Morocco_Marrakech: Lost in Medina

Marrakech… another bucket list goal.

I was so excited to finally visit Morocco that the last two days before vacation became an insomnia. Starting from Amman I had a stopover at airport Rome Fiumicino. Duty free shopping, slices of Italian pizza, four or five espresso and one crema later, the connection flight to Casablanca started and so my excitement to this forthcoming adventure.

Arriving at Casablanca airport just 1.5 hours before the last train departed to Marrakech, what a thrill, but fortunately I could catch the train in time. The four hour train ride itself turned out as my first adventure: I passed wonderful landscapes, hundreds of palm trees, agave fields, steppe and a sunset as corny as you can imagine – I was truly surprised by the variety.

After almost 24 hours travel, I finally arrived in Marrakech. First impression, the main train station wasn´t that bad with its magnificent Arabic style and all its wonderful decorations around. Totally done from the long journey and nearly two days without sleep, I took a taxi directly to the Riad (which is the name of a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard). Suddenly, the taxi driver stopped in nowhere Medina; me not a word French and him not a word English speaking, I was a bit scared what´s going to happen. Fortunately, as I found out later, the Riad was in an impassible street and the driver was just waiting for the receptionist to pick me up and guide me the way. After a 10 minute walk through some of Medina`s alleys with a stranger at night I arrived at Riad Amina – one of the most beautiful places I ever stayed. Immediately the receptionist took care of me, told me everything about the house, showed me the room, and told me most important facts. Best part, as an act of hospitality, I was invited to traditional mint tea and some very delicious Moroccan pastries; a very nice gesture to end this long day.

The next and actual first day in Marrakech I started with some Moroccan breakfast which is a variety of very sweet dishes like a kind of pancake, different jams and other sorts of cake. Probably a French ‘visitor`s’ leftover?  Around noon, Stefan, my husband, who was already in Marrakech because of a work trip, arrived at the Riad – now the adventure could start. First, we took a look around the Riad; I showed him our small but very gorgeous, with traditional materials and furniture decorated, room – with a window which has a view directly into a palm tree and the absolute amazing courtyard. But not enough, there was also a lovely roof top with plenty of plants and a cute whirlpool.  I definitely recommend the Riad Amina for a stay in Medina.

Because of the long journey and well knowing Medina Marrakech is not too quiet and relaxing place, we decided to stay for first at our place having some wine and a traditional Tajine.

But we couldn’t wait for the next day to come and so we decided for dinner out. With the helpful tips from the receptionist, a city map, and aware of the extremely busy Medina we were sure nothing gets us lost. A few minutes later… we were lost in Medina. But we enjoyed it. Estimated a hundred people showed us the way without asking, most of them not even knowing where we would like to go… which was kind of annoying. We stopped by for some tea and food in a small restaurant at the Djemaa el Fna (which is one of Marrakech´s most famous market places).

I was so excited to see this place, but it turned out as rather bad experience. First thing to say, in my opinion this place is highly overrated; it’s not really outstanding beautiful, too crowdie and it´s a shame how animals get treated there. Of course, I read before about those snake charmers and all kind of questionable tourist entertainment, but to see how little monkeys were abused for money and have to stay chained or in cages made us simply sad. We decided not to go back to this place and surly not to spend any money there.

As sad as the first day ended, as funny the second day started.  Both in a good mood and hungry to see what Medina has to offer, we decided to start with a visit at the ‘La Maison de la Photographie’, a house with beautiful architecture decorated with old photographs of Berbers and Moroccan landscape. Highlight and reason why I was keen to visit it was a highly recommended roof top with a city overview. It was an impressing building and I liked the photographs – yes,  the roof top was nice as well, but in my opinion and in comparison with the other sights to come, the entrance fee was a bit to much, but well… it was fun anyway. Not at least because of a man we were watching, trying to dry his clothes on a chain-link-fence 🙂 it was nice to watch with what implicitness he did it.

After some coffee, strolling through Medina continued… next stop ‘La Sultana’. I read before about this magnificent hotel and I was curious to visit it. Turned out as a very good decision. In the middle of all this busy and dirty but charming Medina streets, we had lunch in this silent oasis surrounded by palm trees, agaves, beautiful furniture with a view directly over the city and in middle of the ‘Saadian Tombs’. Of course, we visited after lunch. Another must-see place.

Totally done, we took a taxi back to the Riad and to enjoy the silence. We also decided to book a trip to Atlas Mountains for the next day. Totally unusual for us not to explore it by ourselves but instead joining a group – anyway, this is a story I like to tell in another article.

At the 5th day we left busy Medina and changed the cosy Riad Amina for a fancy hotel in modern Marrakech. A totally different experience. There are huge shopping centers, fancy roof tops, street life like in western countries, people having drinks and scooters crossing your way all the time… truly lifely atmosphere. Back to ’Boutique Hotel 2Ciels’, very fancy place with modern rooms, an outstanding roof terrace and a swimming pool with city view… and of course a gorgeous beach bar, where we spent whole afternoon just having some beer and those mouth-watering potatoes with calamari (two times 🙂 ). I also would like to recommend the Hotel hosted Restaurant ‘Patron de la Mer’.

Later that day we had a reservation for dinner at a traditional Moroccan restaurant named ‘Al Fassia’. My husband found it during business dinner some days before – I was quite excited to try all the tiny starters of Moroccan Salads…this restaurant was perfect for such an experience.

Last day in Marrakech we still didn´t see everything we had in mind. Usually we are not that kind spending our vacation hunting sights, but there were some more important places we didn´t like to miss. Again we walked through all these colorful souks with plenty of wonderful handmade items like carpets, metal ware, poufs, tajines and spices. We stopped by for shopping and of course lunch at a cute roof top restaurant in middle of the souks.

For dessert we found a nice atrium to cool down and having coffee and traditional pastries. I wondered that I still hadn’t enough from the sweet things after almost a week in Morocco… hmmm I guess, they are just too delicious. Our last ‘must have seen’ places were the Bahia-Palace, Medersa Ben Youssef and Jardin Majorelle – of course, I needed to see where Yves Saint Laurent got his inspirations from. Those places are so colorfully decorated with tiles and lovely surrounded by hundreds of plants; all my favorites like palms and agaves where such a breathtaking experience. But see yourself…

The rest of the day we spent at the hotel overwhelmed by the beauty and variety of this city. Day of departure started very soon in the morning – back to Casablanca by train – then a stopover in Rom and finally, after 23 hours, back in Amman. I already miss Morocco and it was definitely not the last time to be there – so much left to explore.

Cheers with sunbeams.

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