The northeast is being hammered with yet another snowstorm today, so it’s the perfect time for me to reminisce about what our guide told us is the “Las Vegas of the Arab world”, Marrakesh. (That’s the English way to spell it; the French spelling is Marrakech).
Once again, we stayed in a unique and charming riad. It had a rather unimpressive exterior, but as with the other riads on our tour, the interior was absolutely beautiful. Take particular notice of my favorite spot, the rooftop pool and bar.
How lucky for us that the riad was also a SPA, or more accurately, a hammam. In case you are wondering, according to Wikipedia, a hammam is a “type of steam bath or a place of public bathing associated with the Islamic world. It is a prominent feature in the culture of the Muslim world and was inherited from the model of the Roman thermae”. Man, oh man, is it ever WONDERFUL! Fortunately, our schedule allowed for sufficient free time, so Kris and I were able to experience the full effect: a massage, steam bath and total body scrub that left us feeling magnificent. (And undoubtedly, we LOOKED magnificent…but to keep this from being an x rated post, there are no photos of our argan oil coated, naked bodies.)
Our riad was ideally located, within walking distance to the Bahia Palace, and DJemaa El Fna, which in the days of old, was the site for executions. They must have had a LOT of them, because the place is HUGE.
During normal times, the square is a “happening” place, crowded with a very different form of public entertainment: vendors, performers, fire eaters, snake charmers, dancers–you name it. Perhaps this is where Marrakesh earned the name of Las Vegas of the Arab world? But not during Covid. Although Morocco has done an amazing job vaccinating its citizens, tourists were still staying away while we were there in October.
In some respects, the lack of crowds was an advantage, making it easier for us to navigate through the Medina, where we again saw the juxtaposition of the old and the new.
You’ll see that many of the women are wearing headscarves, probably more so in Marrakesh than in the other cities that we visited. A young woman explained to me that Moroccan women wear headscarfs for one of three reasons: 1. religion, 2. as a fashion statement, or 3. because of a “bad hair” day. My guess is that the lovely lady on the motorbike was making a fashion statement. What do YOU think?
My favorite spot in the Medina was the beautifully restored Le Garden Secret. Photos of the “before” version were displayed in the on-site museum. (Sorry about the reflection. the lighting situation was far from ideal.)
No trip to the Medina would be complete without a stop at a rug shop. Most of us spent our time there sipping mint tea, but Dave was on a mission to find something special for his dining room, and he made a very significant purchase.
For our last day in Marrakesh, OAT offered us two optional tours: a hot air balloon ride and museum visits. I highly recommend both!
Was it worth getting up at 5:15 AM to watch the sun rise over the mountains, from the vantage of a hot air balloon? I’ll let you be the judge.
Now the museums: Although Trip Advisor rated Garden Majorelle as the top attraction in Marrakesh, I happen to disagree. Yes, it was nice and all that, but quite honestly, we have better gardens in the USA. They just weren’t owned by Yves St. Laurent
I much preferred the Museum of Water Civilization, because I have never seen anything quite like it.
I loved everything: its architecture, the exhibits, the stories.
It was chock full of wonderful legends. I chose just a couple to share to give you a feel for how delightful the museum is.
There is so much more to say about this fascinating city, but I’ll stop now and encourage everyone to go and see for yourself. Be prepared to have your preconceived notions shattered.