The Ladybug’s dream of Marrakech

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I still remember the day when we decided to travel to Marrakech for a long weekend: I was with my best friends, we were eating lunch during our work break, it was September last year. All of us had this little dream of visiting the town and we set-up March this year as the perfect time for our trip. Said and done: we got the tickets a few weeks later and in December all was planned for the Marrakech dream!

It was one of my biggest dreams, I don’t know why we never talked about that but the idea of traveling there, smell the perfumes, drinking mint tea, shopping in the souk, visiting this wonderful city has been in my mind for almost a decade!

I was a bit worried when we landed, as I usually am when I have big expectations because sometimes I think they may be too big and I may end up disappointed but Marrakech was definitely beyond my high expectations. We spend there only 4 days but I could have stayed more and when I left I promised to go back to Morocco because this country is really fabulous!

We arrived quite early in the morning and we decided to head to the new town to have lunch and then visiting the modern Marrakech before spending the next three days in the old city. The real reason why we started from there was another of my old dreams coming true: the visit of the Yves Saint Laurent museum and the famous Majorelle Garden. I saw so many pictures around but nothing compares to the real colors of this place: the blue Majorelle (as they call it) and the yellow, the amazing cactuses and other succulent plants, the fuchsia of the flowers and the incredible decorations of the Berber museum make this place absolutely unique. Even if you are not a fan of Yves Saint Laurent (better if you are because the small museum has some amazing pieces inspired by his love for this town) you will definitely enjoy the magic of the designer’s house in Marrakech (that’s where he moved since he first travelled there) even if the house itself is not open to visitors.

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After the visit we headed back to the old town to have a mint tea aperitivo on the Souk Café Terrace where you have a wonderful view on the Koutoubia Mosque (the view at the sunset during the prayer was breathtaking). We loved so much the Terrace that we decided to stay there also for dinner and to enjoy the typical tasty Moroccan pastries and a hot tea to close the first day!

It was hard not to stop at every shop to buy things but we resisted the souk one more day and we decided to spend the second day visiting the amazing Marrakech buildings and palaces. First stop the Koutoubia Mosque, the most important in town just near the famous Jamaa el Fna square, the biggest and more picturesque of Marrakech (even if I didn’t like it that much as it is full of tourist attractions, but still interesting to visit!). You can visit the mosque only at certain times of the day but the atmosphere and the whole building are worth a visit, even if you will see it from almost everywhere in town if you are on one of the many amazing Marrakech terraces.  From there we moved to the Marrakech Kasbah to visit another mosque, the Kasbah, and two beautiful places: the Saadian Tombs and the Bahia Palace. The Saadian Tombs date back to the end of the sixteenth century and are located in a closed garden. In the same garden you’ll see over one-hundred tombs that are beautifully decorated with colored mosaics. The Saadian Tombs are the resting place of approximately 60 members of the Saadi dynasty but the most important is the main mausoleum with the graves of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur and his family.

Not far from there is the Bahia Palace, a building commissioned by the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa, with eight hectares and 150 rooms that lead to various patios and gardens. The most interesting part of the visit is the harem of Abu Bou Ahmed’s four wives and 24 concubines. The ceilings and floors of this building are a blossom of Moroccan art and zellij (zellige) the typical geometrical mosaic tilework that has Berber and Moorish origins.

We stopped for lunch at the lovely Zeitoun Café in front of the Kasbah Mosque (the cous cous was delicious!) and after the intense day of walking and visiting we allowed ourselves a relaxing moment at the Ziani Hammam where we had a traditional Moroccan treat (hammam, sauna, scrub, full massage, shower, hair wash and of course mint tea) in a typical traditional space that is a sort of combination of tradition and modern. We enjoyed it so much that we didn’t want to leave anymore!

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We dedicated the last two days to wandering (and often getting lost) in the little streets of the Medina and of Marrakech huge souk. These two days were full of discoveries, beautiful surprises and crazy shopping of course! The smell of the spices and tea, the colored ceramics, the Berber jewels, baskets and rugs (I got all of them after long extenuating negotiations but I was super proud and happy!), the silver mirrors and teapots, the embroidered slippers…we couldn’t resist! I expected sellers to be a bit pushy but in the end it was fun to enjoy talks with them and negotiate for almost everything (it is almost mandatory here to negotiate, if you don’t do it they may get offended!).

During these two crazy days around the souk we stopped for lunch or dinner in three interesting places that I’d love to mention because they are definitely worth a visit:

          Dar Chérifa: it is a hidden gem of the Saadian era, a restaurant, a riad, a cultural venue, hosting regular international and national exhibitions, workshops, concerts and events. We stayed there for dinner and their Mrouzia sweet dish of lamb with dry raisin and almonds is to die-for (btw, I don’t eat meat but I couldn’t resist it) as well as their Moroccan desserts. Don’t forget to book your place!

          Le Jardin: our last dinner in Marrakech was in these lovely but huge open air restaurant in the Marrakech Medina; the food is very good and the decoration is lovely! It is recommended to book a place before you go, it is pretty crowded.

          Max & Jan: it is a famous modern concept store with a beautiful terrace on top and lovely decoration with Berber rugs that I adored. The space is definitely more interesting than the food or then the (expensive) clothes and accessories.

Last traveler tips: if you decide to spend a few days in Marrakech, the best place to stay is absolutely a traditional Moroccan riad. They are generally very welcoming and you can drink mint tea at every hour of the day or night, but more important they usually offer homemade Moroccan breakfast (you will love it) in their beautiful terraces and the décor is so typically Moroccan style that you will love it.

I had the chance to stay in the Riad Jnane Mogador: the location was perfect because it was exactly in the middle of everything (Jamaa el Fna square, Souk, Bahia Palace etc.) and you could easily go everywhere by walk from there. The internal court and décor was lovely and the rooms were comfortable and clean. Also they have a good restaurant and a lovely spa if you feel like having a good massage! The price was definitely very low for the quality and service that we received so keep it mind in case you are planning a stay in town!

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