Second day in Marrakech

Marrakech Travel Blog

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I was going to meet Marcelle, my travbuddy, at the lobby at 10:00. I have to admit I was not entirely sure she was going to show up… you know, internet friends can be sometimes a bit shy…but there she was! 10:00 sharp! Well done Marcie!

The day was wonderful and we decided to walk to the Jemaa El Fna square. On the way, Marcie told me a little bit about herself and the local culture. She gave valuable tips about taxi drivers, bargaining, where to buy, where to eat, what to do and not to do.

The daylight made me see Marrakech in a different way. The night before when I went alone to the market, the architecture and the colors seemed ordinary because I could not see all of the details.

Now everything had a terracotta colour with white compositions so intricate and detailed that it was almost impossible to believe that they were made by hand. Woodwork, paintings and plaster finished the simple shapes of the buildings giving them splendor.

After a few minutes walking we could already see the tallest building in town: the Koutoubia Mosque. It is not the tallest building by accident… there is actually a law stating that no other building can ever be built higher than the mosque. And man, it is beautiful! A work of art! Marcie told me, and later I could see it for myself, that locals love to rest around the mosque’s cool gardens in a hot day.

A quick stop for some pictures and then we entered the Jemaa El Fna square. I had again another surprise because the square at night is very different. There were no food stalls anymore, except for the orange juice ones.

There were serpent charmers everywhere on the square, water sellers with their colourful outfits, Women offering henna tattoos, storytellers, Berber dancers and far less people than in the night before. I had the feeling that the square was a party-continuum. Something brought me memories of the carnival season in some small towns in the state of Bahia in Brazil, where there is this sense of non-stop fun and happiness which the whole community embraces.

Marcie invited me for a cup of tea in a restaurant nearby so we could try something different and appreciate the crowd at the square at the same time. I am not a “tea person” but I have to admit that it was delicious. It was the famous mint tea that I would try again after lunch. Using my travel guide, Marcie showed me the places I should not miss and the ones I could skip, if I didn’t have time.

She is such an angel that, on top of showing me around her “hometown” (she is actually from Cape town, South Africa) and spending so much of her free time with me, she decided that she had to pay for the tea as well, despite my protests. In return I offered to buy her a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Ahhh… try that in a hot day. Delicious!

It was time for something I was not brave enough to try in the previous night: enter the labyrinthine alleys of the souks. Even a local like Marcie can get lost in there and it is all part of the experience. She took me to different sectors of the souk and showed me a few shops. I ended up buying a pair of babouches (Moroccan slippers).

Later we went to try some pastries in a little shop inside the souk.

They were delicious, I have to say… but I am not a huge fan of pastries and sweeties. I could notice Marcie’s smile after each one she tried. She was like a little girl in a candy shop… and I could not resist the temptation to make her happy and buy a whole box of mixed pastries. I think she didn’t understand I was buying the box for her but, nevertheless she carried the bag with the box for the rest of the walk!!!

Then we went to the “medicine” or cosmetic part of the market where they show little turtles (don’t ask me why… ask Marcie) and other poor animals alive or dead. I bought amber sachets and was about to go further into the souk when Marcie said: “if I go any further I will get lost”, with a lovely smile that is only hers. As a good guest I agreed and we returned to the main square from where she was going to take me to the Palais de la Bahia. We got there just before lunch time but it was closed. Most places close for lunch until around 3:00pm.

I then suggested we had lunch. We went to a nice restaurant in the Mellah, the Jewish quarter, (forgive me Marcie, Marrakech, the restaurant owner and the reader… but I don’t remember its name L) where we ordered two types of tagines. That was the moment when I took the best picture of the whole trip: Marcie’s smile. My tagine was delicious… but I don’t eat much. Marcie, on the other hand cleaned her plate with the bread!!! J  I had another cup of mint tea.

After lunch Marcie left me at the Palais de la Bahia, which was already open, and went back home. She said goodbye and then a few seconds later she called me back to return the box of pastries saying: “Look, silly me, I almost took your box with me!!!”. Only then she realized I had bought it for her… and she would use it wisely to bribe a friend into giving us a free lift to Essaouira!!! Well done Marcie again!

I entered the Palais de la Bahia. Entrance fee was 10Dhr. The name Bahia means “Brilliant”… which has nothing to do with its Portuguese form Bahia which means “bay”. It is a magnificent palace built in the end of the 19th century to serve as a harem. It is still being used today as a royal residence and most of its 150 rooms are closed to the public.

The guy who built it, Bou Ahmed had four official wives and some two dozen concubines. Nowadays, it is hard to manage one woman… imagine thirty!!! The story is that this guy was so obese that the upper galleries, common in Moorish palaces were omitted because he would not be able to access them.

Groups of four rooms were put in rectangles facing a central open garden. Even though they all look similar, each one has its own style, with walls, paintings, carvings, ceiling, floor, doors and windows designed and combined in different ways.

I left the Palais de la Bahia and headed to the Tombeaux Saâdiens. As was already expected, I got lost but, with the help of two happy local girls, I found my way. The Tombeaux Saâdiens is a burial place for the rules of the Saâdien dynasty that ruled from 1524 until 1659 and was responsible for Marrakech’s golden age.

Marble, wood and plaster are used here in different ways to provide the unique design of each chamber.

At this point I was little bit tired and decided to go back to the Jemaa El Fna square for some rest. I didn’t have any problems finding my way back. All I had to do was to head towards the Koutoubia Mosque until I had left the little alleys and then turn towards the square.

It was getting dark and the square was being prepared for the night. The food stalls were already up and cooking had already started. Despite the delicious smells coming from the stalls, I was not feeling hungry… but I could not resist another glass of orange juice.

After walking around for a while, joining the crowd surrounding a storyteller (without understanding the story he was telling, of course) and observing the movement I was so tired that all I wanted was to lie down on my bed.

I could have taken a taxi but decided to walk for the first time from the Medina back to my hotel. I had no problems finding it. Had a nice shower and went to sleep thinking about all the exotic scenes I had seen that day. I had a nice smile on my face.

(To be continued…)

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335 km (208 miles) traveled
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photo by: sweetet