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Published: September 22nd 2018
People don’t take trips - trips take people
- John Steinbeck
We’ve had a wonderful second day in Marrakech. We had a nice breakfast served upstairs on the roof terrace of our riad: freshly squeezed orange juice and good coffee; followed by a platter of crepes (French crepes I had with honey), Moroccan crepes (I had with apricot jam), and bread and cake; lovely homemade yogurt; fried eggs, and watermelon.
Ready for the day, we met our local guide Abdul 2 for a tour of the local monuments. Today was a free day and I wanted to see the two palaces and the Saadian tombs, so Susan and I arranged a tour with Abdul 2, and we were joined by Nicole and Matt, Linda and Annie, John and Barb, and Wendy (Greg wasn‘t feeling well). We met Abdul 2 about 9 am and set off on our walk to the Bahia Palace, located quite close to our riad. Bahia Palace is actually a riad, and is very beautiful inside. As we ventured further inside each area was met with gasps of “wow” and cameras started clicking. The amazing tilework, carved wooden ceilings, and stained glass interiors date back to the
1860s (added on in the late 1890s). Here vizier Abu Ahmed lived in splendour with his four wives and 24 concubines. In one room the light coming through the stained glass windows creates beautiful lights on the floor and walls. The courtyard includes four gardens (one for each season).
Abdul 2 gave us a great tour of the palace, and then we continued on to the nearby Badi Palace. Badi Palace is much older than Bahia Palace, dating back to the late 1500s, and is a real palace, not a riad as is Bahia Palace. Only 70 years after Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour built Badi Palace, successive rulers who moved the capital to Meknes looted it of its beautiful decorations. It is mostly beautifully atmospheric ruins today, only hinting at its former glory. The guest rooms were particularly evocative, still with their tiled floors, and walls. They would have been pretty amazing guest rooms! The palace complex includes four gardens and four pools. It must have been glorious in its time. There are numerous storks nests on the remaining walls. The palace complex also includes a mini museum below ground, including photographs and artifacts from the formerly large Jewish community.
We also visited the prison section, which would have been a pretty horrible place to be incarcerated. Though Abdul 2 told us that the former king (Hassan II) imprisoned political prisoners in worse conditions that these. Apparently the families of his victims have been attempting to get reparations from the current king.
After leaving the Badi Palace, we walked through the narrow crowded streets of the medina to the Saadian tombs. These are the tombs of the royal family of Saadian sultan Ahmed al-Mansour (of the Badi Palace). There are several different spectacularly decorated rooms you can view, and the highlight is the Chamber of 12 Pillars where Al-Mansour is buried. The Saadian tombs are a very popular attraction, and we had to line up for at least 1/2 hour in the hot sun to view this chamber. I had though it would be a room we could walk through, but it turned out simply to be a fairly small doorway through which we could view the splendour inside. There are also garden plots in the courtyard area where many people associated with the sultan are buried.
It was about 1 pm by this time, and Abdul 2
walked us back to our riad. Annie and Linda set off for the souk, and John, Barb, Susan and I went to a nearby, very local, coffee shop for a cup of delicious coffee. Suitably fortified, Susan and I hopped in a petit taxi for the Jardin Majorelle in the Ville Nouvelle (new city). We travelled through the gates separating the old city (medina) from the Ville Nouvelle, and after about 10 minutes were dropped off on Rue Majorelle. A short walk past nice shops and restaurants took us to the entry of the Jardin Majorelle. We decided to just visit the gardens, and not include the Berber museum located on site, since we didn’t think we’d have the energy to devote to the museum, given our busy morning.
We really enjoyed the gardens, it was wonderfully cool there, and it is truly an oasis in Marrakech. There are over 300 plant species in the beautifully kept garden. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner bought the garden to preserve the vision of its original owner, landscape painter Jacques Majorelle (he also painted those Morocco travel posters you’ve probably seen). Majorelle purchased a vast palm grove in 1923 that he
would transform into the Jardin Majorelle, with the help of the architect Paul Sinoir, who built the artist’s studio in Art Deco style, the walls painted ”Majorelle Blue”. After Majorelle’s death in 1962 the garden was abandoned. In 1980 Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought and restored the garden. After Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 his partner donated the garden to the Foundation Jardin Majorelle. On the grounds are a memorial to both Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé.
We wandered around the garden for about an hour, then checked out the lovely boutique, where we bought two hand painted glasses designed by Yves Saint Laurent. After we left the gardens we walked to a nearby cafe where we enjoyed a delicious ice cream (pistachio for Susan and “mint flavoured tea” for me. I really liked my flavour, it was very refreshing). The cafe had misters on its patio so it was very comfortable. We had noticed a small grocery store as we walked down the street to the garden, so on the way back we decided to see if they sold beer (difficult to find in the medina but available in the Ville Nouvelle).
They had a large alcohol selection so we picked up 6 Flag Specials, and hopped into a petit taxi for the ride back to our riad.
We were dropped off a short walk from our riad (cars can’t drive on the very narrow street we are on), and after getting back to our room we quickly put our bathing suits on and went up to the terrace for a refreshing dip in the pool, with a few beer. John and Barb were there, so they had a beer too, and we all enjoyed the pool for at least an hour or so, chatting and admiring the view. We showered, and sampled some of the nougat candy Barb had kindly bought for us. We had seen lots of this candy for sale in the medina and wondered what it was like. Yumm!
Now Susan is having a nap and I’ve been working on the blog. We will meet our group at 8 for dinner at a restaurant overlooking Djemma el-Fna. Four of our group are not continuing on to Essaouira (Matt and Nicole, and Jeff and Cathy), so it will be a farewell dinner for them. Tomorrow the rest
of us will make the approximately 3 hour drive to Essaouira, located on the Atlantic coast. Abdul tells us this is the best place to buy silver, so I expect we will be doing some jewelry shopping! See you in Essaouira!
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