I’ve recently got back from Marrakech and I have to say that I now have another City that I love. As per my post what I have learned so far in Marrakech, I believed a lot of what I read online about what Marrakech was like and what the people who lived there were like. We did not experience anything like what we had read. I don’t know whether this was just pure luck or whether the people who had bad experiences were just unlucky.
Thursday was the day we flew to Marrakech. Our flight didn’t land until about 7pmish but we didn’t actually get out of the airport until about an hour later, as the Passport Control line was soooo long and slow.
After we finally got out we had to wait outside for the shuttle bus driver that was coming to collect us to take us to our Riad.
Unfortunately he was not there; and for some reason our phones would not let us call the Riad to find out what was going on. Luckily there was a very friendly man who kindly rang the number we had for us and spoke to them to find out what was going on. We got told that the driver was in the area so would be with us soon.
20 minutes later and still no sign of the driver….
Luckily for us the same man was still hanging around and he saw that we were still waiting around, so he rang our Riad again for us. This time we got told that the driver would be with us in 15 minutes.
I honestly don’t know what we would have done if this man hadn’t called for us, we might have been stuck waiting outside the airport all night!
15 minutes later the driver arrived and we thanked the man before heading off to the car. About 20 minutes later we arrived at our Riad, which was down a little alleyway! It looked super dodgy and me and my stepmum both looked at each with a slightly panicked look on our face, but luckily it was totally fine.
Our Riad was called Riad La Porte Rouge. It’s near the Medina wall so it’s a perfect quiet location.
Once in our Riad we got greeted by the night manager Mustafa who took us over to the sofa area so we could fill in forms and have some mint tea.
Whilst we were sitting here he also gave us a map and told us where he recommended we go, as well as how to get there. He also gave us some advice and tips, such as don’t follow people who are offering to show you around/how to get somewhere as they will often want money for it.
As well as his tips and advice, he also said that if we wanted to buy anything specific then to take a photo, get the price and then come back to him and he would tell us whether it was a good price or whether we should barter it down to a better price. My only qualms with this was that I had read that most stalls don’t let you take photos, although I guess there’s no harm asking if we could and then go from there.
After this he showed us to the two rooms we had booked and we made the decision between us about which room we wanted; I had been saying for ages that I hoped I got the blue room, as blue is my favourite colour. Luckily for me, this was one of the room choices so my stepmum let me have it. It was fate!
After we settled into our room and freshened up a little bit, we headed back down to the main area and sat down for dinner. We had a 3 course meal, the main was a beef tagine, and it was honestly so good.
When dinner was over we still had some wine left so we decided to take it upstairs to the rooftop area, which had this little area with a small couch, cushions, tables and was covered over with these rough rug things. It’s really hard to explain what I mean but I’ll put up a photo or two. We sat up here for a couple of hours and nattered away whilst we finished our wine and then called it a night.
On Friday we got up pretty early and had breakfast before we started our first day.
Breakfast was like no breakfast I have ever had, we had cake, these pancake crumpet things, bread, orange juice, and coffee or mint tea. The pancake crumpet things were accompanied with a marmalade thing, jam and honey. Bit of an odd breakfast combo, but i’m guessing that they give you a sweet breakfast because it’s so hot.
After breakfast we went back to our rooms and got ready for the day. We had decided that we were going to go to Jemaa El Fna, so we left our Riad and started following the directions that Mustafa had given us.
We followed and followed and then we got confused. There was this little gate hole bit in the Medina wall which looked like we could through it, but we weren’t sure whether this was right or whether we should just keep walking straight. We stood around talking about it for a little bit and then a man on a scooter rode past us and said to go through the gate bit and then go right and walk straight.
He obviously knew that we were lost and trying to get to Jemaa El Fna. Were we really that obvious?
Anyway, we listened to his directors and walked through the gate hole, looked around but then said to each other ‘I’m not sure this is the right way’ because it honestly didn’t seem anything like Mustafa had described.
Then the man on the scooter came back through the gate, parked up his bike and said ‘I’ll show you’, we said no thank you because of what we had been told, but the guy said ‘I’ll show you, no money’ so we said okay.
So less than an hour out of our Riad and we had already broken one of the rules. Good work Georgia.
Whilst we were walking he taught us how to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Welcome’ in Arabic and when we got to the Jewish quarter he told us what it was called, which was Mellah. When we walking through Mellah he would occasionally point out the symbols on the doors and give them a little tap. I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure why, but they ended up becoming great markers for when we needed to navigate our way on our own.
He took us to the Souk des Epices and then left us with his ‘friend’ at one of the spice stalls.
The guy at the spice stall told us what everything was and anything that could be smelled he picked up in his hand and told us to smell it. He explained what everything was used for, as well as asking us beforehand what we thought it was used for. It’s really so interesting!
Inside his little shop he showed us this white stuff that looks like chalk and told us that if you mix it with water and put it on your face, let it dry and then wipe it off with rose water then your skin is left super soft and clear. He showed us on our hands and guess what, it worked! The difference between my hands was noticeable.
As he showed us various things, another man stepped in and brought us some mint tea to drink whilst we were being taught. Such a lovely gesture, even if it was just to get us to buy something, but lets not be cynics.
We were also shown perfume blocks, including musk and amber. You just rub these blocks on your wrist, your neck or wherever you want to smell nice and it stays for ages. And they smell SO good! The Amber was definitely my favourite.
After he had showed us everything, he gave us a gift, which was these little toothpick flower things that are also nicknamed Berber Toothpicks. They are basically dried heads of fennel flowers, and they also have fennel seeds in them.
We decided to buy the face chalk thing and this ‘lipstick’ thing. I’m not sure how to explain the lipstick, but it was this solid circular block that you just wet your finger, rub a couple of times and then a bright red colour comes off onto your fingers and you use it on your lips.
After we paid we asked the guy how we get to Jemaa El Fna from there, he gaves us directions and we went off on our way.
Down more alleys and along narrow roads we get to the area where Palace Bahia is and we know we’re much closer to Jemaa El Fna. Thank you map!
Walking down the road we stop in a little shop that has varies items from scarfs and blankets to hand creams and oils with Jasmine, Patchouli and Rose in. My stepmum loved the Patchouli but decided not to buy it right away. We continue on our way and go past many stalls selling jewellery, lamps, bags and bowls etc.
Eventually we come across another spice stall and this is where we meet our curly haired Moroccan friend, who for some reason reminded me of Ben Stiller. He showed us round his shop, telling us the same things as the guy in the other Spice stall but also introduced us to Moroccan Argan Oil and spices to put in your cooking.
He shows us two bottles of Argan Oil and tells us which one is legit and which one is fake, and how you can tell the difference. Then he got us to smell the various spices for cooking and tells us each one is good for what food.
I ended up buying the Argan Oil and a little pot of Ras el Hanout, which you can use in most dishes.
From there we continued on and stopped off at a little cafe to get a can of Sprite as we could feel our sugar levels getting low.
After feeling more energised we continued on and finally came to Jemaa El Fna.
Friday seemed to be the perfect time to go as it was pretty quiet in the square and in the Souks.
Turns out that Friday is a holy day of rest, like our Sunday is in the UK, and a lot of shops, restaurants, museums etc are closed because of this. Despite this, we found that a lot of shops, stalls and restaurants were still open, just not as many as usual.
A lot of shopping and a lot of bartering took place in the Souks. I got called a Berber woman by numerous stall owners. Apparently they were calling me this because of how strong I was with my bartering.. I didn’t know whether to take this as a compliment or an insult, but after about the third time of being called this, I decided that I was going to take it as a compliment so just started saying thank you whenever it was said.
After a couple of hours of shopping and bartering we decided to stop for some lunch. We ended up going to a very Western looking place and getting chicken and mozzarella paninis with chips… Could we have chosen anything less Moroccan?
Feeling happily full we decided to go back into the Souks but after about half an hour we found ourselves getting to that ‘I’m fed up and I’ve had enough’ stage because we were so full from lunch and it was so hot.
So we decided it was time to get a taxi back to our Riad.
We walked over to the taxi area, which is near the Koutoubia Mosque. We found a taxi and the bartering started again.
I asked the taxi driver how much it would be to take us to where we needed to go and the taxi driver asked us how much we wanted to pay, so we said 30 MAD and he said no 50 MAD. Little barter and an additional person getting involved the driver agreed on 30 MAD. Who would have guessed that bartering worked with the taxis too!
Once back at our Riad we decide we need to have a list rest and cool down so decide to go back to our rooms for a bit. About an hour or two later we asked for a couple of drinks and found ourselves back at the little rooftop area, where we ended up just chilling out for a couple of hours before we had to go get ready for dinner. Dinner was another delicious 3 course meal, but the main was a chicken tagine YUM! After dinner we did the same as the night before and took our wine up to the rooftop and discussed the plan for the next day and chatted for a bit. It was about 11pm by the time we decided to call it a night.
All in all, our first full day in Marrakech had been a success.
I will be doing another of post or two about this trip, as part the way through writing this one I realised that it was rather long. So keep an eye out for them.
Thanks for reading x