Marrakesh Day I
Mint tea itself is central to Moroccan life and a national drink.
We’d read a lot about the culture and how mint tea is customary way of welcoming you. It’s such a hospitable gesture that made us feel right at home at this hotel. We knew this was going to be something that would relax us, remind us of their culture and give us a moment to just be right there where we were.
After three long flights we arrived! And were greated with our first delicious mint tea!
In no particular order, but here are some images of our riad. It was several stories with an awesome rooftop that overlooked the main square. You could lounge and eat up there. On our second day we even figured out that the sweet staff would bring you beer to accompany your view!
This strange thing you see handing down from the ceiling is designed to capture the rain water and fill the fountain in the lobby.
Trip Tip: These hotel rooms do not have locks on the door. We did not feel unsafe for one second here. The staff was so lovely and treated us more like family than guests in a hotel. With that said, we did lock up all of our valuables in our suitcase when we left the hotel each day.
Riad Andalla was wonderful, but I heard they opened a newer nicer one down the road. They said to email them for a discounted reservation rate rather than book online…
The hotel is hidden down a confusing set of street, so this map helps…a little.
Jemaa El Fna Square
This is one of the best-known squares in Africa and definitely something you picture when thinking of Marrakech. During the day it’s filled with buskers, orange juice stands, and shops, and in the evening it transforms into a huge outdoor food court.
Our hotel was right off this main square which made it great to walk around and be in the center of everything.
After flight drinks at La Momunia Hotel
They have a wonderful Moroccan Rose that is worth trying and taking in the views. La Momunia is a five start hotel, it’s wonderful to go and relax, enjoy a drink and some apps. Take in the views and walk around the hotel.
Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret
The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque is one of Marrakech’s most famous icons
Watched the sunset and call to prayer
Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier – There is a small cover charge to enter and you’ll need to buy a drink: “Mandatory Consumption”. It’s best to go right before sunset as it does get crowded. Great to do on your first night to help take in the sights of Marrakech.
After a full day of traveling we were tired so the hotel suggested we go to Des Gazelles which is a pink cafe just around the corner from the hotel. It’s the opposite direction of the main square so it was quiet.
What we ordered: We had our first tagine here, meatballs (kefta) with a fried egg and cous cous. It was delicious!
The walk back to our hotel was…umm… a little bit scary but to say we got used to it may sound odd. We really did end up feeling safe once we realized everyone was friendly.
Breakfast on the rooftop patio was a dream!
Breakfast overlooks the square. You can see the sun rising and the people slowing filling up the activity of the square.
We then set out to meander the souks to shop and hit some touristy spots we’d read about…
Marrakech Souk / Marketplace
Just north of the Jemaa El Fna, there is an intricate maze of alleyways filled with shops. These streets are windy and will get you lost. For the most part they are shaded with every corner looking the same. There’s mostly foot traffic but do watch out for those motor bikes that come zooming around the corner.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
We were determined to find this ourselves in the media. We had a not very detailed map and a general idea of directions. We set out in a true “man fashion” to not ask for help. An hour and a half later, we were lost. Ironically we ran into a gentleman from our hotel eating an orange on the street and turns out we were one block away! Ah-ha!
The Ben Youssef Medersa was founded in the 14th century and was dedicated to the teaching of Islamic scripture and law. Since it’s closure in 1960, it has be refurbished and reopened to the public as historical site in the 80s.
We then made our way back to the Jemaa El Fna Square (after getting lost in the souks, buying baby shoes, and stumbling across our pink cafe from the night before) We had figured it out! (by pure luck)
My Aunt Jenny was travelling a day behind us and without cell phones, we weren’t sure if she’d arrived at the hotel or not. So we went back to find out that she was getting in around 5pm that evening.
After a quick lunch (don’t even try the sandwiches in Morocco – I mean…how do you mess up a grilled cheese)
we ventured outside the Medina to the new city…
12-acre botanical garden is home to an electric blue villa and is the perfect place for stunning photos and a peaceful walk. In 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent repurchased the gardens and faithfully restored them. Majorelle’s workshop is now a small Museum dedicated to Islamic Art. Yves Saint Laurent died in June, 2008 and had his ashes scattered in the Majorelle Gardens.
After leaving those bold backdrops, we made our way back to the hotel to scoop up Aunt Jenny…
Like us, Jenny was tired from all the travel and was ready for a glass of wine! We took her back to the La Momuni for a glass of rose and to just sit and be for a while. We found some awesome lounge chairs and ordered some cheese plates and enjoyed the sunset.
With no plan in mind we knew it was time to pick a place for dinner.
Arielle’s friend of a friend had dined at Dar Yacout before and gave it to us as a recommendation try.
“Dar Yacout is a pretty cool restaurant that serves amazing Moroccan and Middle Eastern food. Wherever you go, be sure to have a tangine…I love the vegetable one and the bread is addictive.”
We went and the experience was so interesting. There is no sign or main door. Your taxi driver will pull up in a square and there will be a man wearing all white. He will assume by the way you look you want to dine at Dar Yacout and ask you to follow him around the corner to a non discript door. He then pulls a long old timey looking key out of his belt and unlocks the door. With such an unusual experience, I was hesitant to walk it. I leaned in as far as a could, saw fine china, and decided it was okay. The place is stunning and an experience in of itself. The dinner is prefixed and about $70 which includes wine. I wouldn’t say I would go again, but it was a laughing excursion for sure.
Mountain Tour – Day Trip – Imlil valley March 13
We kicked off our third day in Marrakesh with a day trip out the the mountains. Marrakesh is like a basin surrounded by mountains that you can see with snow capped peaks.
Our guide who we’d booked for our driving tour was able to take us to his home land where he grew up for the day. Rachid came highly recommended to us from my coworkers who’d taken the same trip months before us. We really liked the idea of spending the day getting to know Rachid before we spend four days together on our car tour.
He picked us up at our hotel and took us to the van we would be travelling in that day to the mountains.
On our way up to our hiking spot we stopped to see how aran oil is made
Visiting the women’s Co-op of Argan oil
They have everything you can imagine from “peanut butter” type dipping sauces with bread, to eye liner and this green lip stick that goes on pink!
We then pulled to the side of the road to have our first visit with a camel….just to see how this would go….
After driving a bit longer, up the mountain, through winding roads with breathtaking views, we stopped for a snack and some mint tea with a local berber family.
Crossing the creek was tricky. Some spots were deep and others you could walk on the rocks to get across. Everyone ended up going on the mule at some point for him to carry us across to their home.
You could either walk across, take the mule…or brave it on the rope bridge (of course I had to give that a try, and then called it quits!)
And we made it! It was so nice and warm soaking in the sun
All fueled up from our snack and tea break, we were ready for our hike up the mountains. The terrain is more rocky than you’d think of a normal mountain hike in Georgia where it’s usually lush and woodsy.
Arielle brought some of her cotton candy to share with Rachid. Since he is from this area, he brought it with him to share with some of the local Berber children that he knew would cross our paths.
Our hike to the Berber House for lunch
Getting to the Berber House for lunch wasn’t that bad of a hike, the incline wasn’t too much, just a slightly uphill walk. Once we got to the house where we were having lunch, we basically had to climb a ladder up to the top of the home. The house had several stories, one where the gentleman kept his cow and chicken, another where he cooked the food on an open fire, and then the top area was for dining.
It was chilly being up at that elevation, but felt really good in the sun. The views were stunning all around. You could see the snow capped mountains and view different villages mosques. Hearing the call to prayer echoing from off the mountains was just beautiful.
We filled up on mint tea and a tagine and Arielle got her cat fix.
What goes up, must come down. The journey down was nothing like the journey up. It was all rocks on a narrow path on the side of the mountain.
We crossed through a few small villages and narrow paths. We even had to pull over for a donkey carrying cinder blocks to pass
We were mostly successful on our trek down….except for our run in with a wild horse.
We think he was up there grazing and got too far away from home
Worn out from our hike…we headed back to the hotel. Jet lag was catching up with us a bit.
So Arielle and I went back to the square to have dinner with a view for our last night in Marrakesh.
Cafe de France
Jemaa el-Fnaa – This cosy cafe has stunning Jemma el-Fnna views, similar to Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier, but is a lot less crowded and serves OKAY food. This was our last night in Marrakech. I wouldn’t eat there again. The food was like all the leftovers you’d eat in college when cleaning out your fridge.
We woke to kick off our driving tour through Morocco.
Rachid met us at our hotel at 8am the next morning with our luggage. We said good bye to Marrakesh and set out to discover the mid desert drive.