01.02.2016 - 01.05.2016 63 °F
Marrakech is a cool city. It is probably the main tourist hub of Morocco. Winston Churchill once said that, "Marrakesh is simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon." We stayed in the old part of town called the Medina, which still sits behind an old wall that was used to protect the city. This part of town is very old, with narrow streets filled with marketplaces and vendors, these areas are called souks. There's also a main open square where you can find snake charmers during the day and storytellers and other types of performers at night. As a fair warning to anyone thinking about visiting, French is the dominant language for visitors (luckily, Karly speaks French) and it seems like it would be hard to get by only speaking English. Most tourists seemed to be European and we only ran into a few other Americans over the course of a few days in a city full of tourists.
It is very easy to spend a full day wandering around the old medina, stopping at various vendor stalls, avoiding the snake charmers that offer to put (supposedly) non-venomous snakes around your neck for a tourist picture. There are also lots of solid, clean restaurants and hotels tucked away around the old medina that look unassuming from the street but once you walk in the open up into beautifully decorated courtyards. After visiting India the week before, we appreciated the cleanliness of Marrakech. It had the charm of the old buildings and multi-generational vendors that we had encountered in other countries, but the streets were cleaned and trash was picked up every night. There were lots of cats darting through streets, but not really any other animals clogging up walking lanes and leaving behind souvenirs for the bottom of your shoes. There is also a Marrakech Museum and a museum of photography in the old medina that we visited and are worth stopping by if you have time in this area. While the entire old medina is walkable, we would suggest a pickup from your hotel when you first arrive as the streets can be very confusing to navigate at first. Also, at night they can be hard to navigate even with GPS assistance because there are gates that close at night and cut off certain routes and no one has informed the satellites yet.
On our first morning/early afternoon in Marrakech we took a cooking class offered by one of the nice hotels/restaurants in Marrakech, La Maison Arabe. They drove us out to their "country club" property, which seemed like a small private compound slightly outside of the city. It was a fun class, that involved a rundown on how to make Moroccan tea (we were surprised to learn that the base is imported Chinese green tea) and a hands on cooking class where we each made own our tangine entrée (Kurt with lemon/olive chicken and Karly with mixed veggies) and a few traditional sides.
We also went to Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden), which is slightly outside of the old medina and was a private 12-acre garden built by an artist in the 1920s and 1930s and has been open to the public since 1947. Yves St Laurent and Pierre Berge have owned the property since 1980 and Yves ashes were spread on the property when he passed away in 2008. The gardens are beautiful and are known for the vivid shade of blue that has been named Majorelle Blue.
We stayed in a renovated bed and breakfast called Riad Alnadine, which is owned by a very warm and welcoming French couple. The riad is beautiful and the hosts offer to walk you to nearby locations (whether its for dinner or trying to find the main market). They also make an amazing breakfast that can be taken either on the rooftop or in the main courtyard area. We would definitely recommend this as an option to anyone visiting.
One final note is that someone called me Bruce Willis one morning (unsolicited). They were likely trying to get me into some sort of shop, but this type of hospitality gets you to the top of my recommended cities to visit very quickly.