We arrived in Marrakech in the late evening. Luckily the riad that we had booked had arranged for someone to pick us up from the airport, otherwise we probably would have never found our hotel in the winding roads of the medina at night. A friendly gentleman was waiting for us with our name on a sign as we got off the plane. He escorted us to a silver van, and headed toward the bustling square. He weaved us in and out of the busy lanes of traffic, mostly motorbikes, some carrying families of four! It was a sight to see.
He dropped us off right at the main square. From that point on no cars were allowed, only pedestrians and motorbikes. A small, older man scooped up our heavy packs, tossed them into a wooden push cart, and without any words started walking quickly through the chaotic square. We followed him as quickly as possible, trying not to get lost in the crowd of beeping scooters and people. It was an immediate culture shock! The square was smoky from all of the food vendor stands, music playing from the snake charmers, and vendors shouting “Welcome to Morocco! Come look! I give you good price!”.
As we passed the square and approached the narrow streets, the man parked his cart, hurled both of our packs onto his back, and kept walking further into the medina. Just a couple minutes past the main square, we turned down a dark quiet alley way. At one point, we were both looking at each other knowing we were thinking the same thing, “Is this safe? Should we keep following him?”. We did. After a couple more maze-like turns, he stopped at a door where we were kindly greeted. We had made it to the riad, Riad Les Nuits De Marrakech.
Stepping into the riad was like stepping into a hidden oasis. It was so beautifully decorated, and we so warmly welcomed by the two owners Guido and Michael and the hotel attendant Isham. They immediately invited us to take a tour of the Riad, introduced us to some of the other guests, and showed us up to the terrace where Isham brought us mint tea. Michael gave us a map of the city and spent time talking with us and showing us where to shop, eat, and the areas to avoid. We were so glad to have chosen to stay at this specific Riad. It was perfect! We finally went down to our room, the “Sabrina” room, plopped ourselves down, and settled in for the night.
The next morning we were woken up by the loud prayers that occur across the city at 4:30 in the morning, followed by the loud singing of the birds. At about 8:30 we were served breakfast on the terrace, and after not having dinner the night before, we were famished. Not to worry though, the breakfast was delicious and plentiful. We were served a basket of fresh pastries accompanied by different types of jams served in tiny tagines, Moroccan pancakes with honey, fresh fruit and yogurt, homemade omelets, fresh squeezed orange juice, and of course…more mint tea.
We spent the rest of the morning relaxing and coming up with our plan of attack for navigating the souks for when we were brave enough to go shopping.
We finally stepped out of our oasis and headed into the narrow souks. After wandering a while, we realized there is no way to devise a plan of attack, you can't avoid getting lost. We decided to just allow ourselves to get lost in the streets passing all of the colorful shops filled with vibrant fabrics, hand crafted pottery, jewelry, and some not so appetizing meat counters. We had a couple near death experiences with rogue motorbikes, but somehow survived. Overall, we had some success at bargaining for the items we bought and every shop we passed Scott was referred to as “Alibaba!” We have no idea why, but we'll just assume it meant something good.
We arranged to have dinner on the terrace of the riad because we weren't quite brave enough to try the street food yet. At sunset we were joined by a few of the other guests on the terrace for a beautifully prepared Moroccan dinner. The girls at the riad were amazing cooks. We started with a fresh salad that came with a little dish on the side of a chilled concoction containing eggplant, which was delicious spread on the bread we were served. Then a large tagine was brought out that had lemon chicken with potatoes. We finished our meal with a bowl of fresh cherries and a decadent desert.
We spent the rest of our time in Marrakech either relaxing in one of the lounge areas at the riad, taking a cool plunge in the pool, our braving the heat of the souks.
On our last full day in Marrakech, Isham offered to walk us through the souks to his favorite place to buy Babouche (shoes). We had lunch at a delicious little restaurant that the owners of the riad had recommended .
Our last night we walked down to the square before dinner to watch the snake charmers and monkeys and to try and get some good photos, which is not an easy task. The smoky atmosphere made it difficult to get lots of pictures, and lots of people either expect to be paid if you want to take pictures of their shops or get offended by you taking pictures.
We had dinner at a restaurant called La Salama, where we had little fried appetizers, chicken couscous, and some mystery desert (we still don't know what it was). The food was good, however, we thought the home cooked dinner at the riad was much better.
The last morning, I wasn't feeling well (it's probably not the full Marrakech experience without some sort of tummy troubles) so Scott quickly ate his breakfast and we headed to the airport. Overall, Marrakech was definitely an exotic, yet beautiful experience. What really made it special to us were all of the kind people that we met along the way.
The friendly staff at the Riad