She told me she read it in a magazine. And she told me that any blogger with the least degree of self-respect has to go to Marrakesh.
I told her that I don’t see it as self-respect to follow the beaten path and that I don’t see myself as a blogger. I see myself as a traveler who accidentally happens to like writing.
She asked me why our website refers to our blog if we don’t do blogging…?
So “inspired” by my oldest daughter and a “no-matter-ladies-magazine” we went to Marrakech-Tensift-Al – the official capital of tourism in Morocco and not least a must visit destination for a blogger with any kind of self-respect!
The history of Marrakech-Tensift-Al goes back nearly a thousand years to c. 1070. Morocco itself is named after Marrakech.
During the years, Marrakesh has maintained a keen rivalry with Fez as the leading city in Morocco, and the country often fragmented politically into two halves, with Fez the capital of the north and Marrakesh the capital of the south.
To end that debate Morocco chose Rabat as the capital. So instead of choosing between the the sexy mother and the beautiful daughter, they kind of chose the uncle. But never mind, it was a compromise that afforded neither of the two rival cities primacy over the other. And in order to keep peace sometimes uncle is the better choice.
Marrakech is still an important provincial city. Its Islamic roots are displayed proudly, however French occupation between 1912 and 1956 brought in some European influence – mostly in the new city of Marrakech though. The Medina in the heart of Marrakech, still beats to the ancient rhythm.
We chose to stay in Riad Bayti – a traditional guesthouse – right in the Medina. That way we had everything in walking distance. There was a world between the noisy bustling hazzle outside the Riad and the calmness and almost meditative atmosphere inside. The owner, Abdel was very helpful and informative, so definitely a recommendation to his Riad.
The Riad was traditionally built around an open courtyard, with a pool on the ground floor to keep the temperature down in the open space. Rooms were placed along galleries on the storages. On the rooftop there were a terrace were we could enjoy the sun.
From that base we went exploring Marrakesh by foot. We had a blast bargaining in the market around Jemaa El-Fna, Marche Epices and all the surrounding souks. And not least trying to find our way in the very confusing labyrinth they make. Actually getting lost is a “must do” in Marrakech. Anyone claiming not to have tried to loose their way are NOT telling the truth!
The souks in Marrakech are a system of extremely narrow streets. They get even more narrow when the market stalls take their part of space. They are overfilled with people buying and selling or just trying to find their way back to the right track after getting lost.
But nevertheless bicycles, scooters and even donkeys claim their right of way – that of course without lowering their speed.
It sounds like a nightmare, but actually it’s very entertaining and a part of the game.
The real traffic on the real street on the other hand is an absolutely frightening and nerve wrecking experience. The cars and trucks have no respect for pedestrians or donkeys, but after a few crossings we were used to that part as well.
To get a little fresh air in our lungs and our nerves back in shape we chose to spend one of the mornings in Jardin Majorelle. A wonderful botanical garden made by the French orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle and later bought and renovated by Yves Saint Laurent. Also a must see, but do it in the morning. It’s heavily crowded by bloggers trying to get the best picture later at day.
Another must see is the minaret de la Koutoubia and Palace Bahia, both beautiful places and a nice break from the traffic and market stalls.
Marrakech lays with the High Atlas Mountains on one side and the Agafay desert on the other.
We spent a couple of days in the desert on quad bikes and camelbacks – both equally entertaining even if the speed isn’t comparable.
By the way- Don’t ever argue with camels after dark in a desert. They are big animals and the desert is kind of their hood. And camels don’t work after sunset!
In other words, our first attempt as bedouins didn’t quite succeed. A shame since we all were dressed up properly in very authentic clothing. I’m usually not the kind who likes to be dressed up but “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Dinner was beautifully served in the middle of the desert. And while the sun sat over the desert we ourselves sat on pillows around the low tables covered by heavy woven tents. I felt and looked completely like Laurence of Arabia – but that look only lasted till I had a shower. Be prepared to get completely covered in dust when quad biking.
The day after we had our revenge and tamed those camels…!
A less dusty experience is the part in the Atlas Mountains. After having passed the mountain pass the colors changed from dusty earth colors to lush green. The area around Asni is the herb garden for Marrakech, growing apples, walnuts all sorts of spices and herbs.
Continuing the road up to Imlil gave us magnificent views to Mount Toubkal. At 4167 meters it is the highest mountain in not just Morocco, but also in the Atlas mountain range, North Africa and the Arab world. A perfect place to set out for hikes.
Except when jumping for our life in the traffic we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
The Moroccan cuisine is primarily Arab which is always a pleasure. So also a ”thumps up” on that part.
Following the beaten path, suffering from severe lack of self respect or not – we’ll be back, Marrakech-Tensift-Al!
We definitely will come back in our Land Rover on a longer Overland journey at some point – we just didn’t have the time this time…