After a relaxed getaway to Essaouira, we arrived back in bustling Marrakech. It is the third largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca and Rabat, and lies near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and a few hours from the Sahara Desert. It wasn’t surprising to us why it’s such a destination spot in Morocco. One of our first stops was Djemaa El-Fna. During the day the square is filled with snake charmers and people with monkeys and tons of stores selling souvenirs. At night, perfomers, peddlers, women selling henna tattoos, and scores of food stalls set up and pack this square, attracting swarms of tourists and locals. Of course, our favorites were the food stalls…in particular, the soup stall! Only 3 dirhams for a bowl of harira (Moroccan soup) – 33 cents!
On our first full day in Marrakech, we ventured outside of the medina to see the The Majorelle Garden, a 12-acre botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden. It was designed by the expatriate French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s, during the colonial period when Morocco was a protectorate of France. The garden is such a juxtaposition to hustle and bustle of the city – so lush, clean, and peaceful – and a masterpiece that took 40 years to create. Throughout the garden he used a special shade of bold cobalt blue named after him, bleu Majorelle—Majorelle Blue. Absolutely breathtaking!
Although the Majorelle Garden existed in Morocco for decades, it was made famous when the garden’s former owner and caretaker, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, featured it in the 1997 Chelsea Flower Show in London. After YSL died in 2008 his ashes were scattered in the garden and a memorial was erected.
I really enjoyed the room where his annual new year’s greetings of “love” that he would send to friends and clients of his fashion house are displayed prominently.
Al Fassia – our Moroccan feast
At the recommendation of our tour book and riad, we went to Al Fassia to enjoy a nice meal out. It’s one of the few Moroccan restaurants that doesn’t force you to order a set menu and is run exclusively by women. The service was a bit frustrating, but we still enjoyed the food and wine. We shared a lovely bottle of Moroccan red wine – Beauvallon from Meknes. (I still want to figure out how to import this deliciousness even though wine country is so close to me in the Bay Area.) We sipped our wine with our vegetarian Moroccan salads – 16 dishes of different beans and vegetables like pumpkin, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, and lentils – and pastilla de pigeon (yes, pigeon pastry) to start.
For our entrees we ordered three tangines, yes 3. We feasted on the chicken and veggie tagine with cous cous, lamb tagine with caramelized onions and tomatoes, and the chicken tagine with tomato sauce topped with eggs – our fave!
A Day Trip out of Marrakech – Ourika Valley
After a couple of hectic days in bustling Marrakech, we decided to venture out on a day trip to the Ourika Valley, a lush oasis of vegetation beneath the magnificent Atlas Mountains. It was breathtaking, stunning and so different than any place we had seen before. We took lots of jumping pics because we were so happy to be out breathing the fresh air. And to get a nice cool break from the unbearable heat of the city.
As you may be able to tell from my three blog posts, my friends and I had a wonderful time in Morocco. I hope that my travels take me back to there again so I can explore more cities and enjoy more adventures and food. I already miss the delicious mint tea and bountiful breakfasts. Back to water and Luna bars!