Thursday, October 29, 2015

Morocco: Marrakesh ya later!

Marrakesh! We arrived late after a long train ride from Fez (7 hours anticipated, 9 hours actual with delays). It was grueling, but bearable due to amazing views of the countryside and the nice young Moroccan people in our train car during the latter part of the trip. One was a flight attendant for RyanAir, another was planning a trip to Florida, and another was, as he described himself, "an international man of travel running [his] own small businesses looking for the 'perfect woman', but willing to settle for around 60%-70%". It was a fun mix of languages and cultures; one person could only speak Arabic and French, another, only English and Arabic. I myself can only speak English and French, but we managed to have quite the lively convo. At one point, the bon vivant international man of mystery joked about how he needed to charge his phone, but he didn't feel like going to the bathroom (randomly, the only outlets available were in the train's bathrooms). I offered to let him use my portable charger. He chided me for not revealing earlier that I had one, stating "You heard me complaining all this time, and you didn't say a word!", until one of the girls reminded him that he had been complaining in Arabic. Like many of the people I met in Morocco, they loved that my name was Azeezah (Arabic/Farsi="dear" and/or "precious"). The dude said I was "'Azeezah' indeed" when I offered to let him use my charger lol.

Our riad in Marrakesh was awesome. It had a cute little plunge pool and a nice roof for morning yoga. There were also unofficial riad mascots that lived on the roof full-time (aka turtles).

My buddy Omar (that's what I named him).

Marrakesh was completely different from Fez. I was surprised at how dissimilar they were, although I had no reason to believe that they would be similar in the first place. Fez was a whitish/greyish color, with green tile accents on the minarets. The pathways in the medina were dark and narrow, but led you to hidden gems. There was a general air of both history and mystery. Marrakesh was orangey/red (some call it "the pink city") and the roads were jammed with an assortment of pedestrians, cars, and motorbikes. The main square at the heart of the medina–Jemaa-el-Fnaa–was wide open and hosted an assortment of stalls, dancers and snake dudes that would throw their snake over your shoulders and demand dirham for a photo if you weren't careful. Fez was subdued beauty; Marrakesh was a riot of color and sound.

Stall of dried fruit, guy waving underneath.

View of the medina from Place Jemaa-el-Fna.

Our first full day we went to Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful, sleek garden full of succulents, palms, and other desert flora, established by none other than the late Yves Saint Laurent himself. The manicured grounds also housed a café, a gift shop, and a not-to-be-missed museum of Berber culture. The museum didn't allow photographs, which is probably a good thing since I'd still be there snapping away! The berber jewelry in particular was exquisite.
The old Majorelle house and all of the accents in the garden were painted a gorgeous cornflower blue.

Monument to Yves Saint Laurent

I finally got a tangine-cooked meal at Le Jardin. It was yummalicious. We were told that the couscous in Morocco has different seasoning than in other parts of the world, so it's a must-try for couscous fans.

Vegetarian couscous topped with veggies, caramelized onion and golden raisins.

We visited Douiria de Mouassine as well, but my phone lost all the pics :/ It was a nice visit, and there were pomegranate trees in the garden. On the last day, we visited a private hamamm near our riad. It was super nice, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Marrakesh (also, it will be necessary after avoiding being hit by motorbikes all day).
Super relaxing.
For a trip I planned myself (no tourist packages here, baby!), I must say it went really well! Morocco is an affordable, world-class destination and I highly recommend it to Parisians (and wannabes) looking for a great vacation, as well as anyone else!

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