An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.
The morning after Christmas we woke up early and caught the bus to Marrakech, the capital of Morocco and a much larger city. Not knowing quite what to expect, but knowing there would be plenty of excitement and tons of people, we got off the bus to find a much busier station. People came up to you the second you were off the bus, offering cabs to wherever you were heading. The drive in to the city was even more hectic than our drive in to Agadir. We were dropped off in the central square, which houses a large market selling everything you could imagine and offering everything a tourist could want to see and much more. We followed the hostel’s directions and wandered down one of the side streets until we found the small alley to the Marrakech Rouge. We settled in, taking a break from all the excitement and getting together a plan for the rest of the day.
We headed out away from the center square, but found it was no quieter anywhere else. There was a lot to see and many friendly people all over. We found our first stop- Palais Bahia, an old palace built in the traditional riad style with an interior courtyard. It was very pretty, and far different than the palaces throughout Europe in style and colors. There was so much detail in every part of the palace. There were small tiles adding colors and patterns, and engravings and carvings on the ceilings and door frames. The riad style meant that many of the rooms were long and narrow, but all the rooms were bright and airy, filled with the natural light able to flow in. From there we headed to the next palace, Palais Badi. We had a bit of trouble finding this one, as we did not see the sign for it. We got ourselves just feet away from the entrance though, so I was proud. The streets were complicated but if you followed a map closely it was easy to get around. After someone directed us just further to our right, we made it in. This palace was not maintained as the last one we saw. Much of it had previously been taken down to build a new palace. Still, it was a great place to visit. What remained was beautiful and certainly allowed you to imagine what it was like in its prime. Most of the structure was still there, minus the ornaments and in many cases, the roofs. Some rooms still have tiling on them and the interior courtyard was huge with trees growing. The emptied out areas that once served as pools conveyed the glamorous lifestyle that once took place there. There was a balcony lookout point that gave views of not just the palace, but the city surrounding. They are working to do restoration to return it to a state closer to its original look, but they are still a long ways away.
After the visit, we stopped in a nearby marketplace and ate at an outdoor café. We had an ok lentil soup and delicious vegetable tagine. Now full and rested, we continued on to the Tombeaux Saadiens, an old and beautiful mausoleum. The buildings and the detail were so gorgeous. I could not believe how elaborate all the carvings along the ceilings were.
We decided to walk around a bit from there and explore some of the market in the central square. I started to adjust to all the constant noise, cars and people. It got easier to say no and continue walking when someone was still trying to get you in their store. I really learned to be very firm about saying no and walking away when a lady selling henna grabbed my hand despite my refusal to get any art done, and shot out henna ink onto my hand. When she first grabbed my hand I assumed she was simply trying to show that it would be small, but I still naturally tried to jerk my hand away as I hate being touched. When she put ink on me while I was saying no I don’t want it though, I was shocked. Marcus noticed and walked over to grab me. I could not believe how rude and forceful she was, but thankfully this was not common.
We had dinner at a snack café recommended in the hostel, Toubkal. It was just what we wanted. We got kebabs with salad, rice, and vegetables. The food in Marrakech (especially at cafés like this) was very cheap. Our dinner came out around 8 Euro for the two of us with tip. We went to bed early to rest up for our adventure the next day.
We woke up at 5:30 for a 6 am pickup close to our hostel. We went out of the city for a hot air balloon ride, where we were able to watch the sunrise over the mountains. Though very early and completely freezing, the ride was an amazing experience. It was so beautiful in every direction. I could not believe we were up there; it did not even feel real. We landed after about an hour and had breakfast before we headed off for the camel ride, which was just about 20 minutes- perfect length if you ask me. We were back home before 10 which was earlier than expected. We had such a fantastic time, but now had the rest of our day to fill up. We decided that if we got all the other sights and shopping we wanted to do out of the way, we could fit in another day trip tomorrow. Since the streets were as calm as we’d seen them, we headed to the spice market to see it and do some shopping. We ended up in one store that had all the spices I wanted, and left with a large bag after a few glasses of tea, many demos and of course, the gifts they always throw in. From there we wandered out of the old city and saw one of the newer mosques, their large park and a few street vendors that actually had different inventory than the same 20 items seen all over the souks. We made a stop in a cookie shop and bought the smallest box since you couldn’t buy individuals. About half a block down we passed a man on the street, his hand out presumably for money. Marcus had the cookies out at the time so he held one up to him to offer it. Despite nodding, he seemed quite confused when Marcus placed the cookie in his hand. Maybe he didn’t expect it; maybe it wasn’t the type of cookie he liked. Who knows, but he did seem to agree to it and at the very least, he now has an interesting story about the silly tourists that gave him a cookie.
We walked through more of the shops and picked up all the remaining gifts and souvenirs we wanted before heading back to the hostel for a nap. We spent some time chatting with other guests in the hostel lounge over tea before heading off to a late dinner. We decided to check out Le Salama which had a traditional dance show every evening. We were seated and ordered a bottle of wine (it was one of the few spots in town that served alcohol, which only happened at tourist spot) when the dancing began. It was a great show. We took a while to order our food after, as that had distracted us from the menu and got to see another show right before it came. Two men came out playing traditional music in costume and came around, putting their fun hat on everybody as they moved through. Our food was great and we had a wonderful night. As it was after 11, and since we did not need to head out to any of the night clubs built for tourists, there was not much to do late night and we headed back to get to bed.
Our excursion the following day was at 9 which was much easier to wake up for. We headed out from our hostel with a group of four also staying there. The trip started with tea in a traditional berber house, a stop at an herb garden with spices, herbal teas and lotions and other cosmetics. From there we drove further into the mountains for a hike. We climbed up a mountain, seeing two waterfalls along the way and gorgeous views in every direction. It was a bit challenging for me with the slippery and often unstable path. There were also wooden bridges with missing steps, a ladder, and other fun obstacles that made it feel like quite the adventure. We walked nearly two hours and worked up quite an appetite, so luckily lunch was the next stop. We went to one of the many restaurants right along the river with great views, but the food really was just average. After one last stop for photos, we headed back to the hostel arriving back a little after 5.
We relaxed at the hostel a bit and enjoyed a beer before heading to dinner at another snack café nearby. The next morning we packed up, ate breakfast at the hostel and headed to grab a cab to the bus station to get back to Agadir. I had a wonderful time in Marrakech and I am glad we went. I did not need much time in the city but there are wonderful day trips from Marrakech that made the trip that much more special. I would love to go back to Morocco, but would probably explore a few of their other cities before seeing Marrakech again.