After a four hour flight we landed at the airport of Marrakech. I always find that one of the best moments while traveling; the moment the cabin crew opens the doors of the plane as if it is the door to your new adventure. When you take the first steps outside, the odor of the country immediately penetrates your nose and gives you an unfiltered taste and scent of the new country or place, before you even set foot on the ground. If you are a traveler yourself, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. It always makes me exited to go out and explore even more! The sent of Marrakech is a mixture of sand, gasoline, dust, undefined herbs and the smell of your bathroom after a hot summer day with the windows closed. Totally different from everything else that we’ve smelt so far, and non comparable to any country in Europe or Asia. Welcome to Africa!
We were exited to explore this new country and continent, because Morocco is ‘the gateway’ to Africa, and a country of dizzying diversity. Here you can find epic mountain ranges and ancient cities, get lost in the maze of small narrow streets and absorb the true ‘Aladdin’ vibe that will somehow give you a feeling of recognition, because you have watched the Disney movie more then 20 time’s when growing up. Some people say that Morocco feels tailor made for travelers, because you can literally drive through four seasons in just one day. In this country you can find Sahara dunes, snow covered peaks in the High Atlas mountains, layered red sand canyons and a surfers paradise coastline. But, you’ve got to start somewhere. So first stop for us: the city of Marrakech.
‘You here!’ shouted our young driver between the Arab hip-hop tunes that were blowing up his car speakers. He jumped out to open up the doors of the minivan and two seconds later we were standing in the middle of a busy traffic square, waiting for a guy from our Riad to pick us up to guide us through the small dark streets of the Medina. When he opened up the little brass-studded ancient door, hidden in the corner of an narrow back alley, we stepped into an beautifully decorated and quiet paradise that we could call our home for the next seven days. “Welcome to Riad Soundouss” he said, and poured us a cup of delicious mint tea, while we were dazzled by the gorgeous atmosphere. It was a spectacular mudbrick courtyard mansion and an oases of calm in the bustling Medina. We found ourselves listening to songbirds and the calming sound of the small fountain that immediately resulted in whispering. He told us, that hundreds of these historic old family homes have been sold and reinvented as guesthouses. Sleeping in this Riad gave us the ultimate feeling of hospitality, and we would highly recommend you, because it’s not just a place to sleep but a proper chance to understand the Moroccan life behind closed doors.
While exploring the city, we were surprised about the ton-sur-ton pink walls, the crowded souks and the lined up display of Arabic lamps, a million carpets, clothing. souvenirs, sweets, herbs and animal carcasses in dusted streets, that most of the time lead to nowhere. You can get lost within seconds! The only navigation point in the maze is the square of ‘Djemaa el-Fna’, next to the ‘Koutoubia’ mosque, where musicians, henna artists, snake charmers, acrobats and food stalls vendors annoyingly try to get your undivided attention, 24 hours a day. If you don’t have it already, you’ll have to develop a thick skin in an instant to make sure you don’t get yourself in trouble. Unfortunately we have witnessed a lot of tourist finding themselves paying for something they never asked for. So if you are planning to go to Marrakech, be warned! However, if your skin is thick enough, you will absolutely enjoy yourself strolling through the markets and definitely will find some fantastic souvenirs to take home with you. Found something you like? Don’t be to obvious and haggle like a pro to get the best deal on the price, it’s so much fun!
Besides the souks and Riads, the Medina has a lot of hidden treasures. The highlight monuments, best restaurants and most beautifully decorated mosques can be found here in the ancient city centre. But, you’ll have to know where to find them, because there are no windows in this muslim country and everything is hidden behind closed doors. If you are up for a treasure hunt challenge, use TripAdvisor and Google maps to find your way, as the local teenage boys have made it their biggest hobby to give tourists the wrong directions or beg for money to guide the way. Once you’ve found them, your patients will be rewarded and you will be amazed by the elegant atmospheres, delicious food and mosaic decorated palaces of former kings. Visit the top 10 restaurants on TripAdvisor, the Bahia palace and the Marrakech museum, you’ll love it!
In the ‘Ville Nouvelle’, a more modern part of the city outside of the Medina walls, you can find the modern Moroccan life with shopping malls, apartment buildings and tourist attraction ‘Jardin de Majorelle’. This house, who was originally owned by landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, has been the residence of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. It’s completely blue, has a big botanic garden and houses the Berber museum and an exposition of Yves Saint Laurent’s designs. Definitely worth the visiting, especially when you take some time to explore this part of the city as well to get a good overall glimpse of Moroccan city life. Don’t forget to end a day of exploring with one of the relaxing treatments at the Hammam! The ‘Bain de Marrakech’ is our personal favorite!