Magical Marrakech: Morocco Travel


Mysterious medinas, magnificent mosques, palaces and squalor, snake charmers and water men.  Marrakech is a magical place that blends incredible sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. It’s sensory overload for western monkeys like Kongo. You have to go there.

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The monkey spent two days in Marrakech.  It should have been longer.  Actually the monkey succumbed to a bad cold (still recovering) on the second day so he needed a do-over but he saw quite a bit on the day he was healthy.

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Marrakech is one of the imperial cities of Morocco and was founded sometime in the 10th century.  It’s the most visited city in Morocco and has an exotic reputation that is a mixture of Mardi Gras, Hollywood, and Lawrence of Arabia.  Beautiful Islamic architecture is everywhere you look and lush gardens envelop you as you walk about.  Winston Churchill, who hung out here a lot in the 1930s and 40s declared it “the last paradise on earth.” We all know that Sir Winston embellished at times but he probably wasn’t far off opining on Marrakech.

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The Koutoubia Mosque, the largest in Marrakech, is surrounded by gardens and water features.  Built in the 12th century it has an interesting twist:  They had to rebuild the mosque when they found out that it wasn’t perfectly aligned to allow the faithful to pray in the direction of Mecca.  They toyed with the idea of just adjusting where you stood inside but they didn’t like that fix so they actually rebuilt the entire thing.  The original foundations still exist next to the present building and serves as an overflow area for worshipers.  (See photo below).

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Water sellers still roam the streets.  Historically, these guys would sell water to thirsty travelers who had just crossed the High Atlas Mountains and desert plain leading to Marrakech.  They carry goat skin bags decorated with coins from around the world and dip out water for a small fee.

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Kongo actually saw locals taking drinks from these guys and it’s supposed to be good luck to have a sip but the monkey passed on the opportunity to sip water that probably tasted more like goat than anything else.

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The Bahia Palace was built by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech in the 19th Century to house his four wives and 24 concubines.  There are beautiful gardens throughout the palace.

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One of many ornate ceilings in Bahia Palace.

Walking through the streets and alleyways of the Marrakech medina takes you into another world.  While these passageways were marginally wider than those of the Fez medina they were pretty narrow and you had to be alert for motorcycles and carts squeezing by you.

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Mrs. Kongo had been waiting for the medina.  All during the trip whenever someone talked about shopping our guide, Said, always said, “Wait for Marrakech …” and went on to emphasize that this was a “cultural” tour not a “shopping” tour.  That may all be well and good but when Said said, “Okay, is 30 minutes enough time for shopping?” Mrs. Kongo’s jaw dropped and she blurted out, “WHAT?!!!”  Little did Said realize that for Mrs. Kongo every cultural tour is really a shopping tour disguised as culture.  Eventually an hour time slot was negotiated.  Kongo just looked at Said, shrugged his shoulders, and said: “Happy wife, happy life.”  Mrs. Kongo went shopping.

 

 

 

 

Negotiating a full hour, Mrs. Kongo headed bravely into the medina with Kongo following behind to carry bags. Actually, Kongo wanted to do a bit of shopping himself.  He collects Arabic coffee pots and has them from all over the Middle East and wanted one from Morocco.  He finally negotiated an “antique” vessel with berber inscriptions that fits in nicely with his collection.  But with three granddaughters, two daughter-in-laws, two sons, and miscellaneous friends, Mrs. Kongo shifted into her power shopping mode.

 

 

 

Of course we had to buy another bag to bring all the stuff home.  This isn’t the first trip where extra baggage worked its way back to California.

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A street musician in the medina.

Just outside the medina is the Jemaa el-Fnaa square.  Here you can find chained (seriously?) Barbary apes, snake charmers, juice stands, vendors, and just about anything else you were looking for somewhere else and couldn’t find.

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The next day there was a cooking class in the morning.  Kongo participated for a brief period then opted to return to bed with a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door.

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Our hotel in Marrakech was the eclectic La Maison Arabe located inside the Medina.  It’s got a slinky jazz bar, a spa, pool, and wonderful little nooks and crannies to curl up in.

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Entrance to the Hotel.

Marrakech is the most popular destination in Morocco.  It’s easy to see why.

Travel safe.  Have fun!

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12 Comments

  1. Wow, its a dream

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marrakech is indeed a wonderful city. We also spent two full days during our trip to Morocco but obviously we could have spent more time exploring the nooks and crannies of the city. Very nice pics. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Suzanne!

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  3. Fabulous pictures, especially the colorful people, but the buildings, too. Did Mrs. Kongo have to deal with any sartorial restrictions on this trip?

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    1. Thanks! Eilene, there are lots of western visitors to Morocco these days so the people are pretty numb to bare shoulders and exposed knees. But this is an Islamic country after all and we considered ourselves guests, so I guess I would say that Mrs. Kongo and the other ladies in our group dressed “conservatively.” Most wore pants most of the time and tops with sleeves on them. Mrs. Kongo kept a scarf in her bag that could be used as a wrap in the more rural areas where people are more sensitive to exposed skin than in the cities. In a mosque, of course, women should dress very conservatively in accordance with local customs. Now the monkey seldom wears shorts and flip flops while traveling. Overall there really isn’t a problem if you use common sense are are sensitive to local customs.

      Of course Kongo observed many visitors who seemed to be clueless in this regard and skimpy tops displaying the glory of young visitors and their tattoos were not uncommon, particularly in the big cities.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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  4. Beautiful! And Mrs. Kongo looks like she was having a great time! I am impressed you managed with just one extra bag. My challenge from Arizona was stuffing a 12 pound hunk of polished petrified wood into our luggage. That ceiling picture is something else!

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  5. Thanks, Pam. Believe me, it could have been much worse. The Berber rugs and Moroccan brass lamps were tempting but actually they all offered door-to-door delivery as part of the cost.

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  6. Definitely enjoying your trip through Morrocco, Kongo. It does look like it has one many markets and stalls. Interesting to hear that these cultural tours can be shopping trips in disguise. It did sound like you had fun picking out an Arabic coffee pot, and you were spoilt for choice. Lovely selection of shots all round. Did you know what was that colourful pile?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, Mabel: The colorful pile are dried flower buds that are used in teas and seasonings.

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  8. I spent five days in Marrakech (two days, I took trip to the desserts). The city was incredible. I felt like came into documentary movie that I watched in discovery tv channel. However, I found the city was too touristic, and sometimes it could be too hectic to handle, not mentioning the vendors who always try too hard to get me into their shops. I was ended with keep walking, and too afraid to see (otherwise, vendors will ask me to come) on my left and right sides..But still, I always recommend people to visit Marrakech. There are so much to see there..

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    1. The sellers on the street were often troublesome, more so for women than men I think. At least it seemed that way to me observing the women in our group. I just gave them a menacing monkey snarl and they left me alone. Mrs. Kongo is way too polite for that. It is an incredible city, though. Fez was also very cool and just as scenic.

      Liked by 1 person

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