mythical, authentic hotel and celebrity hangout with enchanting gardens, which is regarded as one of the best hotels in the world.

Our friendship partner-club was chartered on 14 March, 1998 and it has 26 members, comprising Muslims, Christians and Jews. Morocco is grouped alongside Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania to form District 9010. There are over 530 Rotary districts in the world.

At the end of our meeting, a partnership and cooperation agreement for mutual benefits was signed. Thereafter, we drove to the home of past president Jalal Zemmama, where he hosted us to a lavish garden reception that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

The next day, it was a long drive for about an hour, with members of our host club, to Douar Ougog, one of the rural communities, to meet with children in a preparatory school (for five to six years olds) built by the club. The same road leads to Ouarzazate, another suburb. In the last three years, our host club completed five schools and they are currently building the sixth one.

Initially, the kids were shy, as we had “invaded” their privacy, but they loosened up and chatted with their visitors. When it was time to go, they stood up and sang the Moroccan national anthem with pride.

Jalal told me he would be attending the next Rotary International Convention from 27 – 31 May in Melbourne, Australia. It is the greatest gathering of Rotarians in the world in a single venue.

In his appreciation note, Khalid Bounouis, president of the host club, said they were honoured to host us and share precious moments during our stay. “The visit was one of our goals this year to strengthen the relationship of our club with other clubs in the continent,” he explained.

We made new friends and it was an opportunity to learn new things about the people and their culture. Dr Amre Mouabad is a medical doctor who told me French was the language of instruction in the medical school he attended; Jalal Haddouchi is their president-elect, while Ilham El Yacoubi runs a kindergarten.

Throughout our stay, electricity supply was constant; it means the Moroccans do not have any need for petrol or diesel powered generators. Fatima Zaha El-Allaoui is a Moroccan and member of our Rotary Club in Lagos but she is married to a Tunisian and they live and work in Nigeria.

Fatima also served on the Friendship Exchange Committee, making sure we had a wholesome experience in Marrakech. She travelled ahead of us to prepare the groundwork with members of the Rotary Club of Marrakech-Menara. She was also helpful as an interpreter.

When I asked her about the electricity situation in Morocco, she told me light is very steady. “I have never experienced blackout since I was born,” Fatima, who is over 40 years old, said confidently. Water supply is also regular. We were shocked to learn that petrol cost N1,225 per litre. When compared to the pump price in Nigeria, this is quite expensive.

But context, in terms of GDP per capita of both countries, is important. Available 2021 data indicates that Nigeria was $2,065.75, while Morocco was $3,795.38. But this does not mean Morocco is not struggling with its economy; all that glitters is not gold.

However, the three leading exports of Morocco are agricultural produces (citrus fruits and market vegetables), semi processed goods and consumer goods (including textiles) and phosphates and phosphates products. One US dollar is exchanged for MAD 9.8 (Moroccan Dirham).

Morocco has a population of about 40 million people, but Casablanca with a population of about seven million people is the country’s largest city. The Atlas Mountains – a series of mountain ranges – is dotted with Berber villages and covers a large area of Morocco. It stretches across northwestern Africa, spans through Algeria and Tunisia, and separates the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline from the Sahara Desert.

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary national legislative system (a bicameral parliament) under which ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the Council of Ministers. The Monarch is the head of state and he appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government.

Riu Tikida Palmeraie hotel workers were very polite, which should be the standard protocol for a tourist city. The rooms are spacious, designed in rectangular shapes with mainly twin beds for $180 per night, but the housekeepers struggle to speak English.

In the absence of interpreters, I used sign language to communicate with them as I could neither speak Arabic nor French.

Although alcohol sales are restricted, as you would expect in a Muslim country, yet you can drink in licensed bars, restaurants and tourist areas. However, if you want a Moroccan wife, you must be a Muslim.

Our return flight from Marrakech to Casablanca was cancelled for reasons the airline refused to disclose, even after we asked their representatives. Our president-elect, Abiodun Role and his wife who left the day before, had a similar experience.

A coach was provided, which left Marrakech airport at 6.00 p.m. We got to Casablanca airport at 8.45 pm under a flood of street lights and arrived in Lagos in the wee hours of the following day.

The Rotary Friendship Exchange is an international exchange programme for Rotarians and friends that allow participants to take turns in hosting one another in their homes and clubs. Rotary International says friendship exchanges should be organised around at least one of three themes: culture, service and vocation.

Participants may travel as individuals, couples, families or groups and may be Rotarians or not. Some of the benefits of friendship exchanges include the opportunity to broaden international understanding, explore profession or job in a different context, build enduring friendships, establish a foundation for peace and service, gain opportunities for active project involvement and support; learn about a region’s people, food, languages, customs and history, and find partners for grants.

Ehi Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times.

A week in Marrakech, By Ehi Braimah ( 





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