Two faces of Marrakech Part 1

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Grandad
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Two faces of Marrakech Part 1

Post by Grandad »

TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

We fist visited Marrakech over ten years ago on a tour of The Royal Cities of Morocco. On that occasion we stayed for two nights and, on the whole middle day, did the “Experience Marrakech in a Day” tour. Having seen most of the tourist attractions on that trip our intention this time on a seven day visit was to take things at a very leisurely pace, visiting a few places missed on the last trip, and generally mixing with the locals. To really get into the heart of Marrakech we booked our week at Riad Catalina, situated in the Medina just a short walk from Jemaa El Fna, the world famous central Medina square.

It was quite late and after transfer from the airport we arrived at the nearest possible vehicle access point to the Riad from which our cases were transported by a porter on a wheel barrow the last few hundred metres down narrow lanes to our residence. It was dark, we were tired, and after complaining about the first room offered, we moved to a slightly larger one, a quick cup of tea and then to bed.

These five pictures illustrate the route to the Riad by day.
Porte Laksour, our pedestrian entrance to the Medina
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After a hundred yards or so we turn right through this arch
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We then find our way along the alleys
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And finally reach the steel door of Riad Catalina.
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SO NOW TO THE FIRST FACE OF MARAKECH

We didn’t sleep too well, it was hot and the ‘so called’ air con was pretty well useless. However, daylight allowed us to survey what was to be home for the next week. Reviews of Riads and the like, often use expressions such as ‘authentic’ and ‘realistic’. Stating the obvious in fact because most Riads are original and old and, before they did some conversion adding rooms to accommodate tourists, they were private residences, The courtyard of Riad Catalina is peaceful, cool, enchanting, and just as it has been for hundreds of years.

All meals are served at tables dispersed around the courtyard. I won’t dwell on the food except to say that it was totally Moroccan. Breakfast consisted mainly of various breads with butter and preserves with the addition of something local like small galletes. Dinner would start with perhaps Moroccan salad, we would describe it as meza, and followed by the inevitable tagine. Very nice but it becomes a little boring when the only thing that changes is the kind of meat used…..that said it was delicious. Desert would just be some fresh fruit with perhaps a sorbet, or a selection of little sweet pastries. All very nice but rather repetitive.

Around the courtyard there are niches and rooms all in unmistakeable Moroccan style. Lots of colourful mosaic tiling and arched doorways. A central fountain was a draw for the birds that enjoyed it for a bath in the daytime heat, Also wandering the courtyard were two tortoises who just ignored people around them but I was surprised just how fast they can move when the mood takes them. I did get right down to their level to get a picture of one of these little ‘pre historic’ animals.

Fountain in centre of courtyard
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Some of the typical Moroccon features of the Riad
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Pano of part of the courtyard
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One of the two tortoises
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So; main port of call on our first day, Tuesday, was to be Jardin Majorelle to the north west of the city. Majorelle Gardens were established in 1924 but fell into disrepair until 1980 when Yves Saint-Laurent rescued them and brought them back to the wonderful exotic gardens that they are today. Sometimes known as the Blue Gardens after majorelle, the cobalt blue shade of much of the decoration within the garden. After a light lunch at a nearby café we made our way back to the Riad for a few hours beside the pool, then dinner and an enjoyable evening with some fellow travellers.

A selection of pictures in Jardin Majorelle including the lily pond, the bamboo and cacti gardens
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Probably a good time to mention travel in and around Marrakech. Within the Medina it is possible to walk to all of the attractions inside the old city wall. However, the Medina is a maze of thousands of little lanes and alleys and, if you get lost and ask for directions, some young person will offer their assistance but will certainly expect payment if they get you to your destination, and they know how much they want…..but they are acting illegally as a guide and should not be paid. For generally getting about town the little yellow ochre coloured taxis are best. There are thousands of them and you can hail them but, betting is, they will spot you already. No journey around town costs more than 40MAD (dirham , about £3.10) and we found them fun to use and usually had friendly banter with the drivers with my pigeon French and his very limited English…all good fun but agree the price before taking the ride.

You never have to wait for a taxi
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Trips to the Atlas mountains will be by comfortable 4 x 4 and cost about £60pp. Cheaper options can be found but you usually find that at each destination a guide is waiting to show you around and the cost can build up. This aspect is not always explained before you set out but Morocco has special rules about registered guides and most times only local guides can be used to ensure they all get a slice of the cake.

A day trip to Essaouira on the coast is possible independently by Supratours coaches that run regular public services between Marrakech and Essaouira. It is a three and a half hour journey each way including a comfort break and the cost is 100MAD each way, about £7.70. There is a harbour, Medina and souks, and it is much smaller than Marrakech and manageable on foot.

Continued in TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 2


:gg:

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by LovelyLadyLux »

FANTASTIC Grandad! Wowwwwwwwww!!!!

Interesting the generic colours of Morocco. Quite a clay red backdrop vs (to me) the more blah beige of Egypt. I really like all the patterns and colours in the tiles that are shown too and your turtle is cute. Were they eating scraps? or just there for the entertainment of tourists?

The gardens are interesting too. Love all the different cactus. Very impressive and good on Yves St Laurent for his rescue mission. He definitely did a good job of getting it all restored.

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by Jayway »

Great photo album, really enjoyed seeing the place again and it was so much cleaner than when I was there. Cant wait for the next chapter - :up

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by Horus »

Was very busy yesterday Grandad so only just read your first account, as usual an excellent little travelogue with plenty of interesting and good quality sharp pictures to give us a flavour of the place. I bet you wondered where you were going to finish up after wandering around those back alleys, especially if it was dark. :o
I did notice a cat on your first picture lying on a mat that looked like it was put there for the cat's comfort, a tad different to the way they treat animals in Egypt. I reckon the reason those tortoises moved about quickly was that their feet were getting a bit too hot on that floor. :lol:
Off now to read part 2 :up
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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by Grandad »

Thanks for your comments so far folks :up

LLL, why do you call tortoises turtles? Very different creatures I believe. ;) These wandered all around the courtyard and no doubt food was put down for them in some tucked away corner.

You could be right about the hot tiles H. :lol: If you look closely my fellow is walking on his claw points. :lol:

That cat is sitting opposite a beggar lady with an ever outstretched hand. We did see quite a few beggers but locals are generous towards them in giving them small change. Santim = cents

In many of my pictures I have cropped in to focus on points of interest so sharpness and image quality may suffer as a result. Inside the lanes of the Medina most walls are painted that burnt orange colour which tends to throw a cast over the image....I have not tried to correct that. ;)

Part two to follow later today. :lol:
:gg:

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by Kiya »

A fantastic read Grandad, love all your photos & isn't it quite colourful :) love all the tiled floors & these chairs at the tables in the court hardly look strong enough to hold anyone ;)

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by LovelyLadyLux »

@ Grandad - had to go back and read what I wrote but I did call the tortoise a turtle........no idea why I did that. Freudian slip I guess (but don't know what it means ....... Hmmmm :ni: :ni: )

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Re: TWO FACES OF MARRAKECH Part 1

Post by Phantom »

Great pics Grandad.

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