Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Dear Diary.....Marrakesh (Morocco)


Dear Diary,

With a tight schedule to keep to for this day, our guide had informed us the night before that the hotel will provide a morning call to us at 6.30am and we would have to finish our breakfast and get ready to board the van by 8am - it was just too much of a hassle to have to keep to a time frame for everything!

The plan for the day was to head to Marrakesh, with a slight detour to the airport to pick up the misplaced-but-fortunately-now-found luggage of one of our tour mates who had flew in from the UK (the poor girl had to spend the night at the airport because of this!).

All in all, it took us close to 3 hours to reach Marrakesh and as we were driving into this “Ochre city”, the red walls of the buildings started to capture all of our attention. It was a totally different sight to that seen in Casablanca! According to our guide, Marrakesh has seen a huge tourism bloom in recent years, with many foreigners purchasing these red-walled resorts as their holiday homes. We could definitely see why with its distinctive sea of red-walled houses, where the beautiful modern architectural buildings complemented the old historic buildings, this place evoked a much more serene and calm atmosphere - a perfect place for people to have a nice vacation in! 

Colorful entrance to the restaurant..

The wonderful view that we had while dining at the terrace of the restaurant...

The first stop of the day was to a restaurant that had a beautiful terrace with a good view of the city. Prior to this trip, I had googled a list of food to try in Morocco and decided to try the beef tagine for this particular meal. It was definitely a good choice! As the clay pot containing the meat stew made its way to our table, the wonderful smell of it filled my nostrils and made my mouth water! With much anticipation, my husband and I eagerly tucked into the food. It was heavenly with the tender meat stew literally melting in our mouths, releasing the robust flavours contained in it! I can now totally understand why tagine has been rated the number one food to try in Morocco! 


The delicious tagine!!

..served in these cute clay pots..

After spending about an hour or so in the restaurant, with views that were truly a feast for the eyes and tummies filled with the delicious Moroccan cuisine, we made our way to our next destination - the Majorelle Garden, a botanical and landscape garden created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. This place was later on purchased by fashion designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, which has now been thankfully opened to the public.


The iconic villa inside the Majorelle Garden..

Love the bold cobalt blue color used!



The garden is beautiful, however, it was packed to the brim with tourists! When we arrived,  all we could see was the long queue of people waiting to get into the gardens. Luckily for us, our tour guide managed to get us all in in no time (perhaps having prior arrangements with the people mending this place). The unique shade of bold cobalt blue used extensively in the gardens was a stark contrast to the red walls of the buildings surrounding it. The colourful floral and varied cactus species definitely added to the charm of the gardens. It would have been a joy to just sit and chill on the benches inside the garden if not for the hustling and bustling that comes with the loads of tourists being ushered in with every passing minute. Once we have had enough of fighting for space with the tons of people inside the gardens, my husband and I cut short our exploration and headed for the exit to meet up with our guide. There was after all no way we could properly admire the beauty of the villa or the garden when there is just a non-stop influx of people trying to get the perfect photo of themselves in front of the iconic spots. Perhaps our views would change if we were to visit this place again during the non peak period!


Spotted a bird on one of the cactus..

Other variety of cactus.. 

Another lovely walkway in the garden

From the gardens, it was a short drive to Bahia Palace and just as we were about to enter the palace, our tour guide realized that one of our tour mates was missing. You could literally seen the instant look of horror on our guide’s face and it was just moments ago that she had confessed that she was not familiar with the roads in Marrakesh and it would be a disaster if any one of us went missing. Our tour guide has previously explained to us that it is illegal for someone who is not from the city to act as guides for tourist. As our guide is not from Marrakesh, we were joined by another guide from Marrakesh. Without any means to contact our missing tour mate, our guide and the Marrakesh guide had no choice but to let us into the palace to wander on our own first while the two of them went on a frantic search for the missing person. 


The palace is certainly full of colors...

...and excellent workmanship! 


 

With no guide to lead us around the palace, we decided to take things into our own hands. We ended up being guides for ourselves - it was certainly an amusing sight as one of us read out the information about the palace stated on the Internet as we moved from one section of the palace to another! This was actually the first time in which the whole group actually came together and helped each other out. Unfortunately, it was difficult to fully understand and appreciate the history of the palace without a proper guide with the limited amount of information that we could gather on our own and it was not long after where we dispersed and wandered off to do our own exploration of the palace. Personally, the architectural design and craftsmanship of the palace is just stunning and the use of bold colours, especially at the back courtyard of the palace, just made the whole place radiate with charm! It was really a pity that not much written information about the palace was made available there. By the time our guide arrived back into the palace with our missing tour mate, it was near the closing time of the palace and hence there was no way the two guides could have walked us through the different sections of the palace. Nevertheless, I found myself enjoying the walk through the palace as although the Bahia palace was visited by many tourists as well, it was much bigger and hence less claustrophobic than the Majorelle Garden.

The back courtyard of the palace 

Filled with cold bold colors!


From Bahia Palace, we soon made our way to the Koutoubia mosque, whose name was derived from the Arabic word for “bookseller” - namely because sale of books and manuscripts used to be done near it. According to the Marrakesh guide, the first mosque built at this site was erected by the Almoravid. Subsequently, it was destroyed when the Almohads took over the rule of Marrakesh. In its place, they built another mosque, which was unfortunately found to be misaligned and not oriented towards Mecca. A second mosque was then built to overcome this error, hence making Koutoubia to be a double mosque. It was a pity that non-Muslim visitors were not allowed into the mosque but the exterior appearance of the mosque, especially that of the 77 metres tall minaret, was impressive enough for me to keep pressing down on the shutter button of my camera!
 
Koutoubia mosque

Our final destination for the day was to Jemaa el-Fnaa, a large square and market place in the old city of Marrakesh. We were given some time to wander around the square on our own and oh boy, this place is a huge maze and mess! The main square was predominately occupied by drinks seller, snake charmers and tents selling street food. Although fascinated by the range of activities happening at the square, my husband and I felt quite disturbed by the constant hassling by literally all the stall owners that we walked passed. It came to a point when we got so tired of dodging and saying no that we just walked straight pass them without even acknowledging them. To be honest, we did not feel very safe walking in the square and was in a heightened state of alertness looking out for pickpockets, snatch thieves and even the local women who are said to demand money after forcefully drawing henna on your hands. 


Orange juice anyone? 


The main square of Jemaa el-Fnaa during sunset..

Still, our curiosity soon took over our fears and we ventured deeper and deeper into the maze-like plaza. My husband, who had earlier on boasted of his confidence in being able to remember the route back, soon had his confidence wavered when we realised we were walking around in circles and appearing in places that did not seem familiar. Anxiety soon turned into panic when we realised that we are lost in the maze-like souks. Frantically, we started to pick up our pace and try to retrace back the path to where we started off. It was after a while of zig-zagging along the narrow alleys that we managed to come across a sign that pointed towards the main square, where we eagerly followed and only heaved a sigh of relief when we arrived at the main square and spotted the tall minaret of the Kutoubia mosque (the structure that we had made a mental note to look out for when we have to find our way back to the group meeting point). 

We ventured deeper...

..and deeper into the maze-like plaza!

Starting to get lost in this messy place...  

...and ended up having to frantically find our way out of this maze... 

That was it! We have had enough of the all the mental stress endured in Jemaa el-Fnaa and all that we want to do now is to board our van and head to our hotel for a good night rest! 

For this second day of our trip, there were still quite a fair bit of mishaps that happened but we could feel that everyone on this tour is slowly appreciating the need to be cooperative and to keep together as a group (especially after a stern warning from our guide on the way back to the hotel). Marrakesh, on the whole, was a much lively place with more things to see as compared to Casablanca with probably the main drawback being the lack of information on the various places that we visited. Still, things are starting to look positive and hopefully, this tour will get more interesting and fun for the next few days to come...

Yours Truly,
Claire


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Related post:

Dear Diary.....Casablanca (Morocco)

4 comments:

  1. Marrakesh is indeed an exotic and colorful place. We hope to get there some day. I found the Majorelle Garden so enchanting and colourful. I have heard many stories of people getting lost or going round and round in circles in the bazaars of Marrakech. But I am sure at the end of the day it was a unique experience.

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    1. Hi Sandy and Vyjay, thanks for reading and I am glad that you enjoyed this post :)
      Majorelle Garden is really a beautiful place with its bold colors and exotic cactus collection...you could literally spend the whole day there (that is if the crowd does not bother you ;P).

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  2. Wow! What a fantastic post, a must for anyone visiting morocco. You’ve covered everything. Thank you for such a detailed and informative post

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    1. Hi Darren, thanks for reading and I am glad that you enjoyed this post!
      Cheers!

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