Marrakesh (March 20-21, 2018)

After the sumptuous hotels we’ve stayed in so far we were all surprised by the Motel 6-esque rooms at the Le Meridien N’fis. We decided beautifully landscaped grounds, great water pressure, peppermint shampoo, a fabulous downtown location, large rooms, ample hot water, and a giant breakfast buffet that included cucumber, carrot, and beat juice made up for how plain the rooms were.

Although we had two full days in Marrakesh, our wake up call on day one was early: 6:30. Objective: to beat the crowds to Jardin Majorelle, one of the most popular sites in Marrakesh. French painter Jacques Majorelle spent 40 years creating this small garden and filled it with plants from all over the world. Yves Saint Laurent and his business partner, Pierre Bergé, bought the garden in 1980 and spared no expense restoring it. Two surprises: how small it is and it is painted in astonishingly vibrant primary colors.

The Koutoubia Mosque is the standout landmark in Marrakech. Its minaret, 253 feet high, was completed at the end of the 12th century and is the tallest structure in town. We used it to get oriented when walking around the square.

Speaking of the square, it is a wild place! that has successfully combined the latest and greatest with the iconic. The narrow alleyways running off the center  are so narrow they can only accommodate handcarts and donkey drawn carts. There are snake charmers with cobras and vipers either in baskets or on the warm stone, monkey handlers, water sellers, and henna painters. We all watched in amazement as the snake charmer took pictures with Barb’s camera (for a price) and played the flute while the cobra fanned out its round head on cue. We all had goose bumps just watching. We kept our distance from the monkey handlers for fear they would be too fast for us and before we knew what happened a money would be on someone’s head. At night all this fanfare transitions into a lively gathering place where people enjoy music, food, drinks, and one another’s company.

Bahia Palace, with its 360 rooms, was an enjoyable stop. Reputedly built as a home for Ba Ahmed’s official concubines, it has beautiful tile work, carved plaster, marble, stunning wood ceilings, and large courtyards with fountains. We had seen, up to now, mostly the iconic diamond shaped tiles; here there are lots of floral designs as well.

Dan and I enjoyed a carriage ride one evening. Well, maybe change ‘enjoyed’ to ‘found interesting.’  You see, the carriages are treated as cars and can go pretty much anywhere which means we were trotting along next to cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and buses. We entered and exited roundabouts with the best of them. It was chaotic, noisy, and put us up close and personal with a lot of exhaust fumes. Our destination, in contrast to the ride, was at a breathtaking dinner!

The main entrance to the restaurant, Lotus Privilege, was being renovated, so we were taken in the back way which, actually, looked a bit like a war zone in that it was a walkway with lots of rubble. Seriously, it looked like a set-up, the kind where someone jumps out and mugs you while saying, “got cha … got cha good!” First we washed our hands in the courtyard. Warm water poured from a silver kettle was used for rinsing. Welcome music with a little audience participation (think Barb) followed and then we were seated at beautiful tables. Menus were rolled up and adorned with ribbons; elaborate caftans were framed and hung on the wall; large, punched silver light fixtures hung above our heads. It was stunning and the meal was delicious. After the meal we were treated to two sets of traditional music and the gyrations of a beautiful belly dancer.

We decided rather than to spend a second day exploring the city, like other big cities in many ways, we’d head out of town. Destination: the Ourika Valley, in the foothills of the High Atlas 35 miles out of town. It made for a relaxing, easy day. Moroccans vacation here as well as European celebrities (think Mick Jagger). The Yves St Laurent Foundation supports schools for girls in the area. We toured the Jardin Bio-aromatique d’Ourika and were served a delicious al fresco lunch under the trees. Before lunch we were each treated to a Berber foot bath which we loved. Picture a row of wooden chairs approximately two inches off the ground. Right in front of each chair is a small, rock-lined pool built into the ground. Each pool has its own tap for warm water. Once the pool is full, herbs of a relaxing nature are added to the water. Here’s the challenge: situating yourself  on the chair in front of the pool of water. Our efforts made us laugh. After the 15 minute soak it was time to haul ass up and out which was even funnier than getting down. There is a steel bar in front of each mini-pool, so the confident among us straddled the pool and pulled themselves up. The faint of heart sort of rolled off  the chair and crawled around before getting up. Again, we laughed shamelessly at each other’s expense.

We were back at the hotel mid-afternoon and enjoyed a little downtime before heading to dinner at a very successful restaurant run by a women’s cooperative.

Since Cyd and Barb’s bad night in the camp, others have had problems. I’d say 15 +/- of us have been slowed down or completely stopped by stomach issues. My system has threatened to revolt. Dan and Cleone made quick recoveries. Hettie, Walter, and Ronnie have held strong.


3 thoughts on “Marrakesh (March 20-21, 2018)

  1. Loved it!! I also loved that you and Dad took a carriage ride!!

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