From the road to Ourzazate, we reached Marrakesh by day around 5PM and made a quick tour of the city by bus before reaching our hotel, Le Meredien N’Fis. This 5 star resort made up for our lackluster hotel in Ourzazate, and we were rewarded with a pleasant 3 night stay in the red city of Marrakesh. We finally had the time to relax, recover, and be in one place for a while. This blog is about Marrakesh by day, and the next one will be Marrakesh by night.
We quickly drove by the main square (Jmaa al Fna) and the Koutoubia Tower, which would be a landmark for our wanderings throughout Marrakesh over the next few days.
When we arrived at the Le Meridien, we were ready to relax – and that’s exactly what we did in Marrakesh by day.
I messaged Aunt Leslie to see what she recommended we do and whether she had a guide she recommended (after the fabulous recommendation of Khlafa in Fez), and she voiced the wise warning of Marrakesh being a tourist trap. We took that to hard and didn’t try to do too much, focusing on rest and exploring at our own pace.
As such, after enjoying the luxurious lobby during check-in and luggage sorting, we headed to the room for a long repose. Even though the resort was fancy, the rooms were not – or at least the 5th floor wing our Gate 1 group was given. They were clearly old and not updated – with random parts of the room and furniture broken, lose screws sticking out, and paintings and mirrors were asymmetrical and crooked. It was fairly basic, but it was so much better than Ourzazate! We had big ambitions of hitting the town that night, but as it got later and later (and not being hungry), we ended up just staying in, watching some bad movies on the 1 English speaking move channel, ordering a pizza and a hamburger from room service at 9PM, and going to bed. The food was good; the sleeping was not. Unfortunately, since it was winter, the AC was not on in the hotel and it was stifling in the room. We didn’t want to open the window due to the noise outside, so we attempted to sleep (naked in fever dreams in an 80 degree room) for our first night in Marrakesh. Not a great start!
The next night we wizened up and got a fan from the front desk, and kept the windows open in Marrakesh by day to cool down the room in preparation for sleeping.
Breakfast was very nice, and finally up to the standards of a 5 star resort. We were out the door by 9AM for the Gate 1 organized morning city tour, and then would have the rest of the day free afterwards. We were both feeling miserable and sick, now without sleeping for 2 nights and not having any space to convalesce. We were definitely a little cranky and the rainy weather was not helping, despite it being the first major rain of winter making all the residents happy and breaking the drought.
M’hamed took us first to the Bahia Palace, which was built in the late 19th century by the Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed (who was later assassinated). At this point it was honestly starting to all blur together. We saw the familiar patterns of marble, mosaic, stucco, and cedar from bottom to top. We went from room to room with M’hamed narrating the use of each quarter, courtyard, and room. We tried our hardest to not get wet and the umbrellas from the Gate 1 bus and Brendan’s poncho helped.
The next stop was a mausoleum (which I opted out of and stayed on the bus), also known as the Saadian tombs. The rain started to let up as Brendan and the other tourists returned – nothing worth seeing (once you’ve seen a few mausoleums, kasbahs, and palaces you’ve seen them all). These dated from the 16th century and came from a Berber dynasty which you can read about here. We were definitely at Morocco fatigue at this point in the trip, and were already starting to look forward to Portugal, which we would hit on a Lisbon stopover before returning to Denver.
Finally, we visited Koutoubia Tower and the destroyed mosque next to it in Marrakesh by day. This story was interesting because mosques are rarely ever torn down – the ruler at the time had to make a case to the people that it was in an “unfavorable” position and that it needed to be relocated elsewhere. And so it was.
The rain started to let up and M’hamed explained the difference between sweet and sour oranges. Sweet oranges had one leaf and sour oranges had two leaves. The trees in this courtyard leading up to the Koutoubia fountain were all sour. We had to dodge huge puddles as we approached the tower.
One more stop led us to the main square, Jmaa al Fna. Apparently it came alive at night, but not during rainy days. We did get to see a few snake charmers, water men, henna artists and walking around despite the small crowds. We would see more the following evening after the rain had come and gone.
At this point, the official tour dispersed and we were free to wander the city. We did for a few hours, and then decided to grab lunch. However, we weren’t in the best of moods to really shop and didn’t have the patience to stick around too long and be hassled by the the vendors (it really was a tourist trap). I even got henna attached. Literally, I was talking to Brendan and a woman grabbed my hand and started to to henna on it. I told her to stop and that I didn’t want it, but she kept going. Eventually she reached a natural paused and I pulled my hand away and as we started walking away she really hassled us to pay her. I had to physically push her away and tell her no. It was not a nice experience. Meanwhile, I had henna on my hand that I had to let dry for the next 30 minutes.
We found a nice looking Italian restaurant called Pepe Nero in a windy back-alley street on Lonely Planet that we decided to try for lunch. It took us about 30 minutes to actually find it, and then when we got there, we discovered that it was closed in Marrakesh by day (open at 7PM). Plan B was to find a restaurant near the square, but the problem was we really had our hearts set on Italian. We ended up at the only other tourist Italian restaurant on the corner of the square. We were seated at the top, but I threw a mini-tantrum when the waiter decided to move my purse from the chair I had moved next to my table, so I huffed out. He cited that that chair was needed for other diners, but only us and one other couple were on the entire floor (of about 20 tables). I just had it with the ridiculousness and, lacking sleep and feeling sick, just had no more patience.
We decided to walk back to the hotel, drop off our bags, and went to the mall for lunch. We enjoyed a chicken sandwich, lasagna, and ice cream in a hassle free environment. Lame yes. Easy, also yes!
Afterwards, it was time for a siesta and another night resting in the hotel room. We were getting ready for a big(ger) night out on the town the following night, and hitting Jmaa al Fna when all the street performers came out to play. With the fan and the window open all day, we slept great (finally) that night.