Discovering Marrakesh

Our best meal in Marrakesh so far – our breakfast in our courtyard, we were served dish after dish and….mint tea? Yes please!!! I am not a tea person but the mint tea is very good, we were joking that we should grow fresh mint back home to make mint tea haha!

Our full breakfast, my favorite was the Moroccan pancake which we spread butter and pour honey….yum!!! Sokunna tried the famous Moroccan freshly squeezed orange juice; the ones they sell in the Jemaa el-Fna are mostly mixed with water I heard so the quality guaranteed place to have OJ is in your Riad! She said wasn’t as sweet as she hoped for but it was for sure fresh!

After breakfast and waiting for our guide to meet us at the Riad at 9 am, we did a mini photo session inside our beautiful Riad! Our room’s balcony:

The comfortably seating with shade up on the rooftop:

Our tour guide, Siad, arrived and greeted us in our Riad. I told him where we want to visit: Bahia Palace, Ben Youssef Madrasa, and Majorelle Garden if time permits. Our interest is architectures and not museum people. He spoke good English and off we go….because we were with a local guide, we felt much more comfortable walking on the street with our cameras.

Look what we found…a Philips logo! Sokunna and I had to take a photo with it since we are Philips employees hahaha!

Once again Koutoubia Mosque and perfect timing that an old guy riding on his donkey passed by to give you a perspective that cars, bikes, donkey, and buses shared the same road.

We walked by more shops on the edge of Jemaa el-Fna:

Arrived Bahia Palace where the entrance was surrounded by a small garden. Siad handed us some leaves and explained different medical use of them. This one was an orange tree leaf.

The purple flower tree matched my dress right?

The small entrance into the palace! The entrance fee was 10 dirhams, we handed the money to Siad and he got us the tickets.

The palace architectural style looked similar to the ones we saw in Seville, Spain – Moorish style and a mix of Islamic and Moroccan.

What was very different than the Alcázar of Seville was the colorfulness, here this has many different colors – the wooden ceiling, the tiles, and the columns whereas Alcázar of Seville is mostly cream-yellow toned.

Our tour guide, Siad; he was patiently waited for us to finish taking our photos to tell us the history of the palace. The palace name means “brilliance” and it was considered one of the greatest palace in Morocco at that time.

The walls and floors were covered by colorful mosaic tiles.

The colorful ceiling hallway:

Patterns on the wall were painted as well:

Jason was patient enough to listen to Siad’s stories while we were trying to take photos haha.

A closer look into the columns, I was quite amazed by the details and colors!

Especially this arch with the stained glass windows in the back wahhhhh! Islamic art and architecture doesn’t use god, human, or animal figures so you won’t see any of those figures in their architecture. Instead, they decorated by patterns and shapes.

 

I really liked Bahia Palace, it wasn’t as big as I thought, probably they open only some sections of the palace for public visit. In the palace, I was surprised to see quite a few tourists early in the morning so taking photos required some wait. After the palace, we continued our walk through narrow streets with hanging carpets:

And unique doorways that I had to snap a photo as we walk!

Water station:

Siad brought us to a museum even though I had expressed that we aren’t museum people at the beginning of our tour……..the entrance fee was minimal and we saw some interesting Moroccan crafts and arts.

 

We walked through pretty quickly and hardly any visitors there. However, the best thing was they have free and clean flushing toilet to use! Other places have paid bathroom.

After the toilet break lol, we went into this beautiful tile room; that was a surprise!

Any know French to interpret the use of this?

After the museum, we continued our walk and it was lunch time, Siad asked if we want to have lunch at Jemaa el-Fna which he thought tourist trap or continued to walk a little bit more to a local restaurant he recommended. Local restaurant of course! This is a beautiful street, I love the shades of orange/red! Siad said Marrakesh city government has a law to keep the medina the way it has always been – red colored so it doesn’t lose its identify as the “red city”. They don’t want Marrakesh to end up like Casablanca filled with modern buildings. I totally agree, I don’t go to those big city filled with high skyscrapers as to me, they all looked the same so why would I travel thousands of miles to see the same thing as home?

Then thru the souks…

The local restaurant the Siad brought us to….filled with locals and no tourists but they do have an English menu!

Free soup made of some kind of peas, it was okay.

What attracted me the most was this tissue holder like a treasure chest!

Sokunna and I ordered quarter roasted chicken, it served with fries and a salad. I was very cautious of having salad in Morocco so I left that alone!

Seafood paella, it wasn’t as salty as the ones we had in Spain but the seafood ingredients weren’t that fresh….

The fried seafood plate, the fish was pretty good.

Garlic shrimp….the shrimp was so bad, it tasted like it has been kept in the freezer for so long. I guess the lesson is don’t order seafood, especially shrimp, in Marrakesh! I should’ve know that don’t expect good seafood in a place surrounded by desert! For all the food we ordered, it was only 250 dirhams ($26).

After lunch, we walked through Jemaa el-Fna….

Siad brought us to a “pharmacy”, something cooperative with the ladies cracking argan nuts to demo the creation of argan oil….so we thought it was legit. Another guy brought us to a room and demonstrated different spices, cosmetic creams, and of course Moroccan’s famous argan oil. There are two kinds of argan oils, one for cooking use (roasted nuts so darker color and more nutter smell) and one for cosmetic use (clear yellow, almost no smell). Argan oils are known as “liquid gold”, the majority of the world’s argan oils are produced by Morocco. It’s also one of the popular souvenirs from Morocco. However, it’s very tough to determine if what you are buying is real or pure argan oil. This was our first argan oil shop and it looked like a big establishment so should have some credibility right? We bought 3 bottles of 250 ml each, we were offered buy 2 get 1 free so cost us 350 dirhams. Continue reading our story to find out if we brought real or fake oil 😛

Shopping done, next, we walked to Ben Youssef Madrasa and along the way, more interesting doorways:

Siad also brought us to a “baking” store, locals brought their doughs here to bake. The guy let us took photos of him; one thing I forgot to mention is that you need to careful on photographing people in Morocco: either you will be asked for money or will get people mad (especially the older folks) who are very conservative.

Street light:

Golden door?

Finally, Ben Youssef Madrasa, it was the largest madrasa (college) in Morocco! I really like the Moorish structure with colorful mosaic tiles!

We had to wait for people to move out of the way for the photos; great thing about private tour, we controlled the time!

This doorway’s height is perfect for me haha!

The details of the arch, so “3D” textured!

Siad walked us up to the dorm rooms and each room was tiny!

Even the ceiling is 3D!

Next, Siad walked us to Majorelle Garden which was veryyyyy far away! We walked through more souks and shops…..he pointed to us that this bath has hours from xx to xx time female only and xx to xx time male only!

I forgot to ask why there are two doors….one for the animals?

Petite taxi station, those petite taxis can only fit 3 passengers and very old cars!

The walls looked like fallen apart but I do like the unified colors:

We had to cross a 4-lane major street and there was no traffic light OMG!!! Siad said just follow him tight….he put his hands out and step into the street, it was so scary!!! We trusted him and be as close to him as possible and crossed the street wowww! It reminded me of the first time I went back to China after I came to the USA and how my uncle holded my hands to cross a street like that!!!

We arrived Majorelle Garden where Siad said he’ll wait for us at the coffee station right across the street. We got in queue to purchase the entrance ticket of 70 dirhams each. It was by the far the most expensive admission in Marrakech and the most crowded with tourists. The reason this garden is so famous is that it was owned by the famous French design, Yves Saint Laurent. After this legendary designer’s death, his ashes were scattered in this garden!

Great that the garden has plenty of shades; it was hot!

Many different types of cactus:

The garden was okay in size, we spent probably an hour in the garden. It’s nice to have some photographs of but I don’t think it’s worth the 70 dirhams entrance fee! After the garden, we found Siad who was smoking outside the cafe; he is a heavy smoker for sure! As we were walking back, he tried to catch a grand taxi and finally, he caught one! At that point, we were willing to pay for a ride back instead of walking 30 minutes to get back lol; we had been walking for the whole day! We got back to Jemaa el-Fna and that concluded our full day walking tour with Siad at 700 dirhams. He was a good guide and walked us the whole day so we tipped him 100 dirhams. It was like 5pm when we got back to the square so we did more souvenir shopping (it was our last day in Marrakesh) and had dinner at 7 pm.

We bought more scarves at 50 dirhams each 🙂 We came across this colorful lamp stores and got one small one for 70 dirhams; remember no room in our luggage for big items 😦

Sokunna bought a pair of “leather” sandal which we later found out was not real leather; it started to fall apart just after one day walking yikes! When you think you scored a cheap pair, think again -.-

For dinner, we want good view of the square to see Jemaa el-Fna come alive at night! I did some research and picked Argana Cafe right on the square and not too expensive. There were metal detectors on the doorway of the cafe lol but doubt they are functional! We walked all the way to the 3rd floor and there was an empty table facing the square so we picked that table! The view was perfect!

Sokunna and I ordered spaghetti bolognese, it was pretty good!

Jason wasn’t afraid to give seafood a try lol but it was fine 🙂

The dinner cost us 389 dirhams plus 11 tips so 400 total, not bad for the view 😀

The blue hour and the market stand light up and I smelled grills! Too bad a big part of the market was closed for some construction otherwise the square would be filled and lit up with those stands!

I didn’t bring the tipod with us on this trip so I tried to hold my camera as steady as I could for night photos, they turned out to be okay 😀 Night photos of Jemaa el-Fna checked so we walked back to our Riad. It was so much easier on our 2nd night walking back as we were more familiar with the roads. We made it back to the Riad safely, phew, can’t believe we survived Marrakesh!!! We would miss the delicious breakfast the next morning because our desert tour will meet us at 8 am so we asked the 2nd shift receptionist if he can arrange for us an early breakfast and he said not an issue. We were thrilled but spoiler alert, we were extremely disappointed the next morning…….

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