Fw: Marvellous Marrakech
We took advantage of the excellent train service from Rabat to visit Marrakech for 3 days. We undertook the 4 hour journey in first class accommodation, which only cost around € 5 per person to upgrade from a second class ticket. On arrival in Marrakech we negotiated a good taxi price to the outskirts of the medina where we had booked a riad through the Lonely Planet guide. We had always fancied staying in a riad in the centre of the Marrakech medina and it certainly lived up to expectations, with its open courtyard, elaborately decorated rooms and excellent cuisine. An authentic riad has a courtyard garden divided in four parts, with a fountain in the centre. Marrakech has more than 1000 authentic riads, making it the riad capital of North Africa.
Views of Moroccan countryside from the train
The riad was situated within a few minutes walk from the Djemaa el-Fna, which is a must for anyone visiting Marrakech. In fact Unesco declared the Djemaa el-Fna a ‘Masterpiece of World Heritage’ in 2001. Djemma el-Fna is Marrakech’s main square and open air theatre. It’s where everything happens and is full of drama. Each day was a different experience, when your were drawn to various activities from story tellers to snake charmers. All were there to entice dirhams out of your pocket, but expect nothing less. Surrounded by numerous freshly squeezed orange juice and dried fruit stalls, there is always something to catch the eye and a quite unique experience. At sunset about 100 small restaurants set up shop right in the centre of the Djemaa el-Fna, and within an hour waiters are enticing you in. Once ‘forced’ to sit down, a variety of freshly grilled food and salads are brought to you at long school type tables by men in white coats. A meal for two cost around £10! I must admit we didn’t particularly fancy the sheep’s brain and skewered hearts!
The freshly squeezed orange juice and dried fruit stalls in the Djemaa el-Fna
The main square and the snake charmers This was taken with the zoom!
A mosque The Djemaa el-Fna
The small restaurants preparing for the evening onslaught
Sheep’s brains for anyone? Please Sir come this way. We serve the best food here!
The riad Eden we were staying in was run by an ex-professional French navy diver, Emmanuel, who was meticulous in every detail and was extremely helpful in advising the best places to see and organising individual trips.
The riad courtyard Sitting area
The fireplace The ornate features of the riad One of the dining areas
The rooms above the courtyard The top floor The Kitchen
Entrance to the riad Bathroom Bedroom (called the Orange Room)
Marrakech is alive from sunrise to sunset and I was always awakened by the early morning chanting from the numerous mosques situated within the city. It’s something I’m sure you would get used to it over time!
One day we followed Emmanuel’s advice and followed the Lonely Planet walking tour around Marrakech, which took us 7 hours to complete, but we discovered most of the medina’s hidden hotspots, including the Bahia Palace and got totally lost in the many different souks. Marrakech is always hotter than the coast and even in early September it was not uncommon to see temperatures around 35°C!So quite exhausted, we treated ourselves that night to a typical Moroccan lamb tangine cooked in the Riad, followed by poached pear. Altogether fabulous, but just too much before bedtime!
The Bahia Palace
Shopping is Marrakech is an experience, but having been ripped off in Tetouan, this time we were aware of the bartering techniques and would not let ourselves be ‘taken in.’ In fact we made some good deals to add to our collection of memorabilia. It’s all about both parties being happy with the deal and having fun in the process.
Typical wares sold in the souks and covered alleyway stalls
A well deserved drink at the Terrasse des Epices at the end of a long walk to watch the sunset over Marrakech
On our final day in Marrakech Emmanuel arranged a guide for us to see part of the Atlas mountains. We were met by our guide Mokhtar, a nomad from the Saharan desert. More about this on the next blog.