It is the fourth largest city in the country, after Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. But is possibly the most important of Morocco’s four former imperial cities (cities that were built by Moroccan Berber empires).
Marrakesh has some similarities to Fez in its age and sites, but there is one big difference: Motorcycles.
Whereas, in Fez, the biggest risk was getting nudged by a donkey, in Marrakesh, there was the constant possibility of being run over by some form of motorized bike. This literally kept us on our toes. Sarah and Eitan compared the intensity to India, but without rude people and no s— in the streets…. and cows are eaten here which is nice.
Fortunately, we stayed in a beautiful riad on the side street of a side street. Cars don’t fit in those narrow streets, so there are guys waiting in the parking lot for tourist who do not want to carry their bags all the way to the hotel; for a couple Dinars they will do it for you!
It was wonderfully quiet and blissfully air conditioned.
We soon developed the necessary sixth sense to stay out of the way of bikes and soaked in the Medina.
After relaxing for a little bit, we walked a few narrow streets full of souvenirs until we reached the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa.
Once a bus station, the place was closed to vehicle traffic in the early 2000s. The authorities are well aware of its importance to the tourist trade, and a strong but discrete police presence ensures the safety of visitors.
As the day progresses, the entertainment offered changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with Chleuh dancing-boys (it would be against custom for girls to provide such entertainment), story-tellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of locals), magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls as the number of people on the square peaks.
When you take a picture of anyone doing a show, you will immediately get aggressively greeted (you don’t even know where they came from) by a guy asking for money to pay for the show. You have to pay or you will get screamed at as if you have committed a capital crime.
The food court was spectacular. Even though we didn’t dare to eat street food here, the smells of all these stands was enough to imagine what we were missing.
Every stand has the iconic mint tea glasses ready to be served. Just add boiled water and enjoy!!
Around the market, you can find stands to buy dry fruit and nuts. What a paradise!
The next morning we had a sightseeing day. The first stop was the Bahia Palace:
Set in extensive gardens, was built in the late 19th century by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech, Si Ahmed ben Musa (Bou-Ahmed).
Bou Ahmed resided here with his four wives, 24 concubines and many children. With a name meaning “brilliance”, it was intended to be the greatest palace of its time and, as in similar developments of the period in other countries, it was designed to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.
We visited the Jewish quarter and other sites in the city, but no craft shops, since we made clear we had covered that in Fez. Marrakesh would have been a 10 if we had seen it before Fez, but compared to that place it earned a solid 7.773 on the precise Wolf Family Travel Scale.
We found a well-rated place to eat, guess what we ordered? you are right… Tajines!
Bonus Pic of the Day: How to write our names in Berber! courtesy of our awesome guide Hassan.