The day after our wonderful night at Rick’s Café in Casablanca, we boarded a 3-hour train to Marrakech. Unfortunately, first class was sold out, so we went in second class. What is the difference you might ask? Well, obviously they charge you more, but you are also guaranteed a seat and it is supposed to have air conditioning. We had no problem finding seats in second class and on this train, I do not think it mattered about A/C, because NONE of the cars had it, we didn’t even care if the cars had an 80 Gallon air compressor or not. I am not going to lie, it was fairly miserable and we were so ready to get there and go to the hotel.
Once we got to the amazing hotel life got a whole lot better, but I am going to let Melek tell about the hotel at a later date. I will tell you that it was in the heart of medina (meaning a walled city), giving us a great location…..once we found it. ???? The medina, which is World Heritage Site, is old and the roads are twisting and turning walkways. It is easy to get lost, but that is part of the fun……after you have found your hotel. We asked a guy to point us in the right direction, but instead he took us there. The problem is he took a long a twisty route (it was just 400-500 yards down the street) and then demanded we pay him 100 dirham (about $11). I told him no way, since he took us the wrong way and that was 2.5 times the taxi to get here. Arrrgggg!
Once we were settled into the hotel we relaxed for a few hours and then wandered around the medina and over to the Koutoubia Mosque, which has a tall tower you can see from everywhere. Between the two is Djemaa El-Fna, which is a HUGE courtyard that fills up in the evening with tourist and locals alike. As you walk around you will find numerous fruit juice stands, moveable restaurants, ladies doing henna tattoos, snake charmers (including king cobras), monkeys, and vendors sell a wide variety of junk. It is quite a spectacle and lots of fun to immerse yourself in, but just be prepared to have everyone try and get money from you. “oh did you look at my
snake? 10 dirham!”, “Orange juice is 4. Oh if you want a plastic cup to take it with you is 5”, “Come eat here”, “that shawl is 150….don’t walk away! Ok I give it to you for 100….50….30!”, blah, blah, blah. They will take advantage of you in a heartbeat, so keep your guard up. Oh and make sure you watch out for the gazillion scooters coming and going up and down the tiny medina streets. Personally I liked watching the donkey carts hauling goods here and there over the scooters!
During our second day, we braved the 100+ degree heat and saw several sites before scurrying back to the hotel around 3pm and not reemerging until 7pm. Our first stop was the Dar Si Saïd Museum, which was under renovation. Due to this there were not many displays, but it was in a beautiful palace which we loved. Second up was El Bahia Palace. This palace was built in the mid 1800’s and was huge. Both of us were amazed at the intricately carved wood ceilings. This was truly a house for a rich sultan. The third site was El Badi Palace, built in the 1500’s when the Portuguese were expelled from Morocco. It is in ruins, but huge and very cool to think how beautiful it once was. The finally stop was the Saadian Tombs. This graveyard is situated between several buildings and was sealed up for centuries. It was a quick stop, but the tiled grave sites were beautiful.
One thing that amazed us was that everyone was out to get your money, but the museums and historical sites only charged around a dollar to enter. So worth it!!!!!