Marrakech – Thousand and one nights
Decisions, decisions, decisions…. Like always it was not easy to choose a perfect destination. This time for a long weekend trip and spending an unforgettable birthday (not mine) which it was at the end. In a different way… but that’s another story.
Marrakech already had been on the travel list for a longer time and the flight schedule fits perfectly. After the quite spontaneous decision we found ourselves very early in the morning in a plane heading down south toward thousand and one nights.
After immigration we jump in the bus to city center and what we found was a still almost sleeping old town. Only a few people were on the streets as well on the famous Djemaa el Fna – the market square and UNESCO world heritage – we had to cross on our way to the medina where our Riad is situated.
The medina – the old part of Marrakech – is surrounded by the a city wall. A huge labyrinth of small streets and alleys lined with shops, food stalls, restaurants and behind the walls of the houses hidden Riads.
Nothing is that easy like getting lost and nothing that hard like orientating yourself. Nevertheless it is the perfect place to immerse into the oriental flair for a couple of nights.
The Riad we stayed for five nights was located close to the main square which changes during the day. It starts with the orange juice stalls coming and the women who try to sell henna tattoos (… and yes I ended up with one I never wanted 😉 ) Later on the snake charmers depart and the square becomes more crowded with Berber dancing-boys, story-tellers and magicians.
The Koutoubia mosque and a park are situated on the opposite site of the Djemaa el Fna . Very inviting to sit in the shadow under the lemon trees and relax while watching the locals especially on a hot day.
A walk through the small and less hot alleys of the medina brought us to the Medersa Ben Youssef , the Bahia palace, the Rahba Kedima Square and the Sadiaan tombs. A lot of history we found at every corner. As well as a huge amount of shops and owner who tried to sell us – of course for a very good price – their products. Rahba Kedima Square is an ideal place for having a moroccan tea and for watching the colorful hustle and bustle.
A contrast is Gueliz – the modern part of Marrakech and home of the well-heeled inhabitants, international fastfood chains and western shops. Less charming in my opinion comparing to the old town but worth to visit on the way to the beautiful Jardin Majorelle. A garden created by the french painter Jacques Majorelle in the early 20th century and later bought and kept in condition by the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent. A visit during the heat of the middle of the day certainly is not the best idea but the advantage is to find a not too crowded garden and a quite corner in the shadow to relax and enjoy the beauty.
What to visit
Medersa Ben Youssef – a former islamic colleague founded in the 14th century with a beautiful courtyard.
Bahia Palace – built in the 19th century by a grand vizier of the sultan and later extended by his son.
Djemaa el fna – the main square and a big show of snake charmers, dancers and story-tellers during the night.
Medina – the in the 11th century founded old part of Marrakech and UNESCO world heritage site.
Jardin Majorelle – famous garden in the north of Gueliz.
Where to stay
Marrakech offers a wide range of accommodations. Some of the big and luxury hotel chains have houses here and offer a very comfortable stay for higher prices. We decided to spend the five nights in one of the hundreds of Riads in the medina. Many Riads are a bit more basic for prices starting from 25 EUR p. night up to 150 EUR p. night for more luxury houses. Our Riad was more basic but offered everything we need and the patio was beautiful with a small pond, big and shady trees as well as nice oriental seats to relax.
Where to eat
Hundreds of restaurants are spread over Marrakech which makes it hard to choose. All the food we tried was good.
Here the places we ate: We started at restaurant Kui-Zin which only sounds Chinese but offers moroccan food on a lovely rooftop terrace with beautiful view over the medina and the sunset.
The birthday dinner we enjoyed at I Limoni – situated in a patio with lemon trees close to Gueliz. The menu offers italian and moroccan food as well as moroccan wines which surprisingly turned out to be lovely.
After our visit of Jardin Majorelle we were very hungry and decided to have a very late lunch in Gueliz. By coincidence we ended up having a tasteful steak and pasta at restaurant Amaia. A small but stylish location with very friendly stuff and a small menu.
For a snack we bought food at the food stalls in the medina and enjoyed it in the patio of our Riad.
How to go around
Most of the time we walked despite the high temperature but the alleys in the medina are shady and not too hot.
There are different bus lines around the city. We only used the bus from the airport to Djemaa el fna after our arrival. Mostly when we needed a transport we used the taxis. An absolutely must is to bargain hard the price for the taxi ride because they mostly try to charge you a fortune.
How to go to
Different airlines also low-cost carrier like Ryanair and Easy Jet offer flights from many airports in Europe to Marrakech for reasonable prices. If you plan to see other parts of Morocco as well it is also possible to fly to Agadir or Casablanca. From there you can book a domestic flight or cheaper a bus or train ticket. (To find the best connection check out http://www.rio2rome.com)