Morocco was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a while, so when my mum asked if I wanted to go with her to Marrakech for a long weekend I jumped at the chance. I was so happy to be visiting another country that was on my bucket list my bucket list.
There is no way I can blog about this amazing country in just one post, so much to say!
We arrived late Friday night, and got a transfer organised to the hotel, the amazing El Fenn. More to say about this place later! As no cars are allowed in the medina, we were dropped by an arch and told to head off down the street and turn at the first right. A little daunting when this appears to be nothing more than a deserted alleyway. But what treats lay behind the door!
The first thing to do in any trip to Marrakech is get to know the souks. I had read all the guide books that tell you to expect to get lost, so for the first day we had decided to hire a guide. Again the hotel helped us with this, as there are an awful lot of unlicensed ‘guides’ who are more than happy to ‘help’. He started by taking us into the Jemaa el Fna, the bustling heart of the medina. Alleys of the souks lead back to this place, so good to know how to find the hotel from here! It was a fairly crazy sight, even at 10am in the morning with snake charmers and monkeys paraded everywhere.
You could spend weeks wandering around the souks, and still get lost. We learnt the key was to not worry about it. Eventually you would somewhere you recognise and manage to find your way out. Don’t set any time pressure on yourself and just enjoy it!
Mohammed, our guide, took us from the square into the souks. He started by telling us about the ‘junk’ a lot of the stalls sell and took us to more shop like areas, which the bargaining began. I can’t help but think this might be something to do with him knowing the people selling. Be prepared to sit to your guns, and do everything with a smile.
We felt very pressured to buy a rug at our first stop, but they were too pricey for us and quite frankly wouldn’t fit in our luggage! Other shops included clothing, metal work and herbs. We did end up with some items from these, but only after haggling.
Having a guide show us around the souks initially is a really good way to get to know them. You are never going to be able to find your way around after one morning, but it does leave you feeling much more comfortable. Mohammed also explained parts that would otherwise have passed us by completely. A lot of people do live in the souks, and he took us down windy, narrow and quiet alleys and showed us the houses. These have two doors, one for people and the other for larger items! A lot of these have now be turned into hotel Riads, but it is so interesting all the same.
Another beautiful discover was the Ben Yossef Madrasa, an extremely old university in the heart of the souks. I loved it simply because of all rambling twists and turns in the old building and most of all – the absolutely gorgeous mosaic tiles.
For lunch we found a little restaurant near the edge of the souks, with a sun soaked courtyard. I had lamb and quails egg tagine and it was DELICIOUS. I am not a huge lamb fan, but the Moroccans have nailed it.
The afternoon was spent getting away from the hustle and bustle in the absolutely stunning Majorelle Garden. This little oasis was built by Jacques Majorelle and then brought back to life by Yves Saint Laurent. I was first struck by the calm I felt in this space. I have to admit the first day in Marrakech with the haggling and questions was starting to get to me, and stepping in to the garden I felt all of this slip away. The bright blue and yellows with cacti around was something else.
Sorry for the long and pic heavy post but all in all a perfect first day in Marrakech; I was already in love. More on this amazing place to come!