Marrakech

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Luton Airport

Few seats close to the check-in area, staff at the nearby snack bar who, at 04:30, have made the situation worse by turning perfectly usable seats inwards to prevent them being used (and who tell a small, tired, young boy who is behaving admirably in that tiredness to 'move' as he's not allowed to rest on their precious seats) and a need to take care with timings!

Once through Passport Control ('One bag only sir!') the cafeteria opens at 05:30 so if you're catching the 06:00 Ryanair flight to Marrakech you won't be sitting down to a hearty breakfast as the gate is some 15 or so minutes away. You did read the printed warning on your Boarding Card, didn't you?

The bar at the other end of the Departure Waiting Area opens earlier and sells hot, well warm, well cool...ish sausage and/or bacon baps but service is painfully slow and the staff, for whom English is not yet quite a second language, struggle to understand: 'A hot toasted teacake? Is drink?'. It's not their fault.

And it doesn't help when an early morning traveller feels the need for a Bloody Mary which seems to need at least half a dozen carefully estimated ingredients and an equally careful shaking. At 05:15. With a long queue waiting. Bloody Mary? Bloody hell!

Transport from Marrakech Airport

The number 11 bus from the airport into Marrakech costs 20 dirhams per person (30 dirhams return, valid for two weeks) and drops off on a circular route through the city. It leaves the airport every hour, on the hour, unless the driver decides he's going to go early!

Hotel Andalous

Hotel Andalous in Marrakech advertises itself as 4* but 3* would be nearer the mark.

Rooms are clean but tired, the rugs evidence the many unwashed feet they have encountered and the TV picture is watched through an electronic snowstorm. Bedding nd towels are, however, changed regularly.

Breakfast is simple and unexciting. Eggs, pancakes, one variety of cereal, some fruit and some ham and cheese. Plenty of orange juice and coffee though.

Service in the bar is hopeless and the noise from the 'La Casa' disco (white walls and furnishings lit in fuschia pink!) permeates the entire hotel until the early hours. A room on the top floor overlooking the the pool and with a view of the Atlas Mountains in the distance offers little defence.

Taxis

Taxi? Use the 'petite' taxis (but try to choose one which is reasonably roadworthy) and pay no more than 20 dirhams, night or day. You'll be told it's more after 6pm but that's theory, not practice. Offer 20 dirhams and no more. Start to walk away and within three paces 20 dirhams will be agreed.

You'll be told that you must pay for a return journey and for the driver to wait for you as there will be no taxis at your destination to bring you back. Oh yes there will. Don't pay until you reach your destination and have the 20 dirhams ready so you don't need to get change.

Marrakech Airport

If you've ever flown out of Sharm el Sheikh then you'll know all about confusion. Treat that experience as practice for Marrakech. Marrakech is the real thing. A nightmare of the first order!

Everyone seems to think they are in charge. The queue is loooooong. From an empty check-in desk to the Departures entrance. People stand and wait. They check with each other, 'Luton?'. They check with anyone in a uniform 'Luton?'. A suit comes along and asks you to queue 'over there'.

Half the queue moves but there's no-one at this check-in desk either. Ask a uniform 'Luton?' and the answer is 'No'. Ask another and the answer is 'Yes'. A suit comes along and asks you to queue 'over there'.

There is no apparent organisation.

Another invitation to queue 'over there'. And half the queue moves. The half life of a Marrakech queue appears to be around 10 minutes.

Check-in, when it finally starts, is painfully slow. Travellers arrive with excess luggage or not having paid for their luggage to go in the hold. Yes, it's Ryanair: 0.69 per person, Luton to Marrakech; 7 per item of checked luggage, Luton to Marrakech. To pay, the traveller is required to go to the other end of Departures.

Passport control is equally slow.

Once on the aircraft, and 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time, the pilot is reduced to announcing that check-in will be closing in 20 minutes time. Maximum. Eventually, the pilot asks for passengers to be seated quickly otherwise 'our flight plan will be', (long pause as he searches for a suitable phrase) 'no good'. The doors are closed.

But.

One hour after the aircraft should have been airborne, and in the middle of the safety briefing, the doors are opened again to allow a further two passengers to board!

You couldn't make it up.