When we first arrived in Portugal, my one travel destination goal was Morocco. I figured that since we were so close to North Africa, this would be the ideal time to visit.
So we did! Jax had TWO weeks off for Spring Break here (in Europe they call it Easter Break), so last month, we made the flight down to Marrakech for a four-day holiday.
It was everything I expected and more. I have always heard how exotic Marrakech is with their spices, souks, and snakes, so of course, I got loads of that, but it was more than that. The energy, the hues of the city, the sights, sounds and smells – I loved it so much that I am looking forward to the day I will return!
Here are photos of some of the sights we were able to see. (I have so many photos but have managed to cull it down to these.)
Place des Epices: From our riad to Jemaa El Fna, we had to pass by the Place des Epices, which is a nice, open square in the midst of the Souks. I was able to buy some fantastic teas and some Argan oil here. The teas are so delicious and I have to find a way to get my hands on the Moroccan Chai blend because I have pretty much drank my entire stash already.
A view of the Koutoubia Mosque or Kutubiyya Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakesh. One of my favorite sounds were to hear the prayers – there was something so soothing and meditative about them (except for the ones that were done at 4am).
An aerial view of Jemaa El Fna, the main square and market place in Marrakesh’s Medina quarter (old city). It is loud and chaotic and we were able to spot snake charmers and dancing monkeys here. The old Medina is a UNESCO world heritage site, and we ate some delicious dinners here. My favorite restaurant was Snack Toubkal, a local’s secret suggestion from Abrahim, our coordinator at the riad. Ry, Jax, and I ate the tastiest and most flavorful vegetable couscous, salads, and chicken tagine for less than 90 Moroccan Dirham (or about $9 USD).
Years ago my dear friend Cresel gave me this awesome book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz, knowing my love of travel, so I made sure to check off the Marrakech sites, which included the beautiful La Moumania Hotel. According to the book it is “A Historic Oasis of Luxury” and it references Truman Capote’s quote: “Before you go to Marrakesh, make sure you say goodbye to all your friends and draw your savings from the bank,” saying he must have been booked at La Moumania. Ha! Anyway, the grounds were gorgeous and I’m glad Jax and I were able to check it out. However, Ry was not allowed in because he was wearing sport shorts and they have a strict dress code. So, make sure you dress appropriately if you ever plan to visit!
A note about our fabulous riad: my friends Chris and Angie were in Marrakech last year to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday and stayed at the beautiful Riad Dombaraka. Unfortunately, the riad was overbooked but Dominique, the fantastic owner, set us up in our own private riad 30 meters from Dombaraka, and we were able to come and go to Riad Dombaraka and had our breakfasts there! It was so beautifully furnished, we loved the pet turtle, and Dominique and her staff were incredibly first-rate and the best.
A visit to Morocco would not be complete without a camel ride! Definitely a highlight of our trip!
The other must do in Marrakech is go to Jardin Majorelle. Try and go early because the lines are around the block. Unfortunately, since we were staying in the Old Medina, we could not get there at an early hour (it is next to impossible to hail cabs in the Old Medina – we actually took a Tuktuk through the souks to get here!) Needless to say, we arrived at the Jardin Majorelle around 10:45am and had to endure the line to get in. It was worth it, though! The garden dates from the 1920’s when French artist Jacques Majorelle created it. Majorelle ended up becoming more famous for the garden than his paintings and the bright blue Majorelle blue has become the garden’s centerpiece and most well known feature. The garden was later purchased by fashion designer Yves St. Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, who restored and made it their home in Marrakech. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé discovered the Jardin Majorelle in 1966, during their first stay in Marrakech. According to the Jardin Majorelle website, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980 and saved it from falling victim to a real estate project and becoming a hotel complex. The new owners decided to live in the Villa Bou Saf Saf, which they renamed Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden in order to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle.”
Finally, I touched upon it earlier but I leave you with a photo of one of our tasty dinners. Here we had chicken kabobs and vegetable couscous, tomato and onion salad, and finished it off with mint tea and some delicious almond-type cookies. Til we meet again, Morocco!