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The Marrakesh Express 🎶


View Morocco 2022 & Morocco Tour on margofiala's travel map.

After coming from the quietness and solitude of the desert and slower pace of rural Morocco, driving into Marrakesh was a bit of a shock. Like the Crosby, Stills & Nash 1969 hit song Marrakesh Express, it was fast pace, a bit frenzied and not for the faint of heart. Ali maneuvered the truck to a small drop off spot outside the medina, someone from our riad met us and POOF we were gone, into the busy narrow alleys of a medina again. This was our last stop with Ali, no time for a long goodbye! Thank you!


These guys do all the heavy lifting and know the medina like the back of their hand, they carry wagon loads of luggage to hotels in the medina:


We stayed at the Riad Adore, another lovely spot with a garden in the middle. I can really get used to this!


And the rooftop terrace:


Dean needed a haircut, Ali said it should cost 50 - 100 dirhams (~$5-10), the guy said 80 dirhams, so we thought we were good. However, it was the longest haircut ever and included a shave, then he asked for 450 dirhams ($45)! (And he had the straight razor in his hand). Dean pulled 200 dirhams ($20) out of his pocket and politely said "this is all I have". So that's what he took, we were best friends after that.


Our first dinner in Marrakesh was at Cafe Arabe, a bit of a tourist melting pot with people from all over the world and staff that spoke many languages. We missed getting pictures, but these off their website give you a good idea of the decor, imagine it full of people!


We did a tour of Marrakesh on our first day to get a lay of the land. Our guide, Abdula (aka Dr. Seuss, a pro at rhymes) was funny and fast-paced. We did a full day tour in about 4 hours and Abdula was surprised when we told him we wanted to go back to a few places on our own. It was all good, we enjoyed our time with him, a native 'Marrakshi'. His advice for shopping in the medina was "Go deep for cheap, near is very dear" - meaning don't buy from the first shops you see entering the medina, go further into the medina for better value.

First stop, the Koutoubia Mosque that towers over Marrakesh, visible from across the city.


Then we entered the medina through the Bab Agnaou gate, one of the main entrances to the medina constructed in 1188 (that is Abdula, our guide):


The Kasbah Cafe, an icon in Marrakesh:


The Saadian Tombs from 1578 are remarkably well preserved because they were hidden for years and “rediscovered” in 1917. They are very intricate and reflect the Moorish architecture we often saw in southern Spain. A few interesting facts about Muslim graves - there are no names or dates on the tomb as Muslims believe in a humble passing without a headstone to mark the final resting point of the deceased, the individual is not important, and the body is placed on its side facing east to Mecca. Also, the tombs of males and females are buried in separate locations, never together.

The male section (the rectangles on the floor are the tombs):


The Sultan spared no expense in building his mausoleum, from Italian marble, intricate carving and pure gold decoration:


Yes, this one is of a ceiling:


The tombs for wives, female children and servants was next door:


More gold:


The Bahia Palace was built in the 16th century by the Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour, who was clearly enjoying good times as he also decorated his home with gold, turquoise and silver. The palace was decimated in the 18th century when Sultan Moulay Ismail pilfered the place for his palace in Meknes but it was still pretty impressive:

The gardens:


The ceilings:


The doorways and fireplaces:


We visited a naturopathic pharmacy, which seem to be very popular here. An amazing array of natural ingredients, everything from dried flowers to mushrooms to chalk to seashells, and a huge variety of spices.


Workshops fill the deeper areas of the medina, mostly unchanged over the centuries:


Le Jardin Secret (The Secret Garden) is an oasis in the middle of the medina, a 400-year-old property with a restored garden. The story goes that a hotel developer was excavating the site and came upon an amazing underground irrigation system and ruins of an old Islamic garden. You never know what you are going to find when you dig here!


Love the turtles:


The Ben Youssef Medersa is a 16th century school, as we had seen in Sale and Fez, for students to come and live to study Islam and related subjects. I can't imagine studying here, I would be too distracted by the amazing architecture:

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The Jemaa El-Fnaa Square is almost indescribable, it dates back to the 11th century and is the “heartbeat” of the city. For centuries the square was a giant market, with caravans arriving from the mountains and as far as Timbuktu with their goods to sell. Now it is a huge square with so much going on it takes “people watching” to a whole new level. Everything from snake charmers to acrobatic shows to food and juice stalls, set to the beat of drums and flutes, with the smell of incense in the air! At night it gets even louder with music and feels like a full blown carnival. It was an experience, to say the least. We went back several times, as it is central and so interesting:


Snake charmers:


Sunset in the square with the Koutoubia Mosque minaret:


At night Amazigh (Berber) troupes would set up to play their music, providing stools for onlookers to sit and enjoy, passing around the hat from time to time. You could move around from group to group and listen to whoever you wanted. They were playing Arabic or Berber music, and together with the incense burning, it was captivating:


Marrakesh is very green and the Jardin Majorelle is no exception. Famous French designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner bought the land and restored the garden, that had been designed and planted in the early 1900s by French landscape painter Jacques Majorelle. The garden area is beautiful and lush.


Majorelle’s workshop is now painted in YSL blue and houses the Berber Museum. (It was very interesting, worth a visit, with amazing jewelry and artifacts, but unfortunately no pictures allowed inside.)


Moroccan tea at its best:


We joined a street food tour that night and ended up with a family of three from Denver, small world (Kai, Alison and their son Bode). Our guide, Jamil, was a young local Marakeshi with great knowledge of the food scene in Marrakesh. He took us to places we definitely would not have gone to on our own, and the food was great, we went home stuffed.


The first restaurant we went to had its own pit for cooking mechoui and tanija in clay pots. This was Dean’s favorite stop, goat and lamb with a cumin/salt mix for dipping:


Kai was brave enough to sample the goat's eye:


Olives anyone?


We would never have found this place or gone down this dark alley:


But Lala Fatima made the best couscous ever and she did take out!


We had seen the snail stalls around the medina and Jamil guided us on snail sampling in Morocco. I have to say Kathy and Garry’s are better - these were missing the garlic and butter:


The hammam fire is not only used to heat the community baths, it also is used to cook tanjia’s (clay pot filled with meat and spices, slow cooked while you are in the bath above it):


Our favorite bread, a Moroccan pancake, so simple but so good. Unfortunately we missed photos of a few stops (sardine burgers - another one of those things that sounds bad but are really good, and dessert - avocado shakes with pastries, we will leave that to your imagination! Yummy!)


The Musee de Mouassine was a very fun music museum set in a lovely old building from the 1500’s. (We were encouraged to try the instruments!):

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The park near the Koutoubia Mosque is a jewel in the middle of the city, very picturesque:


“A beer for my horses?” 🎶 Not!


We went for a drink at Mamounia Hotel and Bar, just to see one of the top hotels in Marrakesh. It certainly was fancy!


Yes, that is a camel…I mean the statue!


You never know what is behind a wall here. This one had its door open, so we were able to sneak a peek at a palace that is being restored and turned into a restaurant. It has a nice shop downstairs too - decor for the rich and famous:


We visited the Museo Dar Si Said mostly to see the building, a 19th century mansion dedicated to the master artisans of Morocco. The displays on weaving and carpets in Morocco were interesting, especially in such a magnificent setting:


So much work went into the ceilings:


Precursor to computer bags?


The perfect home for Alldreds, or people our size!


We really liked the bedding at the camp, particularly the cover, which was a traditional Moroccan wedding blanket. They are handmade with wool, so are heavier than they look, almost like a rug. We went shopping a few places without luck but ended up getting one in Marrakesh. Hope it looks as good on our bed at home as it did in the camp!

Our bed at the camp:


Lots of choices:


The finalists and our choice. We decided to go with one that just covers the lower part of the bed, they are very warm!


Cats rule in Marrakesh, some even have motorbikes!


Next stop: Off to the beach, Essaouira!

Posted by margofiala 12:41 Archived in Morocco

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Amazing! Be safe be well Merry Christmas!

by Doran Oancia

Don’t know what I liked best - Dean being too tall for some of the doors or those cute kitties on their own motorcycles!?

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by Johndotbike

Fascinating, otherworldly, a gastronomic adventure of a stop in Marrakech. Always learn a bunch from your blog. Keep sending I’ll keep reading. Travel safe.

by William Dahlquist

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