The Medina is the old city of Marrakech – a wonderful place to explore the maze of small alleyways whilst avoiding the unforgiving mopeds and trying not to get lost (which is far too easy to do!). The There are many different parts of the Medina from old palaces, residential areas, bathes and mosques – but a focus for many visitors are the infamous souks – the markets – each specialising in different produce such as food, clothes, metal products, wood products, jewelry, leather and many more. But we had three days here, and heading straight into the bustle on Day 1 wasn’t our plan – so we decided to relax and enjoy our guesthouse – ‘Riad’ – the El Fenn which was charming place with rooms facing its inner courtyard and a great rooftop area with a small restaurant, a bar and views across the Medina.
In the evening, we had booked a food tour which we hoped would give us a feel for the surrounding area as well as a chance to savour some of the local delicacies. We met our guide at the Poste du Maroc at the south end of the main square – Jemaa el Fna along with two other couples who were joing too, and we set out into the food souks. Our first stop was a place that had underground ovens where they cooked whole lambs, and we were presented with a plate of lamb along with a whole lambs head! The meat was very tasty although neither of us felt brave enough to attack the lambs head even though we were reassured that the eyes were the best bit. As we moved from area to area, we enjoyed olives, a fishy paste (not my favourite…), fresh donuts, some tasty wraps with more lamb and a wonderful vegetable tagine to finish off with which was so good! It was a great introduction to the Medina and a good way to get our bearings.
We had another walking tour booked to explore some of the sites and this was good fun and certainly took us places we hadn’t even considered and wouldn’t of found by ourselves. Dar El Bacha was a museum like complex with beautiful ornate buildings with a tranquil inner garden full of orange trees and interesting to visit. Not far from here was another private garden known as Le Jardin Secret which again had lovely gardens and a place to relax and escape the hot sun.
Our exploration included an underground furnance where locals cooked their tagines, a traditional baker before heading into the souks. We immediately felt lost but as we explored, we began to get our bearings and enjoyed getting to know all the different areas. Some of them felt a little uncomfortable and deserted, but others were busy and more open spaces. We knew we would be revisiting the souks so didn’t attempt to purchase anything. The tour lasted about 3-4 hours and it was a great way to get to know parts of Medina, many of which we would come back to to explore further.
The cool evenings in Marrakech were a welcome respite from the heat and hustle of the days. The el Fenn bar had great views over the city and it was great just chilling over a glass of wine or a cocktail. We ventured out to nearby restaurants which all had their charm and the food was good wherever we went.
We had a few things we wanted to purchase so set aside a day for shopping. Rach honed her negotiating skills with a few smaller items before we tackled the area which had leather poufs which was what we really wanted. After demonstrating the haggling skills that any hardened tourist would be proud of – we headed back to the hotel with our bags loaded with things we wanted and things to supplement the complete home re-decoration in a Moroccan style that we were convinced was going to be a good idea when we got back to London.
On our final day we visited the nearby Jardin Marjorelle which was the stunning home and gardens of Yves Saint Laurent. The gardens were beautiful – Japanese style paths through a myriad of bamboo, cactus and ponds. The home was painted in deep yellow and blues and was a great backdrop to the picturesque place – well worth spending a couple of hours.
Finally it was time to time to say goodbye to Marrakech and to Morocco but this was one place we knew we would want to visit again. In just a few days, we had seen so many wonderful places and enjoyed lovely experiences but there was a lot more we knew we wanted to come back for.