For the logistics to work to fly to Fes, we split the Marrakesh portion of the trip and had two different experiences. On entry to Morocco, we spent just over a day in the suburbs near the airport staying at a Marriott resort property and then after returning 4 days later we stayed in the Medina in a small Riad that was a Holiday Inn related property.
Marrakesh is a very old city, but the suburbs that were developed in the 1900s were modeled after a French style with parks and wide streets named after rulers. After our initial arrival, we were pretty low key after 12 hours travel and walked locally – malls, Chili’s, and western hotels. Early the next day, we went to Jardin Majorelle, a garden built originally in the 1930s which fell into disrepair and revitalized by Yves Saint-Laurent. Definitely a destination for those seeking to be Instafamous….we joined in to take pictures as well.
When we arrived in Marrakesh on the first trip – there was no Uber so we took a taxi. The signs were for fixed price $7 (in local currency) for local and $10 for the Medina. But no one would agree to $7 and after arguing with several people and fighting through the crowds, so we ended up paying $20 for 10 minute ride to the hotel next the airport. So I used booking.com to arrange our future airport transfers – worked great. On the return trip, had a person waiting at arrivals with our name on a placard for $15 to the Medina. He was great and dropped us off, it seemed pretty close on google maps to walk through the maze. Once we got into the maze, a guy came by to “help” grabbing our bags and taking us to our Riad. After 3 right turns and a couple of minutes, it was clear he was walking in circles so we told him the right direction and pointed him towards the Riad. Then he demanded $20 for his services – I said all I had was $5…it said he wouldn’t take it as it was an insult. So I kept my $5…he chased me down and said he’d give me discount of $10 – I said $5 take it or leave it and asked why he walked us around in circles….he stormed off. So – the transitions are the hardest part. Our hotel confirmed, it was a hustle and I shouldn’t given him more than $2 from our drop off point. Once we learned the route in the maze – it was a 1 minute walk from the dropoff point.
We stayed at Dar One – technically across the street from the Medina and between the Bahia Palace (built in 1800s) and the Badi Palace (built in the 1500s). Really great location. The hotel manager was very helpful and set us up with dinner reservations and a tour guide for the Medina.
Since we had a tour guide for the next day, we visited the two local palaces – both worth a visit. The Bahia Palace from the 1800s had some French elements from the occupation. We walked a bit in the medina – but not too far as it was late and we didn’t want to get lost yet and our hotel host us up for a nice dinner near our hotel – Le Tanija. We both experimented at dinner – I got pigeon pastry and Sharon danced with the belly dancers. Next to the restaurant, there was another club/restaurant with a great rooftop patio called “Kosa Bar”. They had decent Moroccan red wine – Marrakesh generally was lot less conservative.
The next day, post-pigeon, I wasn’t feeling great but we kept the plan for the Medina tour. The Medina tour turned into the “Lantern Quest” as we spent the day walking around the maze stopping at Lantern places. Generally, not as interesting as the Fes Medina and much annoying as motorbikes are allowed and passing by you constantly. It is also flat, better for walking, but easier to get disoriented.
After the Lantern purchase, we came to the big square of chaos called “Jemaa el-Fna” in which people hawking things and charming cobras – which was appealing compared to looking at more Lanterns. We then finished the tour, mostly trying to avoid people who we had already talked to about buying lanterns or other Lantern vendors who had heard about the Lantern Quest.
On our final night we went to the La Mamounia hotel – which has been named one of the best hotels in the world several times. Initially, we could get in because I didn’t meet the dress code – long trousers required. So after returning to the Riad and changing we returned for a snack. Spectacular Arabic architecture and gardens. A surprising amount of the hotel and grounds were open to wander around.
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