That spur of the moment talking about travels to a stranger
and ended up organising a Moroccan trip together with that person!
Yes sounds insane but that random trip to the crazy maze of Marrakesh was fun!
An early arrival at the CTM bus station of Marrakesh and unable to find a taxi that knows my accommodation area was a bummer. But I was glad I knew a local guy, eventually I contacted him and he gave me a lift to the Riad. We rode on his motorbike and we joined the morning traffic towards the medina, while approaching the Old Town first thing you’ll noticed is the Koutoubia Mosque with it’s imposing minarets. As we follow the narrow alleyways and so many turns on the corners of the old town at last we found the riad. My travel buddy’s arrival is not until lunchtime, so I decided to catch up some snooze to be ready for later adventure.
Marrakesh is the fourth largest city in Morocco. Was built in the 12th century and regarded as the “Red City” from the blush-coloured bricks walls, which is a mixture of red mud and water from the Hazou plains. The old fortified Medina boasting an array of colourful traditional Moroccan shops in the narrow passageways. Getting loss along the winding alleys and finding your way to the different souks.
Just after 12 mid-day, I had the courage to get up and get ready for my travel buddies arrival at 1 pm just in time for lunch. As soon as he arrived, we were both hungry and eager to explore the Medina. Our riad is just 5 minutes walk towards the Medina. Passing through the Djemaa El-Fna square in the heart of the Medina, means “The assembly of death” referring to the public execution around 1050 AD at the plaza or “The Mosque at the End o the World”. Now a days, the square is bustling with traditional activities, entertaining curious tourist who are wandering around. There you can find lots fruit juice shops, snake charmers, chained monkeys and henna tattoo stalls. As the darkness falls, different entertainment are on offers there’s magician, storytellers, and dancing boys dressed like a woman. A great place to immerse yourself and watch the rich heritage and Morrocan cultural diversity.
As we passed the fruit juice stall, we can’t help but try the freshly made juice it was indeed a refreshing drink.
We continued our way to the Medina, in the hunt for a restaurant. We found the “Nomad restaurant” it was suggested by a friend, and it was a great place it tends to get busy so table reservation is highly recommended. We requested a rooftop table, with 360 degrees views around the medina.
After lunch we wandered around the medina and my friend was looking around for souvenir to take home. After a couple of hours wandering around, we decided to go back to the Riad and have afternoon rest.
On that evening we went back to the square and walk around the food stall. Trying some authentic Morrocan meal, we noticed they served the same menu. So I hunt for a place where they can cook it as I watch. I’m a bit fussy about my food, and one thing more I don’t like food poisoning while travelling. I ordered lamb chops and mixed vegetable kebab, I enjoyed every bite.
After our dinner, we were looking for a bar or pub. You might be asking Muslim country with alcohol? Yes they have alcohol here but only in Hotel bars and bars/pub with license. We were advised to head towards the Gueliz district. Modern district of Gueliz also known as “Ville Nouvelle” with designer stores, chic restaurants, bars and big hotels are in these area. From the Medina is a good 30 minutes walk to Gueliz, we went straight to Hotel La Renaissance. The bar was at the rooftop with the view facing towards the Koutobia Mosque. With his beer and my cocktail at hand we raised our glass to end a lovely evening ready for tomorrows adventure.
The following day we were scheduled for our “Hammam spa experience”. Hammam a communal bathhouse with a steam room. Where the locals habitually go each week to cleanse themselves, usually with separate baths for men and women. It is similar to a Turkish bath.
The hammam was booked by the riad, we were picked up by two lovely ladies who only speak few English word consist of “You OK?” and with their sweet smile. We rode on their motorbikes and we drove towards Touareg Area. The motorbike experience was fun- it’s like we had a free tour around the other side of the medina. As soon as we arrived at the Hammam place, we were asked to change into a robe. Then we were escorted separately to a steam room, as soon as we got in to the steam room, the robe was taken too. The lady assisting me only speaks Arabic, so the communication between us was pure sign language. She was pointing the tiled deck, so I sat down and she started pouring the warm water on me, also used the gummy slimy black soap paste. Then she pointed the tiled table, so I jumped in facing down. She then started to scrubbed me up from head to toe- not missing any bit of curve or what so ever. Followed up by a mud paste applied all over me. After an hour or so my unforgettable hammam experience has come to an end, “Feeling so fresh and squeaky clean”.
We also visited another Hammam, an up market place with cosy and relaxing ambience. The owner and manager is so welcoming and friendly too.
The Bahia Palace was near the hamman place,so we decided to check it out. But unfortunately they were closing so I just had a quick peek. Bahia Palace with a combination of Islamic and Moroccan style, was built in late 19th century. It has 2 acre garden with rooms opening to the central courtyard. We also visited Ben Youseff Madrasa, it is the largest Medrasa around Morocco and in North Africa. The fascinating cedar wood carvings, marbles at the courtyard, and the geometrical tile patterns design in zellige tilework.
“ A walk around the Koutoubia Mosque is not to be missed! It is the largest mosque in Marrakesh, domineering the skyline. With it’s almost 70 metre minaret and the oldest of the three great Almohad minaret remaining in the world. Non-Muslim visitors are not allowed inside, but even if you don’t go inside the exterior design alone are beautiful too. And great photography backdrop while the sun is setting.
“ There’s a myth behind the spheres. The sultan el-Masour’s wife broke her fast during the Ramadan just after 3 days, so to pay her penance she had her gold jewelry melted and made into a fourth sphere”.
If the El-Fna square is too crowded for your liking, head towards the “Cyber Park Arsat Moulay Abdeslam” an ornamental/botanical garden dating back to the 18th century. Offering 8 hectares so take your time to relax and enjoy the well maintained park, oh bring your picnic bag too! A picturesque space with water features, sprawling well curated lawn, pebbled footpath, rows of lemon trees and olives. A great time well spent for a tranquil day!
On that evening, we decided to chill at the Riad’s Rooftop. With our bottle of wine and crunchy peanut, we are celebrating our great weekend in Marrakesh like the locals. You asked me how I manage to get that bottle of wine? Early that evening we asked the Riad staff where can we buy wine. We were advised to go to the Gueliz area, some bars/pub sell wines secretly. It sounds shabby but the feeling taking the bottle of wine(wrapped up with my scarf) to the riad was not fun, in a way that every corner of the street there are parked police cars and police patrolling the area! But we made it to the rooftop and celebrating being daring and rebel! Looking back I can say it’s funny now – a fun memory I can tell about my crazy and fun Marrakesh experience!
From the Bus station when taking a taxi to your hotels/Riad, you need to agree with the fare or ask to use the meter.To avoid any misunderstanding in the future.
When eating out at the square food stalls, go where the locals go. For sure the food is good and it’s safe to eat. To avoid food poisoning try to order food that they will cook upon ordering. I advised to drink bottled water only.
Try to experience the Hamman spa it’s invigorating and liberating, definitely an experience of spa on a different level! You know what I mean once you try it.
When roaming around the Djemaa El-Fna square, avoid photographing the locals they don’t like it! Or if you want to photograph the entertainers/charmers be ready to give a small tip before you go or else they will hassle and follow you.