Marrakech on a budget

This April we went to Morocco. There’s cheap flights now from Madrid and Barcelona with Ryanair and if you’re not in a hurry you can easily combine these with another Ryanair flight from Berlin. We decided for a stopover in Madrid and based ourselves in Marrakech. Ryanair of course means only little luggage and I’m planning to write a short post about my packing as well.

This post will be about what to see in Marrakech itself, then there will be another one about the two day trips that we did.

But first, accommodation. We booked a room in a Riad in the Medina of Marrakech on AirBnB. There’s everything in Marrakech, from these simple but pretty traditional homes, to luxury hotels with countless stars. Our Riad “Riad Eva” was located 5 minutes from Jemaâ el Fna (the central square) and looked like this:

Look from the rooftop terrace down to the rooms:

Entrance to our room at night:

From the upmost level to the breakfast place:

For breakfast we had either tea or coffee with a Moroccan pancake and baguette, and jam, butter, cream cheese, and some olives. I liked it!

View from the rooftop:

And at night:

So what to visit in Marrakech? First, the whole Medina is worth a visit. Walking through the streets you find a lot of interesting places, shops, and people. However, a small warning… people are super friendly but there’s a lot of scams. I read this page in preparation http://journeywonders.com/morocco-travel-scams/ and it gives a lot of useful tips. Still, we got into one situation were we are still not sure, what happened exactly. More on this later.
In Morocco you are not allowed to enter any mosque if you’re a non-Muslim, so including them into your walking route is a good way to at least have a look from the outside.

On our way to the Koutoubia mosque:

In the middle of the street:

Minaret de la Koutoubia:

Lunch on a rooftop terrace:

View on Jemaâ el Fna:

In the evening Jemaâ el Fna transforms into a big food court. You can eat good and cheap food fresh from the barbecue. We ate at a different stall every evening, ordering a couple of small plates and sharing. The typical tagines with couscous, vegetables and meat are more found in the restaurants around the place. However, the best tagine we had was prepared by the cook in our Riad (we booked a dinner for one day), probably because it was home made.

Where we used to go for dinner (changing stalls of course):

Walk through the Souks:

You can buy a lot of stuff in the Souks. Of course no price is fixed and you need to haggle. In the end you always pay more than the locals, but that’s really ok. You’ll find various online tips on how to haggle, so I will not go into detail. It’s definitely helpful if your appearance doesn’t scream “money!”. And here’s a little anecdote. I love haggling, and I don’t give up very fast. It’s like theatre. You pretend the price is so high it hurts, or you’re going to be bankrupt etc.. So some of the guys actually turned towards Francisco and told him that his wife is very tough in a halfway sorry and a halfway impressed way. 😛

Bab Aganou – used to be the entrance of a palace:

Back to our strange experience. So here’s the story of what happened to us. We walked past Bab Aganou and ended up in some streets where we were apparently the only tourists. A guy on a bike came across and after passing us he suddenly decided to turn around and ask where we are from. We chatted a bit with him and told him we were on the way to one of the palaces. He invited us to his place for some tea and we didn’t say no. So we had tea at his place talking about football players and universities in Europe. At some point he asked us if we already bought spices and we were honest and said no. So he offered to go to a shop around the corner and bring some for us. Which he then did, leaving us in his living room on our own. Apparently he brought loads of spices and tea and of course it was more than we were willing to bring home and especially to pay. But we didn’t want to be unpolite (sitting in his house) and took everything. Until this point we were still very okay with the situation. We told him we would now leave for the palace and he wanted to show us the best way to get there. When we said goodbye, he – out of nothing – started to tell us about his sick father in hospital and that he would have no money because of this and so on. To avoid any stress we gave him a little money, saying that we’re students and aren’t rich, and left.
The problem with this whole experience is not the spices, that were good quality but for sure a bit pricier than what he paid himself, the problem is the begging in the end that left us with a strange feeling. A feeling that people cannot just be nice to you, they always also want your money. This feeling led to two things. 1) us asking in the restaurant where we had lunch later on how much they would have paid for the spices, checking prices several times online, me investigating the saffron very carefully, and still feeling more bad than happy about the buy, and 2) us avoiding any other personal contact with local people for the rest of the stay (which is a pity of course).

But let’s continue with sights in Marrakech. There is a small number of museums in the Medina, and since they are (often) located in old palaces, they’re really worth a visit. We decided for Musée de Marrakech and Dar si Said.

On our way to the Musée de Marrakech:

Me in one of the rooms:

The main hall:

Mirror, mirror on the wall:

Dar si Said museum:

Garden:

There’s really a lot of old palaces in Marrakech, the ruins of Palace el Badiî are a beautiful place to visit. The area is huge! This palace was build after a war against Portugal and the building was actually paid by the Portuguese.

Another day, another palace (Palace el Badiî):

The yard:

Another view:

Selfie:

The hanging rock:

Inside the palace ruins:

Storks:

I admit we didn’t do too many things outside the Medina, also because we preferred to walk everywhere. However, we wanted to see Jardin Majorelle and took a horse carriage to get there. One way, on the way back we took a cab. The drivers were not so happy about the no return request and asked us for ~20€, we tried with a 5€ offer and paid 8€.
Jardin Majorelle is a botanical garden but also an art museum. It was established in the 1920s by French artist Jaques Majorelle. Later, Yves Saint-Laurent took care of the place. After he died the garden was given to a foundation. The most intriguing part of the property is a bright blue and yellow villa.

Our horse carriage to Jardin Majorelle:

Palm trees:

Beautiful colors:

The villa:

Cactus:

Another very nice place are the saadian tombs. Close by is the mosque Medersa Ben Youssef.

Medersa Ben Youssef:

Tombeaux Saadiens:

Outside:

Our best photo faces:

The last sight I would like to show you is Mamounia Palace hotel. You can simply walk through the gates and the entrance hall (even without being a guest) to relax a bit in the very green and calm backyard. Unfortunately one cup of coffee is more than 10€, so not really an option. We went there on the last day of our stay and I think it was a good choice, because the Medina with all its people and noise can get a bit too much.

La Mamounia Palace hotel:

In the backyard:

Very relaxed atmosphere:

Me:

Soon: Daytrips from Marrakech, cats, and packing advice.

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