Having worked for Tribes for a number of years, myself and my wife (Karen) were given the opportunity to visit Marrakech in October, for a long weekend.
Neither of us had ever been to Morocco, so were looking forward to the experience. We were both intrigued and slightly nervous about what it was going to be like and had no idea what to expect…
Thursday 15th October
Very early start, up at 4am just enough time to check in and polish off a full English breakfast before boarding our flight to Marrakech, Morocco.
It was a smooth flight and the 3 hours was just long enough to catch up on the sleep we needed. Plane landed on time. Unfortunately 2 planes had landed before us, so passport control was a nightmare, but we eventually made our way through the queue.
We finally arrived at the Riad Les Yeux Bleus at 11:30am. We were welcomed and offered mint tea which was interesting and needed a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to make it sweet enough to drink.
Next was a guided tour of the riad which was without doubt amazing and very beautifully restored by the owners. We unpacked and then spent a couple of hours on the rooftop terrace, enjoying the sun and sounds of Marrakech.
In the afternoon we had a private guide around the major sites of the city and visited:
- Medersa Ben Youssef
- Bahia Place
- Saadian Tombs
- Djemma el Fna
We also wandered the souks with our guide and tasted dried figs, dates, visited a number of spice shops and of course a carpet shop!!
After returning to Riad Les Yeux Bleus we decided to have dinner there and we were treated to a lovely chicken tagine, with mountains of salad and couscous, washed down with a very nice bottle of red wine.
Friday 16th October
Once we had figured out how to work the shower (taps were muddled!) it was up to the roof terrace for breakfast, which was laid out ready for us. No full English today instead there was Madeira cake, yogurt, locally baked bread, freshly squeezed orange juice and warm pancakes. I ordered an omelette which arrived bubbling in a tagine pot.
We had a hamman and massage booked for 2 in the afternoon and dinner was also booked at Dar Moha restaurant for 7.30pm, all organised for us by the riad staff.
We decided to try and walk from the riad to the Majorelle Gardens, with quite a few major roads to cross which were quite a challenge, but it only took us about 15-20 minutes. It cost 70dh per person to enter the garden.
Lots of cacti and with a few sunny and shady places to sit, we wandered around taking lots of photos and had a look at the tea room (very British). Found a sunny bench to spend some time people watching. What a satisfying experience people watching can be…
Made our way back to the riad. Fortunately we found it without any trouble, which was great as we didn’t think it would be easy to remember which alleyway it was down. We arrived back and changed for our hamman and massage, then went up to the roof terrace.
I can now say that experiencing a hamman, where you are washed and scrubbed by a couple of Moroccan women until your skin feels silky smooth, is something everyone should try on their first visit to Marrakech. For the rest of the afternoon, we just relaxed on the roof terrace enjoying the warm sun.
At around 7.15pm one of the riad staff, walked with us to Dar Moha, which was no more than 10 minutes door to door. When we got there we knocked on the door and were taken through to the back where there were lots of tables & chairs placed around a large pool, with soft music playing in the background.
We plumped for a bottle of house red, which was very nice and chose our main course. We had been told to expect lots of food, so having skipped lunch we knew we would be hungry and boy we needed to be.
The waiter came out with 7 small round dishes each with a different salad. Then after we had devoured most of the salads, came another 7 small dishes all with something different to try. Once the 14 Moroccan salads had been sampled, next course was our starters!
I chose a pigeon pastry dish and Karen had a vegetable pastry. By this time along with the 14 salads, bread and wine, we were both starting to feel a little full.
Next was main course, the waiter brought out to the table large two tagines. I had ordered the seabass and Karen the lamb. The waiter said ‘Here are your chicken and vegetable tagines’. We both looked at each other and said but we ordered the… at which point the waiter lifted the lids and said ‘Only joking!’. We did have the right dishes after all… what a comedian…
For dessert we both decided to have the lemon and plum sorbet.
Saturday 17th October
We were awoken by the local mosque call to prayer. Had our breakfast and decided to relax on the roof terrace before heading out on our own. Bit cloudier today, so made our way down the Djemma el Fna. On our way down we bumped into one of the Moroccans from the riad and got chatting, he showed us the bakery where all the locals get their daily bread.
He offered to show us the around the souks, but we politely declined as were sure we would have ended up in his brother’s or cousin’s shop and try to sell us something…
We ambled around the square, watching the snake charmers and avoiding the monkeys, as well as everyone on their scooters, then onto the Koutoubia Mosque and around to the gardens behind the mosque.
By this time the clouds had turned grey and looked threatening so made our way back to the square to one of the restaurants with a roof terrace. Just as we sat down the heavens opened and everyone made a rush for cover. The rain lasted for about an hour. We left and headed back via the souks to the riad.
For our last evening we decided we would eat out at one of the many food stalls that had been set-up in the square. We sat down at stall 147, and had all manner of fried fish, barbecued meat, chips and couscous, plus the obligatory mint tea!
Sunday 18th October
We had packed the night before ready for our flight back to the UK, so we had our breakfast, settled our bill with the riad and said our goodbyes.
The entire trip was just a brief taster of Moroccan life within the hustle & bustle of the old walled city (medina) of Marrakech. Who would have believed that behind such unassuming walls, down a tiny little alleyway we would find a friendly, relaxing oasis, a haven away from the chaos of city life.