Marrakesh in a Day
After returning to Rabat from El Jadida to regroup and repack, we spent the next four days in three cities and a total of 20+ hours on the train. The first stop: Marrakesh known as the red city since all the buildings are a soothing terra cotta color giving the whole city a serene feeling. Surrounded by the majestic Atlas Mountains, it’s also home to the famous Jemma El Fna Sqaure. But, could we really take it all in with less than 24 hours there? Yes! Here’s how…
We woke up early to make it to the 8 a.m. train, and were almost on time until we ended up leaving the house a few minutes too late. We did get on the train just a few moments before it was about to take off. Along the way, the landscape showed us olive groves, pumpkin patches and rows of carmose. The winter rains made plenty of hay which was stacked in field after field as the train moved closer to the hills. I couldn’t wait to show my parents the huge mountains, but in the summer, they are covered in thick clouds and it’s as if they don’t even exist. We arrived and found a taxi driver to take us to the Golden Tulip Farah Marrakesh. The grand taxis were asking for 40 DH, but we found a guy with a van who took us for 30 DH. We were starving, but all hotels require you to fill out paperwork, and then they couldn’t seem to find our reservation. I booked online directly through their website and when they finally used my confirmation number, they found us. It seems we got an upgrade in the process, because I reserved a superior room, but we got placed in a two-floor bungalow!
Our original plan was to drop off our bags and head to Jemma el Fna for lunch at Cafe Toubkal before heading back to the hotel to relax by the pool. Unfortunately, the hotel is a little further away from the Square than we thought, so we opted for lunch by the pool, a swim and a nap. Yes, we ate hotel food in Marrakesh! The sun was shining so we spent a few hours lounging before taking hot showers in the hotel room and finally making our way to the Square. It was about a 40 minute walk with a stop to get my dad up on a camel. We passed the Koutoubia Mosque and crossed the busy streets to finally reach the hustle and bustle. Snake charmers, monkeys, belly dancing boys, henna ladies, and all greeted us with their hungry eyes.
We tried some of the fresh squeezed orange juice, a requisite, before heading into the maze of souks for some shopping. We decided on a horse drawn carriage ride because it was a little too early for us to eat dinner. This is also an affordable must for seeing the rest of the city, especially when you are short on time. A 45-minute ride is only 125 DH, and the ride prices are regulated now, so you don’t have to haggle with the drivers. Along the way you’ll pass the Koutoubia Mosque, travel through the tight streets of neighborhoods out into the wider lanes of the main roads and passed a few little gardens before passing the gates of the Palace in Marrakesh. Don’t try to take a picture there!
Finally ready to eat, we braved the tents in the middle of the Jemma el Fna Square to find a place to eat. This is also a required stop on a Marrakesh visit. Whether you want to try escargot or sheep’s brain, or just have a meal of delicious little dishes, you must take a seat at one of the tables. You’ll immediately be served with bread, dipping sauces and olives. (They will charge you for this in the end, but it’s worth the few extra DH.) We ordered tangia, one of Marrakesh’s main dishes, seafood and mutton brochettes with salad and complimentary mint tea. If you can stand the heat, try a cup of khedenjal, a hot spicy tea that’s like drinking a cup of melted red hot candies from one of the stalls on the outer edges of the tents. Feeling stuffed, we walked it off with a few circles around the square before heading back for the long walk to our hotel.
We were beat when we finally arrived to cool air conditioned rooms and crisp sheets. We decided to take the very earliest train to get a head start to Fez in the morning so that was all we saw of Marrakesh. But honestly, we felt we really did take advantage of the short trip seeing all the things any guide book recommends. If we had one more morning, a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent garden and lunch at Cafe Toubkal would have topped it off perfectly.