Our flight was delayed, so when we arrived to Marrakech, it was already dark. We had to wait until the morning to catch a glimpse of this mysterious city. On first sight it's not all that beautiful, it's dusty, to put it kindly, and the people are the most interesting part. Until you come upon a beautiful, grand doorway, and behind it is a hidden treasure. Colorful tiles, beautiful architecture and gracious hosts offering you mint tea. We had the unfortunate luck to have rain nearly the entire time we there, on top of that it was chilly and we were ill-prepared, but we made the best of it.
We stayed in Riad Kaiss, a lovely place, in the center part of town, the Medina, and a short walk from the main square, Jemaa El Fnaa. I woke up to flowers floating in the fountain in the center of the stunning courtyard and I knew I would love this place. The courtyard just outside our room was covered in stunning tiles and nooks filled with beautiful textiles to relax and enjoy breakfast.
We hired a guide to take us around for the first day, for about $100 (for two people), he took us to all the major points in the city, gave us a quick over view of the sights and got us acquainted with the city and the souks. At the time I thought hiring the guide was worth it, but with a little more research we probably could have done without.
The first stop on our tour was a must-see, the Jardin Majorelle, also called the YSL gardens. Even if you are not into gardens, you need to check this one out. Yves Saint Laurent lived on the property and spent much of his time here. The cacti and colors are a feast for your eyes!
Next we went to the Bahia Palace, a beautiful, colorful, detail-filled palace once used by the king's advisor and his many wives. If you are in Marrakech for more than a few days I would suggest a visit. It's beautiful and only costs about a $1 to visit.
After we took a quick tour of the souks, but much much more on that tomorrow. And we ended the day in Jemaa El Fnaa, "the big square." This is the main square in Marrakech, with endless hustle and bustle, then some more hustle as vendors try to sell you everything from t-shirts to spices and performers charm snakes, play with monkeys and draw henna tattoos on tourtist's hands. Many people watch the sunset over the Koutoubia Mosque from a rooftop cafe.
On another day, we wandered over to La Mamounia, a stunning hotel just outside the medina. I'll call this place a "must-see" as well. After several days shopping in the souks, this place was a lovely oasis. You're welcomed into a courtyard of lovely emerald tiles, then you walk inside and you are transported back in time. This place was booming in the 1940's when the likes of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt frequented and you picture what it would have looked like filled with rich hodnobbers. The drapes, the bar, even the spot where the band plays looks as though you walked onto a movie set of a period piece. We had lunch, and a cocktail, which only seemed appropriate, on the patio below. The gardens and the pool were both gorgeous as well.
I'll be back tomorrow with lots of info and tips on shopping the souks.