Every time I heard the word “Marrakesh”, I had a picture in my mind – an ancient city full of yellow sunlight, labyrinths of stone streets, rooftop gardens and inner courtyards with exquisite lanterns and luxurious plants in brightly colored pots… So, when I finally got there, it was and it wasn’t like this. It is an ancient city within 1000 years old red sandstone wall, but it also is ugly buildings, constant pestering by locals, gasoline smell, and endless dust.
Having traveled in all of the South East Asia, I have become accustomed to all these inconveniences, but I have felt that in Marrakesh it took another dimension.
So, we were fortunate to stay at riad Ayadina – a beautiful little oasis of serenity. Every time we rang the doorbell of the heavy door in the very narrow street just inside of the Wall and it was opened for us, we stepped into almost magical inner world, completely different from the chaotic life outside with its busy streets, honking cars and motorbikes. We are greeted by the subtle scent of Fleur D’Oranger, soft music, silky fabrics and incredible vivid colors. So, sometimes it was difficult to venture back outside again (and I feel ashamed of confessing that ). An additional perk of this riad was that the cook knew her craft and the dinners were a delight! That again made it even more difficult to leave… And, beneath the riad was Ayadina Baths – an enfilade of arched rooms which contained sacred hammam, massage chambers, and sauna.
Five days it is not nearly long enough to start to understand and get to know the place. Especially Marrakesh. But what you can see right away is that Marrakesh is truly a city of colors, textures, and scents. It is everywhere – in sunlit walls, in dry flowers, in all the colorful things which are sold in the busy souk, in carts loaded with fruits or vegetables, pulled by dusty donkeys… The city is so vibrant, you can almost feel it breathing. Once you pass beyond the mild annoyance with pestering, you can start to relax and start seeing and enjoying things better. (Mind you, it took us a couple of days to start to understand how to say NO to multiple offerings of help with the directions and feel more confident walking the streets, not looking like a lost tourist:)) And I felt that Marrakesh has much more to offer than what can be seen at the first glance of the city. Perhaps beautiful terraces, courtyards, inner gardens hidden behind the facades of the sandstone houses.
We have decided to make it a relaxing few days and not running around too much, trying to see all the tourist attractions in the area. So, we stayed in our marvelous special place, we eat and drank, we explore the streets by feet and by horse-drawn carriage (activity very touristic, but nevertheless pleasant and useful to get the feel of the city).
But we still took a 12-hour car trip to Ouarzazate to see a different landscape. Once you leave Marrakesh going through the Atlas Mountains towards the desert, it changes. Green expanses with cacti, blossoming argan trees and Berber Villages slowly turning into bare mountains as you go higher over the Tizi n’Tichka Pass and then changing into the dry stony yellow expanse as you descend and getting nearer the dessert. And then everything again in reverse order, as we turned around and came back to Marrakesh (without forgetting to have yet another tagine and mint tea for lunch, of course!)
And to finish our trip nicely, we went to visit the Jardin Majorelle – a little oasis outside of Medina, which contained a villa in bright primary colors-past dwelling of Jacques Majorette-beautiful specimens of trees from all over the world, an impressive cactus collection of all shapes and sizes, nice outdoor cafe and tourists armed with cameras, firmly planted on every path and every corner of the garden. Lovely little place!
So, in spite of the certain things which initially surprise and bother the person visiting Marrakesh for the first time, I can definitely say, that I am looking forward to being back!