Stepping out of the little yellow taxi, the still night sky was filled with smoke rising from the food stalls and the murmur of chatter and music.
Tourists and locals alike, gathered around the tables tucking into the local delicacies, goat head and snails on the menu. This was Djemaa El Fna Square, our gateway to the souks of Marrakesh.
Morocco is becoming more popular amongst people wishing for a getaway to a hot sunny climate without having to travel half way around the world. Flights to Marrakesh from the UK are more common and the flight time of around 3 1/2 hours means an early morning flight can have you wandering to cobbles of the souks by lunchtime.
There are miles of alleyways connecting the different souks in the Old Town part of Marrakesh and at first glance they appeared daunting as a new visitor. This is why we opted to join a guided tour, so at least we would be able to get our bearings.
Guiding us to the sales floor
Following our guide through the maze our heads were constantly shifting from side to side, trying to look in every doorway and down every new alleyway. We eventually stopped at a shop where out the back they were in the process of dying cotton which would end up on the shelves as headscarfs.
We were allowed to try some on and do our best Lawrence of Arabia impressions, though trying them appeared to indicate we wanted to buy and our hosts soon entered the bartering stage. A hasty retreat was made, something of which we learnt to do quite often over the next few days.
Darting through the covered cobbled alleys we were ushered up a flight of stairs into an apothecary which looked depressingly like a doctors surgery. The owner took us through jars of spices and herbal remedies lined up around the room explaining what each did and how it could be used. The tour was turning into a sales pitch but we were sold on the Ras el Hanout cooking spice and some mint tea which had become a favourite.
If that had felt like a sales pitch then our final stop was full on. Presented with some mint tea, the door was closed and rug after rug was unfurled before our eyes. Moroccan red ones, royal blue ones and garish patterned ones. Nobody took the bait and we were glad to leave.
Finding our own way; sort of
With a little more confidence in finding our own way through the souks, the following day we took one of the entrances off Djemaa El Fna and allowed the souks to suck us and spit us out wherever it saw fit.
We found the spice souk which comes alive with reds, yellows, greens and browns. Your senses are overloaded with saffron, star anise and cinnamon.
We haggled our way to bargains on a couple of handbags and two throw rugs beautifully crafted in purple and a mixture of red, blue and green. We also made mistakes in buying jewellery which when we got wet a few days later, all the colour ran.
When we ran out of alleyways werealised we had no idea how to get back to the square. When a local approached us telling us the way back to the square (via his brother's shop) we didn't know whether to trust him and his demenour was quite aggressive and a sense of panic did come over me. He finally gave up but we still found ourselves lost and in need of help. We found a group of teenagers who were very friendly and for a price took us back to the souks and on our way back to the Djemaa El Fna square.
I kissed a snake and I liked it
As the sun was setting we arrived back in the square as the musicians and entertainers were setting up ready to entertain the locals and tourists.
As we headed for a taxi we stopped to have a photo with one of the Marrakesh snake charmers. As I posed he moved the snake's head up to my mouth so I can now say I kissed a snake and I liked it!