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Marrakech - The City (Part II)


Marrakech
  • Sites: Place Jemaa el-Fna, Le Jardin Majorelle + Berber Museum, La Mamounia, Zeitoun Café, 2 day Desert Camp 2 trip to Ouarzazate and Zagora, Dar Si Said, Palace de la Bahiaa, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Tanneries
  • Food: NOMAD rooftop, Atay Café, PEPE NERO
Link to Vlog here: https://youtu.be/xQuSocpH5A8

Day 2 in Marrakech, it was the last day of Ramadan, which meant that virtually nothing was opened. I left my hotel around 8:30am in the morning and all the shops in the Medina were closed, most restaurants were closed, and most museums or mosques were closed. The only thing opened 365 days a year was Le Jardin Majorelle. But I found that out the hard way… I walked 30 minutes in the 40C heat from the south end of Place Jemaa el-Fna all the way to Le Jardin Majorelle. But, it wasn’t as bad! After all there was no one in the Medina’s so I wasn’t getting pestered every 5 steps I took. I was able to get a lot of great shots of empty streets because of this.

 

 





Le Jardin Majorelle + Berber Museum

Le Jardin Majorelle, or in English - Majorelle Garden, is a botanical garden founded by French artist Jacques Majorelle. It was almost taken back by the government and would’ve been demolished for other purposes, so Jacques Majorelle bought it so make sure he could keep the garden as beautiful as it is. Since 1980, the garden’s ownership was transferred to the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurant. 

You won’t fail to recognize this place, the greenery contrasts strongly with the main building structure which is a very vibrant blue color. There’s also a Berber Museum, which collects traditional Berber clothing and jewelry. This is a perfect place if you want to capture beautiful fashion shots. The staff in there are also really good with DSLR cameras and framing pictures, after all, they probably get asked by people to do this all the time. 

It was midday when I finished at Le Jardin Majorelle. I had a lunch reservation at La Mamounia but it was still another 45minutes, so I found a café directly across the entrance of the garden and sat down for some avocado shakes and ice cream. 



La Mamounia

I wouldn’t know this place if I didn’t see so many iconic shots of the hotel spa and hallway on Instagram. I tried checking for rooms in this hotel, but the price was way out of my budget. So instead, I made a restaurant reservation by their pool. You could also get a one-day spa pass for about 500 MAD and you’ll be able to get access to their spa and pool facilities. 

I’ll admit it was a bit warm to sit outside at the pool, but it was nice to get some sun and just people watch. The king prawn skewers were really delicious, and not to mention, La Mamounia is one of the only places in Marrakech that serves alcoholic beverages. So I was able to get a taste of Casablanca Beer. In total I spent about £60 on this meal, pretty expensive, but it is one hell of a hotel. 

I spent some time cooling down indoors after lunch and wandered around. There weren’t that many people in the hotel other than at the bar. I found the spa area where the iconic shots are taken and no one was there. The I was able to find the semi outdoor corridor where the patterned pillars stood. I didn’t have a tripod so I ran inside and grabbed a hotel staff to help me take photos. And wow, they know what they’re doing, perhaps because it’s not the first time someone asked for a photo to be taken. I walked out of La Mamounia with a big grin as if I just won the best photo jackpot. 




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I wandered around in the afternoon, attempting to go to Dar Si Said museum, the Palaces and Ben Youssef Madrasa, but failing. Nothing was opened yet as it was still Ramadan. Not only that, all of the restaurants I had down weren’t opened. So I was wandering around for a while looking for a place for dinner. At the end, most of the restaurants that were opened was only around Place Jemaa el-Fna square. 

Zeitoun Café

This was a 3-floor café overlooking Place Jemaa el-Fna square. The restaurant was packed because it was one of the only trendier ones opened on this day. The good thing about traveling alone is that when it comes to getting a spot in restaurants, it’s easy and I hardly need to wait. I got seated very soon. This is the first Tajine I had in Morocco, with baked veggies in Couscous, along with a virgin cocktail. The square started to get busy with people and filling up with more vendors as the sun went down. I’m starting to get used to Marrakech now, it’s as if I lived here. 

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Fast forward 3 days after heading in and back out from the Sahara, I have one final last day, also my birthday day, to explore the city of Marrakech. Birthdays are usually a sensitive topic for me. For the most part, my birthdays haven’t been so eventful. It falls in the middle of summer vacation, so during school everyone was off camping or traveling somewhere. And in my adult life, it’s usually pretty quiet or I’m off traveling alone. I used to feel lonely if I’m traveling alone, but for some reason this year I didn’t really care. I’ve just spent the night in the middle of the desert, singing and dancing in a Berber camp with 20 other adventurous travelers. And now I’m off to explore the various museums, palaces, and mosques in Marrakech. All of a sudden, it didn’t really matter what day it was anymore. I was too busy absorbing in all of the information that my body is receiving, the sight, smell, sound, heat… everything. 

Dar Si Said

This is a museum full of Berber treasures and arts, such as leather bags, ceramics, embroidery, carpets, jewelry, and weaponry. It’s one of the quieter sites so you won’t be bothered by a bunch of tourists. I really took my time in the courtyard. There were trees everywhere, a little fountain in the middle under a shaded area. You can hear birds chirping and the sun peaking over the leaves above. I saw maybe 2 other couples wandering around and 1 museum staff. It was the perfect way to start an early day in Marrakech. 

Unfortunately, they were remolding their wedding-reception chamber, so I couldn’t visit it. But make sure to check it out if you’re there! 




Palais de la Bahia

Built in the 19th century, the Bahia Palace is an iconic landmark showcasing the essence of Islamic and Moroccan architecture and interior designs. There is a 2-acre garden and a massive back courtyard covered in beautiful blue-green and tan colored tiles. 



Ben Youssef Madrasa

This was built back in the 14th century, and arguably the most beautiful architecture in the city of Marrakech. It used to be a college that had 130 dorm rooms and of course a prayer room. It was closed in 1960 and reopened to the public in 1982 as a historical site. 

I wandered around here for at least an hour. The architecture is very impressive, with a very large court yard in the middle, detailed pillars and tiled walls, carvings around the dome shaped entrances. On the two sides, there are smaller rooms looking into the courtyard, which looked like the former dormitory rooms.





 



Atay Café

I found this little gem from a top Instagram post. It’s just around the corner from Ben Youssef, so I decided to get lunch there. This would be my last lunch in Marrakech, but also the best Tajine I had in Marrakech. Atay Café is this small 3 story building covered in white paint. But what stands out is its vibrant wall art inside the restaurant, new age, cartoon graffiti is the best way I could describe it. Surprisingly, though it was during the busiest hours of lunch time, I got the whole 2nd floor balcony to myself. I guess it’s because it’s tucked away in a smaller street, unless you search online before hand, you wouldn’t know where to find it. And tourists don’t just wander into places like this. The style is very similar to NOMAD, which I went on the first day. You have outdoor tanned coloured couches with a wood or bamboo covered roof so sunlight seeps in slightly. There are see through tan coloured curtains and lanterns. 

It was a bit bittersweet that it’s my last day in Marrakech. I look back on all of the incredible things I’ve experienced, my visa and immigration troubles, the medinas, the sahara desert, the sweet tea, the sound of the call to prayers coming from the mosques, the smell of spices… just everything. What a journey, another great series of stories I can bring back and share, and I can look back on fondly.



Tanneries

The tanneries were the last places to see before I conclude my trip in Marrakech. I can tell you now, it’s not worth seeing at all. The sun was shining down like a death laser, it was so hot out there I couldn’t focus. It also smelled like dead animals everywhere and there’s nothing really worth a photo shop. I was robbed of about 100MAD (the tour guide/owner forced me to change my remaining Euros. He looked like he was about to assault me if I didn’t). And I was forced to buy some premium hand made leather products. Do yourself a favor and just skip it. 




PEPE NERO

This is an Italian & Moroccan fusion restaurant located on the South East side of the city. It had a beautiful pool in the middle courtyard, which lit up by night. Because of its popularity, I made reservations about 3 weeks prior to my trip. The restaurant was very sweet and prepared a birthday cake for me, and before bringing it out they even dimmed the lights and played the birthday song! (To be honestly I was mostly just blushing. I don’t need to announce my birthday, but it was nice that the other guests were cheering) 


There was a bit more drama at the end of my trip to Morocco. I was notified that my flight got cancelled 12 hours prior. The replacement flight would get me to Casablanca, with a 19hour layover, then get into Munich 1 day later. I scrambled to find an Easy Jet flight, which transferred through Milan but still got me in Munich about 4 hours later than the original schedule. It cost about 50 euros more than the original flight, which I eventually got refunded back. So at the end it worked out, but it was a huge panic right before dinner, and several phone calls in Munich. 

I went downstairs for my taxi at 5:30am in the morning. The Easy Jet line was already 4 folds long, full of Italians. I got to the front of the line, and why….. the Moroccans see “China” on my passport, so they automatically think that I need a visa to enter the EU. To be fair, my passport also says TAIWAN. And Republic of China = Taiwan, People’s Republic of China = China. They almost forced me to get a visa. I mean, from where? The Italians will think you’re crazy. I argued a few times and at the end a lady from another counter enlightened the gentleman helping me “try Chinese Taipei”. Oh great, our alternative nickname. Whatever works, whatever gets me out of Morocco and back onto safe, European Union soil. 

Sadly, as beautiful as Italy is, I didn’t have time to see it this time. What’s more annoying is, originally I wanted an entry stamp into EU from Germany! But now I have an entry stamp from Italy. I’ll have to try entering from Germany again next time! The transfer time between Milan to Munich was only about 1.5hrs, and we were delayed. I was so worried I wouldn’t get onto the flight so I ran to the immigrations counter first and also got my luggage early to drop it back off again. But I made it, and I had no issues getting from Munich airport to Munich Hauptbahnhof. 

The story continues …. in Germany!





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