Diversity. Heritage. "Zwina".
After almost one month in Morocco, these are the words, which come first to our mind. We found a lot more than we expected.
Population: Arab & Berber.
Language: Arab, Berber, French & dialects.
Landscape: Mountains, woods, green oasis & desert.
Food: a lot of good stuff.
Nine Unesco world heritage locations.
Handicraft in every corner.
Zwina (Beautiful, female form).
Obvious and Hidden.
Marrakesh was our first destination in the Sabbatical year. The red city has a lot to offer. The feeling to get lost in the narrow streets of the Medina and the beautiful sights you can visit, make the city worth a long visit. It takes a while to get used to its vibrant and sometimes very busy character, but without these traits, it would not be the same. Also, step outside the Medina, discover the new parts of the city. Go in the evening to Café Clock and listen to the traditional story telling while sipping on a hot mint tea.
We chose to stay in the heart of the Medina in the Riad Melhoun. Arriving at night, we were taken through a labyrinth of streets, and ended up in front of a random door, already wondering if we ever find our way back. Someone in Morocco said, they like to "hide" the most beautiful things. This felt very true, entering the doors and seeing the beautiful inside. It was a place of tranquility in the busy Medina. We felt at home after just one mint tea, the staff welcomed us more than friendly and we missed everybody after leaving.
This is our selection of sights we visited (of course with some coffee breaks in between). Each of it had a lot of beauty to it and we could have spent a whole day exploring and taking pictures. Marrakesh is one of the most picturesque cities, we visited so far.
1. Have a Moroccan whiskey or Noos Noos
2. Go to the souk and get lost
3. Find a café with terrace and have a look from above
4. Visit one of the many sights (scroll down for more)
5. Go in the evening to the Jemaa El Fna, look around, take it in and finish the day with a delicious meal there
The Palace was built in the late 19th century and contains decorations of all kind: stucco panels, zellij, tiled floors, arches, carved-cedar ceilings, marble and painted ceilings. The name "Bahia" means brilliance and once you visit the place you will understand the reason why. Wander through the different rooms and get lost in the garden.
A beautiful garden with cobalt blue elements (blue majorelle) created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) during forty years of work. It was in the possession of Yves Saint Laurent and nowadays it is a popular Tourist spot. Not only the buildings are the perfect setting for pictures but also the numerous cactus around.
Founded in the 14th century, the Madrasa (Qur'an school) was once the largest in North Africa, with 900 students in the 132 dorms arranged around the courtyard carved in cedar, marble, and stucco with the most beautiful zellij. Walk around the numerous rooms and imagine the past while you make your way down to the yard.
If you search for a shopping labyrinth with everything you might think of buying then you are at the right address. Leather goods, carpets, scarfs, spices and much more are displayed. Get ready for a round of bargaining. After the narrow streets of the souk, we recommend to energize with an orange juice at the Djemaa el Fna and just observe the life on the square. It is part of the oral and intangible heritage by UNESCO. As a center of traditional activities you can find performances of storytellers, henna artists, snake charmers, animal abusers (poor monkeys with diapers and unhappy snakes), dancers and musicians. The square wakes up at night with a street food market in its middle.
Walking around the hustle of the medina, you might need a break. There is a large offer of hamams, with different price categories, make sure there are still spots available (we are "late planners"). Our Budget is not that big, but as part of a Birthday present, we visited "Les Bains de Marrakech". With the dim lights and calmness of the place, you feel like in a different world. Even though we already have a fair number of hamam experiences in Turkey, it was a quite different one in Marrakesh. First, you get a black soap scrub, then be ready to get clean and shiny after a powerful loofah glove scrub. You are then guided into the next room, where you can get a relaxing traditional Moroccan massage with Argan oil. Let's just say, it was worth the money.
As mentioned, we did not care about our budget a couple of days and had to celbrate a birthday. So we booked a day pass in La Mammounia. The La Mamounia Hotel is a five-star hotel in the heart of the old city of Marrakech. After wandering the area, we forgot a bit that we are in the middle of Marrakech (which is not a silent city). The garden and hotel are beautifully designed. We had the indoor pool and Jacuzzi for ourselves and fell asleep on the platform overlooking the pool. The rest of the day, we spent as started with the only difference that we moved to the outdoor pool. We got energizing iced coffee and herb lemonades with thyme.