Postcard from Marrakech 

It was around 9 PM when we reached the Medina and the whole place looked very different and a bit scary. The huge wall surrounding the whole Medina – the old city of Marrakech – looked formidable and claustrophobic at the same time. We could see people looking at us as if we were aliens and we even thought if we had made a mistake in choosing Morocco as a holiday destination. We checked into our Riad (a traditional Morrocon house) and triple confirmed with the owner if the area is safe to walk around at this time of the night. Mustering all the courage, we went out to have dinner and safely returned back. The first impression of Marrakech wasn’t as good as we had thought. But all this was going to change the next morning.

We had an early start the next morning as we had booked a 2 day desert trip to Zagora with an overnight stay at the camp. To our surprise the Medina looked so different in the morning. For one, it wasn’t looking scary. It looked like a scene straight out of Arabian nights. We could visualize Aladdin jumping from one street to another. We saw similar doors and arch shaped architecture, the narrow lanes in the day light and souk owners setting up their shop for the day. The Medina looked much charming and lively.

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Straight out of the sets of Aladdin
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Koutoubia Mosque

The journey was quite long as it took us a good 8 hours to reach the desert. We were quite excited at the thought of riding the camels and sand dunes and all that which helped us in getting through the journey. The driver played music from a band called Tinariwin on repeat (or maybe all the songs sounded the same to us). We passed by the dizzying high Atlas Mountains filled with snow, the desert oasis of endless palm trees and barren deserted land with unique Moroccan houses. Finally after enduring motion sickness and boiled vegetables in Morrocan spice water (it’s called tagine), we reached our destination.

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That view. Atlas mountains running high!
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Snow always makes her super happy!
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Our pit stop for lunch with the view of Kasbah

Our camel owner guided his two camels to the camp with we sitting on them. After such high expectation, frankly we were a bit disappointed not to find sand dunes. For us, a desert should look like the ones we always imagined, with sand all around us and huge sand dunes in front of us and the sun setting over the high dunes. But Zagora was a flat desert and there was not much sand in the first place, let alone the dunes. We tried to hide our disappointment when the driver asked how we liked the desert and the camel trip. So as to not spoil the rest of the time, we decided to enjoy whatever was available to us. The people at the camp were very welcoming and we were quite amazed by the facilities available in the camp. After a sumptuous dinner and traditional Morrocan music around the campfire, we gazed at the innumerous stars and the constellations along with it, wondering if there is someone out there in the galaxy wondering the same.

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Zagora..
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Well, that was painful

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A night well spent around the camp fire listening to some Arabic music

The next morning we started early again after a good breakfast and this time we decided to walk the camels instead of riding them (and hence saving ourselves from the butt pain). The camels walked energetically and made weird noises all along. Later we found out that it was their mating season and the noises were all the adrenaline.

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Our camp site for the night.
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Walking the camels.

We headed back to Marrakech, listening to the same Tinariwin music on a loop. Even though the desert trip did not live up to our expectations, we still managed to enjoy the experience deciding to make our own memories. On our way back we visited the film studios and Ait Benhaddou – a fortified village with literal translation meaning Family of (Ait) Son of (Ben) Haddou. The film studio had sets for The Mummy, Gladiator, the Game of Thrones and a couple of Bollywood movies. The driver was happy telling us about how much Morrocans love Bollywood and shahrukh Khan and how they call Morrocan movies as Mollywood. It was funny to see how all everything was made of Styrofoam and looked so real. Ait Benhaddou looked extraordinary. Everything was made of mud, looked ancient and had so many shops set-up selling art, carpets, jewellery among other things.

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Ait Benhaddou from a distance. A lot of movies have been shot here including the Bollywood movie Dishoom
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View from the top
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This guy taught us how to paint with saffron and tea.
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We decided to make our own memories all along the way.

The Medina of Marrakech is pretty huge and the souks come alive around midday and continue until the late evening. Bargain hard and don’t hesitate to walk away if the shop keeper doesn’t budge. Typically start negotiating for 1/3 of the price and work your way up to around 45 percent of the initially quoted price. You can find anything from carpets, decorative lights, ceramic items to snake charmers, henna artists, fruit sellers, juice makers (not the cuisinart ones but the human ones) and too many restaurants. The old charm of the Medina will definitely impress you and you are bound to get lost in the labyrinth of the streets. The antique shops, vegetable markets, people trying to sell you anything and everything ( even the hair dresser will invite you to have a haircut if your eyes meet his), high walls around the Medina will definitely take you back in time.

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Souk selling paintings

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Antiques
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Dry fruits sold by weight
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Jemaa el-Fnaa where you will find the snake charmers, hawkers, entertainers, juice sellers and merchants

The beautiful Ben Youssef Madrassa definitely can’t be missed. The architecture is beautiful and hiring a guide can be helpful to know a few details, which could otherwise be overlooked.

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Look at that architecture

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Madrassas are the perfect place for twirling!

Food was something that we got bored with in just a few days. Being vegetarians is a curse in this part of the world (for that matter everywhere) and we did not have many options. Tagines and couscous with vegetables were the only Moroccan vegetarian food available and we had to resort to Italian food from time to time to break out of boredom. Orange juice and oranges were available in plenty and we had a great time devouring the cuties.

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My love for orange juice

We stayed in a few different Riads over the course of our trip and loved Riad Spa Sindabad the best. It had such a cozy feel and the spa was so relaxing. We usually never indulge in pricey hotels, but after our stay at this Riad, we have decided to try more such places in future.

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Riad Spa Sindibad
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Riad Spa Sindibad
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Riad Ineslisa
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Hotel Mamounia – 6th most luxurious hotel in the world.

It was a good experience at Marrakech and we definitely had a good time baring a few disappointments. Marrakech is a must visit destination if you have been brought up purely in a western world. For us Indians, well we grew up in similar situations 😉

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Love how this photo captures the chaos, antiques, carpets and in general the feel of Morocco.

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29 thoughts on “Postcard from Marrakech 

  1. 50 cents for an orange juice I loved Morocco but not because of this only. The people were wonderful to me and it is such a nice place with good food a delicious tea. it was a good read indeed and your pics are gorgeous. Good work!

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      1. Yeah Rabat was fantastic
        I took the train in the morning and I arrived pretty early in the capital. I saw almost no tourists and it was totally authentic. A good choice to visit. Lets not talk about food because this just made me wild. It was wonderful and hopefully I’ll go back this year. Did you enjoy the Tajihn?

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  2. Raga and Nandita, I reading your blog. I feel that Morocco has an old world medievalist charm about it. I particularly liked the photographs of the beautiful Ben Youssef Madrasa and Riad Spa Sindabad.

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  3. Beautiful photos! 🙂 The colors and patterns are amazing. For me as a Nepali person, it wouldn’t be that interesting either. I actually prefer traveling in countries with orderliness and culture different than the one I grew up in hehe. But Morocco is one of those few countries in Africa that I really want to go to someday! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Pooja. Morocco was unique in its own ways. The architecture, souks and the feeling of being in the sets of Aladdin was unique. But the chaos and haggling, well we have seen and done that. 😉 Its very close to Europe and I am sure it must not be that far from Poland. The visa process is easy and fast. Hope you are able to travel soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha! I remember my first time in a desert… I, too, thought it would be all sand dunes the way you see them in the movies. It took a full month, exploring a lot of Egypt’s hidden treasures & amazing places before we finally saw some down near Abu Simbel. Your photos are wonderful… especially the lantern one that is your cover photo for the post. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  5. Great photos and post – you’re bringing me right back to my time in Marrakech. I can’t believe someone taught you to paint with saffron and tea, it’s so unusual! I would love to try that. And ahh, their orange juice and mint tea are perfection!

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