Enter the souqs

Marrakech Travel Blog

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Koutoubia Mosque
We decide to walk from the hotel to the main sq Djemna El Fna.  The hotel receptionist insists it is only a 10-15 walk and most of the reviews I read also agreed with this.  We head out and follow Rue Moulay El Hassan, we are fascinated by all the little things like the row of orange trees growing along the boulevard and the calaches going about their daily business. 

Before long we are approached by a man who casually starts talking to us and trying to befriend us.  He's chatty and confident and speaks very good english.  He asked us the usual questions, '' where are you from?'', "Do you like Marrakesh?", "would you like me to show you around the market?  It is only open today and its very difficult to find, so its best to come with me friend.
The brass souq
"  "I work at your hotel as an electrician so I can bring you back in the afternoon once you've finished seeing all the sights." He offered us knowledge, history and a cultural update of all that needs to be known about Marrakesh.  We got caught up in the whole romance of the situation until a lightbulb switched on in my head.  My colleague had warned me that she had befriended a local that had promised her the same things.  Little did she know what she was getting herself into.  Her guide took her deep into the souqs and forced her into every little shop and intimidated her into buying souvenirs.  She tried to escape that and find her way out but just become flustered and lost with all the winding narrow paths.  Basically she had been relying on him and had not paid attention to the route that they had taken.
Lamb and chicken Tagine
  After attempting to get out by herself she got very upset and ended up paying the guy to take her out, back onto a main road or at least somewhere she could recognise.  I didn't want to risk the same experience so we declined the guy and instead made our own way.  Not long after, I stopped at the corner of Place de la Liberte near the fountain and purchased some postcards.  Here we were again approached by another guy claiming to also work at our hotel as a gardener... once again we shook our heads and declined. 

Heading into the Geuliz area we approach the cyber park.  Once a royal garden dating back to 1700's.  This garden is not that spectacular to look at but it is clean, well kept and quiet.  There are free internet kiosks which kids line up to use.
Badi Palace pool in courtyard
  At the exit of the park we hit Mohamed V, where life becomes busy.  Tourists are obvious here, a swarm of them heading towards the Koutoubia Mosque and park, maps in hand.  Non muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque so instead we take plenty of pictures from outside.  We head into the gardens, again it is well kept but nothing overly interesting about it other than they are located next to the mosque. 

I'm keen to see Djemna El Fna, I'd read so much about it and seen so many pictures, I just wanted to see it for myself.  This place is pretty manic and as much as you try to warn your senses that something spectacular is about to happen there is no warning enough.  There are snake charmers, henna ladies, donkey carts, cars musicians all bombarding your senses all in one go.
Badi Palace sunken gardens
  The snake charmers charge towards you with snake in hand ready to lasso you around your neck.  Henna ladies jump from there seats some with a book of patterns ready for business and others with their paint in hand ready to strike.  Musicians banging their drums and smashing their giant bells in front of your face.  Orange vendors all lined up in their carts waiting for punters to down their fresh orange juice.  I'm so shell shocked at the site I am paralysed to take any photos.

We pass all the mayhem and head for cover into the souqs.  This is a winding path of alleyways full of shops and keepers.  A little damp from the night before and very smelly.  Vendors all compete for your attention, "hello China, hello friend, come in and have a look, its free to look, i'll give you a good price.
Veggie couscous
"  I had a set list of things that I needed to buy but I had no idea of fair prices.  It would have been useful to have looked in the airport shops to get an idea of what each item moght cost.  Haggling is always expected and an art to perfect.  We spend about 3 hrs in here and when we leave we are laiden down with bags full of scarved, jewellry boxes, carved wooden souvenirs and a couple of paintings.  We did our fair share of haggling and got tired and then bored of it.  Luckily we managed to get all the things we wanted in one afternoon. 

We left in search of food.  I was ready for some couscous or a huge tagine.  We came back out into the main square and found a restaurant on the corner, Le Marrakeschi.  The view from the restaurant allowed us to look right into the life of the main square.  The service was a bit slow but the food was remarkable.  I had the lamb tagine with onion and tomato.  Otu had the lemon chicken tagine.  Both portions huge and delicious.  It took us a while to devour the dishes and further more to digest them.  With time still to spare after lunch we decided to head to Bahia Palace.

We reach Bahia Palace at 2.20pm to find that it is closed for lunch.  So instead we try to find our way to Badi Palace or the Sadiaan tombs.  This proved to be a hard task, we got a bit lost and locals were pointing is in all contradicting directions.  Eventually we found Badi Palace, just in time for 3pm opening time.  Lots of other tourist were also waiting to enter.  Price 10DHS for the Palace grounds or 20DHS to include the minbar.  The Palace now is just remnants of what used to be a magnificient Palace.  I found it hard to imagine the former grandeur of the Palace grounds.  The history plaques note that there used to be 360 rooms and the courtyard had a pool measuring 90m x 20m.  Formerly decorated with Italian marble and gold, all obviously looted after the Sadiaan empire fell.  We explored the underground prisons consisting of about 4 cells.  Underground we found the cells to be extremely dark and small, pretty creepy if you get left there alone.  We paid to see the minbar, held in a separate exihibition hall.  This is a wooden almost like stair case that the Imam stands on to deliver his sermon.  The design on it very intricate. 

Last part was spent on the roof top terrace.  We could see all the storks nesting on the roof top along the edges of the high Palace walls.  The view from the top allows you to see all across the Palace grounds and even further outside of the grounds and into the city of Marrakesh.  We left after this and headed back to the hotel.

Dinner time!  We chose a restaurant in the nouvelle ville area.  Al Fassir about 10-15 mins walk from the hotel.  This was an all female staff restaurant, Friday night no reservations and we find ourselves waiting at a fully packed restaurant.  Luckily we didn't have to wait long as they had a tiny table for two in the corner against the wall.  I ordered a vegetarian couscous to keep it light as I had such a huge lunch.  The plate came and it was huge.  The veg was very tasty but the couscous was missing a little flavour and lemon juice.  Otu had a brochette with rice and bread.  The portion looked small but it did the job just fine.  I was bursting at the seams.  I couldn't make the walk home so we attempted to get a taxi knowing that they were going to try to rip us off.  The first guy offered 60DHS and was not willing to haggle.  We walked off laughing and the next guy offered 20DHS, it was still over priced but a bargain compared with the previous guy, we took it!
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Koutoubia Mosque
Koutoubia Mosque
The brass souq
The brass souq
Lamb and chicken Tagine
Lamb and chicken Tagine
Badi Palace pool in courtyard
Badi Palace pool in courtyard
Badi Palace sunken gardens
Badi Palace sunken gardens
Veggie couscous
Veggie couscous
Marrakech
photo by: sweetet