Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three Days In Marrakesh

 
The other night we watched Jamie Olivers latest offering: 'Jamie Does Marrakesh'.  It was excellent, and it brought back memories of my fortieth birthday a couple of years ago, when MG treated me to three days in Marrakesh.

MG surprised me by announcing we were going there, I had never been and he knew it was on the top of my wish list for places to visit.  MG said it was up to me to choose accommodation. I knew two things, I wanted to stay in a beautiful riad, preferably with a pool and I wanted to stay in the heart of the Medina.  So I busily started researching riads, there are loads of websites advertising cool and hip places to stay in Marrakesh, a lot of my first choices were fully booked, but eventually I found a charming riad, very tastefully refurbished, owned by some arty types from New York, right in the heart of the Medina and it had a pool.

We were picked up from the airport by the manager of the riad, I will never forget my first impressions of Marrakesh, talk about a culture shock!  We got to the walls of the Medina and MG, myself and the manager all got out of the taxi.  From nowhere a small toothless man in a djellaba appeared, wielding a small wooden cart  he put our luggage into the cart and trotted off at a great pace, at first I thought he was making off with our luggage then it dawned on me that he was a riad porter.

We followed him through a labyrinth of alleyways, full of people, donkeys, carts, people selling their wears, there was stuff going on everywhere it was like returning to biblical times, I felt I was in the set for  'The Life Of Brian' or some other biblical epic.  The alleyways got smaller and smaller, we were twisting and turning all over the place, eventually we got to a small, ancient, arched, wooden door, the manager opened it and we stepped into another world.

The Riad
It was an oasis and a complete contrast to what was going on outside in the Medina, we sat down and relaxed in the courtyard on big comfy sofas, it was then that I saw the pool, which was lovely with rose petals floating in it, but far too small to swim in, purely decorative or big enough to bathe, a la Cleopatra.  We were served mint tea and we unwound from our travels, then we went to unpack in our beautiful room with en suite and got ready to do some serious exploring.

 
The window in our room
We decided to go and check out Djamma El Fna, the big square at the heart of the Medina, on route we took in the sights and sounds of The Souk, the only way to describe it 'A feast for all the senses' and if you see something you want to buy, I recommend you buy it immediately as you will never be able to find that shop again!  We got to the Square just at sunset, it was magnificent and full of snake charmers, dancers, magicians, soothsayers, tooth pullers and all manner of other things, the makeshift restaurants were just setting up for the night, it was amazing.

We wondered around and found a restaurant, not one of the eateries in the square, we would have loved to have eaten there, but they do not serve alcohol and we needed wine.  After dinner and some nightime wandering involving several stops for mint tea, we decided to amble back to our riad, this is where the problems started.

I thought I had a good sense of direction, not in the Medina in Marrakesh I don't! We got totally lost, all the landmarks that were there earlier had gone, closed up for the night, the busy alleyways are completely different in the dark, quiet and eerie, we wandered around for more than an hour, I kept saying 'I am sure it's down this one', no, wrong again.  We did have a map of the Medina, but believe me it's useless, MG was getting increasingly grumpy and in a fit of temper tantrum, he threw the map away, eventually we had to call the manager to come and get us, which was tricky as we did not know where we were but he found us and led us back to the riad.  We only managed to find the riad once on our own and that was in daylight!

Djamma El Fna
 We also explored the French quarter of Marrakesh which is a complete contrast to The Medina, very French with smart boutiques, trendy restaurants, big swanky hotels, chi chi boutique hotels and lots of chic ladies with equally chic dogs on leads. We ended up walking everywhere as the taxi drivers were on strike, we did get a caleche (horse and carriage taxi) when my feet gave out, but I was a bit choosy about caleches, I only wanted to go in ones where the horse looked in good condition, there were so many horses clearly not looked after properly and if the horse looked unwell, so did the carriage, threadbare upholstery and peeling paintwork etc.

One of the places I had to see was the Majorelle Gardens well what can I say, they were absolutely stunning and you have not seen blue, until you have seen the blue in the Majorelle Gardens!

Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Majorell Gardens

Graffiti Bamboo, Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Majorell Gardens

Majorelle Gardens

Majorell Gardens

On our last night MG took me out for my birthday dinner, we dined at The Dar Moha, one of Marrakesh's premier restaurants, in the former home of the French fashion designer Pierre Balmain.

It was a magical evening, the surroundings were exquisite, we dined outside by the pool in candlelight, the food was sublime, there were musicians playing and a little bird had told the staff it was my birthday, they presented me with a wonderful cake, on the house!

Dar Moha

 Dar Moha

Dar Moha
Marrakesh was wonderful and three days really weren't enough. After watching Jamie's program we both agreed we would like to return.  I am glad we stayed at the riad in the heart of the Medina, but next time we will stay somewhere that we will be able to find!

17 comments:

  1. That trip would take away the sting of turning forty, fifty, sixtie... of all the photos, I'm sure the image of the graffiti bamboo will stick in my mind, oddly beautiful.
    We have a new Jamie Oliver show here in the States called Food Revolution. Basically he is calling Americans fat, artery clogged pigs and I would take exception if he did not have a valid point.
    Do you recall his original show The Naked Chef? I tuned in and was disappointed. I imagined he and Nigella Lawson would be romping around a kitchen while the neglected vegetables overcooked.

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  2. Loved this story Dash...we watched the Jamie programme and it fired up our desire to go to Marrakesh even more..We have been talking about going since we set foot in the UK but every time we have any spare time we seem to use it up on trips back to Aus. The riad looks gorgeous..would you recommend it & if so, could you let me have the details? Really enjoyed reading this & the restaurant looks gorgeous - hope you are having a great weekend x

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  3. Loved this...especially the garden photographs.

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  4. sweet photos... intense! lucky you
    ~laura

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  5. What gorgeous photos, Dash. I've never been there, to be honest I've just never fancied it. If we decided one day to go then I hope we'd have enough to stay in the French Quarter - it sounded wonderful; okay, not as exotic as the more 'eastern' parts but I couldn't bare to see skinny horses dragging their loads.It would really upset me (after all I'm someone who had to have 'words' with some of the horse owners at Central Park in NY (one place where I never expected to see such underfed horses).

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  6. loved this story..and it took me to a place i have never heard of before..and it was beautiful...

    and YES ...maybe our dogs will be the angles that take us to HEAVEN....

    Teddy in 3 days !

    sending love,
    kary

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  7. What a fabulous journey for the two of you-and thank you for sharing a bit of it with us. Your photos make me feel like I'm right there with you!

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  8. What a brilliant account of your trip! I hope you're able to go back soon :) Lovely photos - they gave a real sense of place.

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  9. Dash - thank you so much for all the info. Really appreciate it - hope we can get there sooner rather than later..my plans for the summer have been slightly thrown as my son has decided to get married in Vegas! Can't think of a more awful place to go but what can you do??!!! Hope you had a great weekend x

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  10. what an exotic birthday you will always
    cherish!

    and that we were lucky enough to have
    a glimpse of. gorgeous photos!

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  11. Fantastic post Dash
    Oh.. Marrakesh is somewhere near the top of my wish list.. along with Spain and Portugal as places I still haven't seen.. but somewhere I don't think I would travel alone...

    Your photos and words tell a wonderful story... and I laughed about the getting lost... sounds like Mykonos.. after about a week I could finally find my way back to the hotel....

    So... did the riad end up having a full size pool also??? I guess that would be a big bonus after a long day walking through the alleys....

    I'll have to come back and read this one again and again and dream of getting there one day... Have a great week xxx Julie

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  12. I love Marrakesh. I went with my husband a few years back and fell in love with the place. I did get horrible food poisoning though. Still, can't wait to go back and take my kids as well.
    Your photos are gorgeous!

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  13. To visit Morocco is a dream. What lovely images . . .

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  14. great post, just been to the medina in Marrakesh 2 weeks ago, I think we were staying in the same romantic riad, is it the norah? I got great rates for the most romantic riadthe most romantic riad here. We loved our stay !

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  15. I know you wrote this almost a year ago, but i've just read it and your trip sounds magical! The way you've described it just makes me want to go even more. I was talking to my mum and aunty a while back about how i'd love to visit one day, and they said that i shouldn't because of all the people in the streets constantly pestering you to buy things. But i think i'd easily be able to put up with that to visit such an amazing looking place. They said the same thing about me wanting to visit Istanbul aswell - i won't be deterred! Haha, one day! :) x

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  16. Marrakech is really magical! I also love Jardins Majorelle, it's so different from the rest of the city... I'm there this weekend for an encore and reading this really got me excited.

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