Marrakesh Day 2

If you have the time, Marrakesh is the kind of place to lay back and pace yourself. The main sights are not that big and generally don’t take much more than 30 minutes each to visit, leaving plenty of time to wander the narrow streets of the souks either to shop or just take in the sights, sounds and smells. Each time we turn the corner through the maze of alley ways we’re confronted with a new smell. You may be first greeted with the mouth-watering aroma of baking bread, turn the corner and it turns to stomach-turning stinking garbage or bleach, turn the corner again and it turns to fragrant orange blossoms.

Majorelle Gardens

After the requisite leisurely breakfast on the riad terrace we head north to the Majorelle Gardens. The French painter Jacques Majorelle created the gardens in 1931. The gardens were abandoned at the end of Majorelle’s life and purchased by Ives Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980 who restored the gardens and re-opened them to the public. Never have I seen such a lush cactus garden. Beds of bamboo, palms and cactus are connected by pathways lined with brightly colored pots, mostly Majorelle  blue. The small garden is popular so get there early or late in the day.

Wandering back to the old town, we come across a small lot filled with fruit vendors. I go to take a picture and one of the vendors starts waving and hollering. This is the first time I’ve been yelled at  when taking pictures in a public place. Marrakesh seems more hostile towards picture taking tourists and I’ve noticed that a number of locals cover their faces when walking through my picture frame. It remains to be seen if this sentiment remains throughout our trip.

Coincidentally our next stop is the Maison de la Photographie that houses a collection of photographs from Morocco from 1880 to 1950. My favorites were the photos of the Marrakesh markets with the harsh sun piercing through the bamboo covered walkways, much like it still does today.

Souk Café

Just after noon there is a long line at the Ali ben Youssef Medrasa, our last sight of the day. Tired and hungry we make a beeline for the Souk Café to refuel before tackling the crowds.

On the café’s inviting terrace we try a selection of Moroccan salads with the local tanjia, a type of meat stew slow cooked in a jar and then poured into the serving dish table side. Flavors I can’t identify, but we sop up every drop with the accompanying couscous and bread.

Ali ben Youssef Medrasa

By the time we reach the Medrasa the lines have dissipated and the crowds inside the 14th century former school are quite manageable. The courtyard is the most intricately decorated of the sights we’ve seen in the last two days; I’m glad we didn’t miss it. Upstairs is a maze of student’s rooms, not much to see, other than how small they are, but affords views of the courtyard below.

Djemaa el Fna Square

Dinner on the square. The guide book list the Djemaa el Fna square as medina’s top sight famous for snake charmers and other oddities.  I suppose it is a must see as an interesting window into local cultures – groups gather around the immense square playing music, dancing and watching various other types of performers, but for me, unless you are into beating drums it’s not that intriguing. We did see one snake but couldn’t really get close enough to see what they were doing.

On one side of the Djemaa el Fna square is a large section of small “restaurants” numbered in some crazy out-of-order numbering scheme. Most of the restaurant fall into just a few categories and offer nearly identical menus – soup, sheep head sandwiches, or skewers, couscous, and fried fish. We stopped at one of the later recommended by Michel at the riad. Can’t say the food was more than average, but it’s a Marrakesh experience. Coincidently Michel himself turned up at the stall to dine with some friends while we were there.

Ended the evening with a glass a wine on the tranquil terrace where we started our day.

March 26, 2013

For links to all the posts in this series see the Morocco page.

2 thoughts

  1. Beautiful photos Debbie! The one with the window framing is brilliant!! Yup, wish I had been with you!! Glad you had a great time! 😀

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