Marrakech is a manic and magical place. You will find times when you just want escape the madness then you find yourself almost alone enjoying some peace and tranquillity. Interestingly these moments can be only a few footsteps away from each other.
Our first piece of advice would be to choose your hotel/hostel/Riad carefully. You want to be somewhere close to the action but not so close that every time you step outside you are bombarded with ‘Hello, look in my shop’ or assailed by the noises of the Jemaa-el-Fha Square that never seems to sleep.
Our Riad Dar Noukas, was on the edge of the Medina so the area was generally quiet. We were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary so paid a bit more than we usually do but it was well worth it. The rooms were really nice and comfortable, the breakfasts were amazing with something different each day. We also spent one afternoon sitting upstairs reading in the sun, they have sun lounges and day beds to chill on, it was very quiet as well.
It was close enough to walk to many of the sights so we walked everywhere including the 3kms to Jardin Marjorelle. Jardin Marjorelle were designed by artist Jacques Marjoral on land he acquired in 1924. Found in disrepair by Yves St Laurent, he purchased it and renovated it to what we see today. The gardens are one of the most visited sights in Morocco and after visiting I can see why. The shadowed paths flanked by palms and a huge variety of cactus’s make it quite unique. The use of the colours blue, yellow and orange along with water features give the gardens a true feeling of tranquillity. When you are inside you feel a thousand miles away from the noise and hustle of the city.
Also inside is a Berber Museum, this displayed artefacts of the traditional tribes of Morocco. While it is small it is laid out in a way that you feel it is a much larger space. Clothing, tools and the stunning jewellery are all displayed for you to view along with explanation cards with more detail. The cost of entry for the Gardens is 50 dirham (dh) and the museum is 25 dh. While this is quite expensive compared to the entry of many places in Morocco we felt it was well worth the money.
If you are interested in Moroccan and Islamic architecture (or even just looking a beautiful buildings) Palace Bahia is a wonderful place to visit. It was built in the late 1900s and is set in 2 acres of gardens although we did not see much of the gardens as there did not seem a way to access them. However, you can wander around this amazing palace, imagining how life was back when it was used to house the King and all his wives. It is a maze of buildings built around courtyards with water features and gardens in them. The ornate plasterwork decorating the doorways and archways with amazing patterns. The ceilings are painted with beautiful designs in blues and reds as well which add to the beauty of it. Entry is 10 dh but If you are interested in the history of the Palace you can also employ a guide to show you around and explain everything in context for an extra charge.
While we were here a lady told us about Tombeaux Saadiens so we decided to go there as well. It became a bit of an adventure following google maps and wandering along tiny alleyways filled with spice sellers, lamp shops and restaurants all trying to entice you in to try their wares. Eventually Mr Google led us to the tombs, another
10 dh (again you can pay extra for a guide if you chose). We wandered in through the narrow passageway which suddenly opened up to a smallish area surrounded by a couple of terracotta buildings, inside were tiled grave stones, some with marble carved toppers. The inside of the buildings were decorated similar to the Palace ornate ceilings and carved plaster archways, these house the graves of Sultan Ahmed-al-Mansur and his family from around 1600. These building were also surrounded by other tiled graves where the servants and soldiers were buried in the gardens. It was quite beautiful but personally I wouldn’t bother going unless you had a real interest in that dynasty.
You can’t go to Marrackech and not visit the mayhem that is Jemaa-el-Fha Square. You can buy anything there from orange juice freshly squeezed as you watch or an Iphone 6 from a passing salesman (not sure how legitimate they are though). The real entertainment is the snake charmers, busking bands, monkeys dressed up and a number of others who entice you over to take a photo then put their hands out for payment. They try for 100dh and look disappointed when you give them 10 but in reality there are thousands who pass through the square daily, if even half give them 10dh they are making a good living. Just make sure you have plenty of change when you go, sit down and watch the shows if you can get close enough and enjoy the chaos. If this is too confronting for you there are a number of coffee and icecream shops that have balconies where you can buy a drink and sit and watch it unfold below. Once you know their tricks you can see the performer looking for a ‘victim’ and walk towards them, it is funny when it isn’t you . In the evening the square is filled with food stalls, joining the nut and orange juice sellers calling you to eat at their stall.
We found a couple of really good places to escape the mayhem and enjoy a good meal for a reasonable price. La Port Du Marrakech at Toualet Kennaria 68 offers a three course meal for 60dh. The meals were excellent and the service was really good as well. We ate here twice while we were there. The other place was the Marrakech Henna Art Café, we felt so welcomed here, the waiter was so friendly and happy we intended only having a drink and spent so long ended up having lunch. The meals were delicious and a reasonable cost. You can also have a henna done here if you want, maybe a bit safer than the ones in the square as you never know the quality of what they use. The café also houses local art along with special exhibitions so if you like art it is also worth a look.
The final place I wanted to tell you about is restaurant Amal, a not for profit organisation. They train women who come from disadvantaged backgrounds so they have employable skills. We spent a lovely lunchtime there, the food and service were excellent and the prices were really good too. You can also do cooking lessons, people who were staying at the Riad did one of their courses and were really impressed. It was good value at about 200dh per head which included lunch, desert, coffee and tea.
While we spent our time doing quite relaxing things Marrakech is also a hub to do many things like quad bike, horse or camel riding and day trips to the Atlas Mountains so if you are wanting an adrenaline rush there is plenty to choose from as well.
So that is our list of things to see in Marakech. Have you been? Can you add anything?