Cooking class in Marrakech at Dar Cherifa riad

I took a cooking class in Marrakech and here’s what happened (PS: I loved it). #Marrakech #cooking #food #Morocco #travel

A Moroccan cooking lesson was one of the activities offered during a travel conference I attended in Marrakech. I jumped on the chance. I love food and I love cooking. This was the perfect chance to enjoy both.

Where was my cooking class?

The cooking class took place at Dar Cherifa restaurant. I have to say that we had a hard time finding this riad, hidden in a maze of narrow lanes in the heart of the Mouassine district of the medina. Once we crossed the door, the colours, the light and the decoration dazzled my senses.

Cooking class in Marrakech

Dar Cherifa is inside a historic riad that dates back to the Saadian era (16th and 17the centuries). You walk straight into the patio with tables. However, your eyes don’t stay at ground level. Inevitably, the saffron-coloured walls, with their intricate carving and tiles, guide your eyes to the sky. That’s right, there is no roof above the patio. Hence the wondeful light.

What is a cooking class in Marrakech like?

The class took place on the terrace. I got there a bit early, so I had time to enjoy the views both of the surroundings and of the patio down below. I also stopped to observe a couple of Instagrammers taking the mandatory pictures with floppy hats and their back to the camera.

A smiley lady led the class. She spoke in Arabic and an assistant translated into English. A long table was already laid out with the ingredients and the utensils we would need. This was a hands-on class. I love cooking, so I didn’t need much instruction.

Cooking class in Marrakech

The cook was very competent, it was like cooking with your mother. First, she showed us how to prepare the chicken tagine with clear and concise explanations. While the chicken was cooking, we peeled and chopped the ingredients for the salads. I also socialised with other participants. I came by myself and left with a friend.

We prepared some fresh and vibrant salads as well. We made taktouka with sauteed bell peppers, tomato and spices like cumin and paprika. The white cabbage and apple salad was a surprise: not too sweet, not too tangy, just right. My favourite was the grilled eggplant salad because eggplant is one of my favourite veggies.

Cooking class in Marrakech

Time flew by and when we least expected it, it was time to sit down to eat. We sat at a long table and passed around the bread and the different dishes. The food tasted very good.

They gave us the recipes whe we left. I tried to recreate the chicken tagine at home. Although I don’t own a tagine pot and used a regular pot, the result was pretty good.

Cooking class in Marrakech

Dar Cherifa’s eggplant salad (serves 4)

Ingredients: 1lb eggplant; 3 garlic cloves, grated; chopped parsley and coriander (cilantro); 1 Tb olive oil; 1/2 Tsp salt, 1/2 Tsp cumin, 1/2 Tsp paprika, 3 tomatoes, grated; 1 cup water; 1 Tsp lemon juice.

Peel and cut the eggplant into 1/4-inch cubes. Place in a deep skillet with the tomatoes, garlic, spices, olive oil and water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add water if necessary. When the eggplant is very tender, mash it with a spoon. Add the parsley, cilantro and lemon juice and cook for another few minutes to reduce any liquids. Remove from heat. Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.

Essaouira, the blue and white coastal town of Morocco

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

Where Marrakesh is pink, Essaouira is blue and white. And just any blue. The hue that shines from doors and window shutters is cobalt blue. Even the fishing boats are painted that vibrant shade.

Where is Essaouira?

Essaouira is located on the Atlantic coast in western Morocco. Across the wide, sandy Mogador Bay, are the Iles Purpuraires, so called because the Phoenicians installed production facility for indigo dye to serve the Roman market. However, these small islands offer scant protection against the strong trade winds. Swimming and sunning can become rather uncomfortable when the wind blows.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

Essaouira, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Although the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the town of Essaouira was founded by Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in the 18th century. He wanted to open Morocco to the world, and the port of Essaouira was its gateway. Essaouira was Morocco’s largest commercial port until Casablanca and Agadir ports dwarfed it with their deeper waters.  

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

UNESCO chose Essaouira because it’s “an exceptional example of a late 18th century fortified town built according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture”. The French architect who designed the medina was inspired by the works of another French architect, Vauban, who designed the fortified citadel of Saint-Malo in Brittany, France.

Essaouira or Mogador?

It’s complicated. The placename Mogador derives from the Phoenician name Migdal. When the Portuguese tried to invade and built a fortress, they called it Castelo Reial de Mogador, which was destroyed in the 18th century.  When Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah founded the town, he called it Essaouira, which means “the little rampart” in Moroccan Arabic. During the French protectorate (1912-1956), it was known as Mogador, and it regained its name when Morocco declared its independence from France in 1956.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

What to do in Essaouira

Essaouira is rather small and it’s easy to walk around the historic bit.

The medina

The medina, built with a local stone called manjour, still preserves its original configuration. The Mellah, or Jewish quarter, is the exception because the houses are mostly in ruins. What happened was that most Jews emigrated en masse to Israel in the mid-20th century, abandoning their homes to their fate. You can still see inscriptions in Hebrew or stars of David on the lintels.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

The medina, or walled city, is a labyrinth if narrow streets, although it’s much easier to navigate than, say, the Marrakech medina. Vendor bring out their wares into the streets and you can have a browse without suffering the harassment so common in other markets. We made a couple of purchases and the experience was very similar to that in the Western world.  However, we were told that the bed covers were a certain size. When I measured them at home, they were shorter by many, many inches. I’ll have to find another use for them.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

In general, the facades are painted white or light colours, and the shutters and doors are cobalt blue, a wonderful contrast. The street that runs from the port all the way to the north gate bisects the medina and makes navigation pretty easy. The Place Moulay Hassan, located between the port and the medina, is the heart of the town. That’s where you’ll find the majority of cafes and restaurants. Do find a table outside and bask in the atmosphere.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

The port

The Skala du Port is a stone fortress from 1769, built on the site of the former Castelo Reial de Mogador. Its main function was to protect the citadel from naval attacks. You can still see bronze cannons strewn along the top of the ramparts. Game of Throne fans will recognise the fortress, as it was used as the location of the city of Astapor in Season 3.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

The port is, for me, Essaouira’s biggest attraction. The sea on one side and the Skala du Port, guardian of the citadel on the other. It’s very interesting to see the fishermen repair the nets o getting the boat ready for fishing. The seagulls swirl and swirl above the boats hoping to catch the fishermen unawares and steal a fish or two. The sight of the blue fishing boats is unforgettable. The smell of freshly caught fish and the cries of the gulls are a permanent fixture.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

The fishing fleet returns in the afternoon and there a flurry of activity, including fish auctions.

The Skala de la Ville is a part of the ramparts and protects the citadel from the crash of the waves from the Atlantic Ocean. When we visited, it was closed for restoration, but I understand you can walk along the top. The souk starts at the foot of the walls.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

How to get there

We hired a private car, but I understand thaa there are public buses that run between Essaouira and Marrakech. Or you can rent a car.

Where to eat

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

There are many cafes y restaurants, but we chose Taro’s. We had a wonderful lunch of fresh fish with spectacular views of the square and the port beyond.

How to visit Essaouira, on the Moroccan coast. What to see and do in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site #Morocco #Essaouira #travel #traveltips

Read it in Spanish here.

Le Jardin Secret, the secret garden of Marrakech

Imagine a place where you can leave the chaos, dirt, and noise of the medina behind and spend some time contemplating life. That place is Le Jardin Secret, the secret garden hidden behind a wall in the middle of the medina in Marrakech.

Le Jardin Secret, or Secret Garden, is a beautiful enclosed garden in the middle of the medina in Marrakech restored to its fomer glory #marrakech #Africa

Why is there a secret garden in the medina?

This used to be a riad, a residence with a garden at its centre that is typical of Morocco. The last known owner was the Chamberlain to the Sultan. When he died, the land was divided among his heirs and descendants. But archaeologists dated the complex to the second half of the 16th century.

The palace and garden fell into disrepair and ruin towards 1930. The original buildings began to crumble, the trees all but disappeared, the irrigation system that brought water from the Atlas Mountains was ruined, illegal shanties sprung up every which way.

Le Jardin Secret, or Secret Garden, is a beautiful enclosed garden in the middle of the medina in Marrakech restored to its fomer glory #marrakech #Africa

The rebirth of Le Jardin Secret

In 2006, a group of entrepreneurs began to buy the different plots into which the palace and grounds had been divided. They wanted to restore it to its former glory. The extensive restoration work involved masons, craftsmen, archaeologists, landscapers, surveyors, and architects. They had to secure, restore, and, in some cases, complete existing structures, reactivate the hydraulic system, and replant the gardens.

Le Jardin Secret, or Secret Garden, is a beautiful enclosed garden in the middle of the medina in Marrakech restored to its fomer glory #marrakech #Africa

Secret garden or gardens?

The garden is divided into two sections. The exotic garden, which you see when you come in, displays species that come from around the world and that are rare in North Africa. I thought it was pretty, but nothing spectacular.

The Islamic garden blew my mind with its colours and aromas. On looking back, I’m not sure whether I could actually smell the lavender and orange blossoms, or if I was so taken by the idea of their wonderful scent that I could smell it.

Le Jardin Secret, or Secret Garden, is a beautiful enclosed garden in the middle of the medina in Marrakech restored to its fomer glory #marrakech #Africa

The Islamic garden

The Islamic garden is divided into four quadrants by two intersecting paths, with a marble bowl, or khossa, in the middle surrounded by seats. This design is typical of Middle Eastern gardens and is an earthly reflection of the paradise described in the Qur’an, which is divided into four sections by two rivers.

The garden’s layout makes irrigation easier. You can see the open pipes that transport the water from the main basin. There are two sources of water: that which flows down from the Atlas Mountains and the rainwater collected from the roofs.

Le Jardin Secret, or Secret Garden, is a beautiful enclosed garden in the middle of the medina in Marrakech restored to its fomer glory #marrakech #Africa

The Islamic garden is a place for contemplation, a shelter of peace from the chaos outside, the gurgling of water is very relaxing, and the colours and scents of the plants and trees cheer your soul. However, since this is a touristy spot, there are visitors milling around and Instagrammers in flowing skirts and straw hats looking for the perfect shot. A study in contradictions, like the rest of the city.

Useful info

The Oud el Ward pavilion contains information about the history and architecture of the garden. The Hbiqa pavilion houses an exhibition of photographs that document the restoration process. The tower, a symbol of the power and influence of the original owners, carries an extra charge. We didn’t go up but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra expense. The terrace commands fantastic views of the garden anyway. There is also a café and a gift shop.

Your visit to Le Jardin Secret will be as long or as short as you make. You can go in and out in ten minutes or take a lot longer to appreciate everything.

The Secret Garden is open every day.

Rue Mouassine, 121

Admission: 50 dirhams, tower: 30 dirhams

Opening hours vary throughout the year.

The food in Marrakech: what to eat and where

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food

The food in Marrakech is next on the blog post series about this Moroccan city. It tends to be rather traditional and most restaurants, at least in the medina, tend to serve more or less the same dishes. Here’s what we ate and where.

Traditional Moroccan dishes

The tajine gets its name from the earthenware pot in which it’s cooked: a round tray with a conical lid open at the top. Chicken, beef or lamb is cooked slowly with spices and fruits depending on the recipe. The result is a flavourful and tender meat. Tajine varieties include chicken with lemon or with olives, beef with prunes or with orange.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Beef and prune tajine

Pastilla is a sort of small pie made with phyllo pastry and a vegetable or sweet and savoury filling. Types of filling range from chicken with spices, almonds and a pinch of sugar, or veggies like leeks, sweet peppers, butternut squash, goat’s cheese, and orange sauce. It is generally eaten as a starter. It was one of my favourite dishes.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Chicken pastilla

Coucous, probably the best-known Moroccan dish worldwide, is made with durum wheat semonlina. It’s cooked in the top section of a coucous pot with the steam from the stew cooking below. It was the softest, airiest couscous I’ve ever eaten, not a clump in sight. It’s served with the veggies and /or meats cooked in the same pot.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Couscous with veg

Briouates are triangles of phyllo pastry filled with ground lamb, chicken, vegiies, etc. They make for a delicious snack or starter.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Briouates

Harira is a traditional soup made with lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas, lamb, and spices. Hearty and flavoursome, it is eaten after the sun goes down during Ramadan.

You can’t spend time in Morocco and not drink mint tea made with fresh leaves. It’s served in a gorgeous little pot and is rather sweet. It’s glorious with Moroccan pastries. Coffee, in my experience, is also very good.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Having a refreshing glass of mint tea. Although I look tired, I was actually suffering from allergies.

The tanjia is another traditional dish. It consists of beef and spices cooked for hours in a sealed earthenware crock. This crock is placed in the ashes from a hammam oven in a centuries old tradition.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food
Tanjia

There are lots of pomegranate and orange juice vendors in the street. They press the fruit there and then.

Service

In general, service at restaurants is mediocre. Servers take oodles of time before acknowledging you and they take ages to bring your food and drink. Sometimes, they bring your drink, appetizer, and main at the same time, or in a different order. We even had to request silverware in order to eat our food! Don’t expect Western standards and go with the flow.

They usually bring your bill to the table and you pay at the front desk, never your server.

I loved that everywhere we went, they brought bread and a little dish with olives as soon as we satdown.

Restaurants

Probably the best experience for me was to watch the sunset over Jemaa El’Fna square from a cafe terrace. It was magical. We patronised Acqua because we simply liked it, wasn’t too big like Cafe de France, and Driss, one of the waiters, had the best customer service we came across in the city.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food

Café des Epices is across the square in the spice zouk, hence its name. We sat in one of the sidewalk tables for coffee. The place was heaving with tourists. You can make dinner reservations if you prefer.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food

Nomad is probably one of the most famous restaurnats in Marrakech. It’s in the spice zouk neacr Cafe des Epices. It’s advisable to make a reservation because it’s very popular. We ate there twice. The first time, we made dinner reservations. Both food and service were very good. The second time, we went there for lunch without a rez. They could only accommodate us in the rooftop. It was a wet, windy day. They gave us a kind of fleece robe to protect us from the cold. The food was great but the robe wasn’t very clean, though. It seemed to me that hygiene wasn’t a top priority in Marrakech.

We wanted to try something different and ended up eating good Lebanese food at Naranj a couple of times.

Menara Mall offers lots of food options, from traditional Moroccan to Spanish tapas and French fare. The food court is utterly forgettable, go to the restaurants at street level.

Alcohol

There’s a strict no-alcohol policy inside the medina. I was told it was because no alcohol can be drunk within a certain distance of a mosque. There are so many mosques inside the medina that it’s just not possible unless the restaurant has a special license, but it’s very rare. The New City doesn’t have that restriction, but it is still forbidden to drink in public spaces. Even in your own balcony!

Street food

We don’t usually eat street food, we prefer the convenience of a restaurant. We read many conflicting reports on stret food in Marrakech, so we gave it a wide berth. We saw many pastry carts in the streets full of what I thought were flies, but turned out to be bees. It was a little offputting nonetheless. We also stayed clear of the kebab, bread, fruit and pancake sellers. If you’re interested in trying street food, I’d suggest you do a food tour with a reputable company.

Read this article on what to eat and what to avoid in Marrakech.

A short guide to the food in Marrakech: what to eat, where to eat (especially in the medina), and what to expect. #Marrakech #Morocco #food

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go. Where to stay, what to buy, what to avoid in the pink city. #Marrakech #Morocco #travel

I have mixed feelings about Marrakech. On the one hand, it treats you to magical moments like watching the sun set over Jemaa El-Fna square from a cafe’s terrace. On the other hand, the effort you have to make to detect and avoid scams and animal cruelty as a tourist attraction wears you out. In the middle, the contrast between the beautiful constructions and the horrible mopeds passing people in the narrow streets of the medina.

Marrakech is known for the colourful tiles, the merchandise on display in the souks and its pink walls, the birdsong you hear from the terraces, the daily calls to prayer and the constant beeping from the mopeds.

Did I like Marrakech? Yes and no. We may have stayed too long, enough for the negative aspects to overshadow the positive things about this ancient and contradictory city.

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go

Accommodation: Riad Atlas Acacia

For a completely unique experience, we decided to stay in a riad inside the medina instead of a Western-style hotel. What is a riad? It’s a typical Moroccan house or even palace with the rooms laid out around a central patio with a water fountain.

There is a riad for every budget, from affordable to luxurious. We chose to stay at Riad Atlas Acacia for its location and price. We communicated in English, although Mr. Aziz also speaks Arabic and French, like most locals. They sent us lots of information about tours and the riad and answered all our questions about Marrakech.

Bring euros, as US dollars are not commonly used. Also make sure you have a stash of dirhams, the local currency, for it is a cash-based society -at least inside the medina.  

We decided to eat in the first night because we were tired. We also arranged for the riad to send a taxi to pick us up from the airport to save us the trouble of trying to guess how to get there. The taxi drove us to a small square right outside the gate to the medina. Aziz was waiting for us there to guide us to the riad. A porter brought our luggage in a hand-drawn cat (2 euro tip).

Our room was spacious, with a shower room and a separate toilet, and a sitting room with a TV. Rose petals strewn on the bed welcomed us. It was a nice gesture. Service was great, they were very helpful and attentive.

Dinner at the riad is optional and is charged separately. Breakfast was included in the price, though. Tea or coffee, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, cake squares and different kinds of Moroccan bread with honey, butter and jam was the basic breakfast. They added something extra every day, like yogurt, or an egg. Some of the traditional baked goods included harcha (a semolina flat roll served warm), a square and rather crunchy crepe called msamene (watch how it’s made) and beghrir, a type of pancake with “eyes” (recipe here).

Remember to bring euro plugs (the ones with two round pins), although adapters are easy to find.

The medina

The medina (an Arabic word for town) is typical of North Africa and Malta. It’s a walled citadel with labyrinthine streets inside. Marrakech is said to have been founded in 1062.

Let’s face it, you are going to get lost at some point. Beware of those who offer to help. They take you to wherever you need to go, or to their uncle’s shop. Halfway, they’ll tell you that their friend will guide you the rest of the way. They will demand money for their “help”. They are very insistent, annoyingly so. Others will tell you that the street is blocked. It may or may not be true, it’s impossible to know. We had both situations happen to us. If you must ask for directions, go into a shop or ask an elderly person.

The medina is divided into souks, or markets, each one with a distinct purpose: spices, leather goods, poultry (that was a fun one to visit). My husband wandered into the tanneries and, as soon as he whipped out his phone to take a picture, a random guy demanded money for the privilege. He even followed my husband when he told the guy to go away. The medina truly is a photographer’s dream, although beware of taking photos of people.

Its streets, or rather, passageways, form an organised chaos. Or do they? Wares for sale cascade onto the floor, tourists amble along, locals go about their business, donkey carts (the only means of transport together with mopeds) and hundreds of mopeds dodge people without slowing down. In the beginning, I was scared of them, but as time went on, these mopeds annoyed me no end. The fumes are as annoying as the noise.

I wouldn’t wear flipflops in the summer, the streets were filthy in some areas.

The sellers are very persistent. As soon as you show the slightest degree of interest in, say, a pashmina or point at a pair of slippers, they will zoom in on you and pester you. It’s customary to haggle. They say that the ideal price is somewhere between what they ask for and what you are prepared to pay. I don’t like haggling, so I didn’t buy anything in the medina.

Shopping

We found a great place to shop called Ensemble Artisanal, on Mohammed V Avenue and across the Cyber Park.

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go. Where to stay, what to buy, what to avoid in the pink city. #Marrakech #Morocco #travel

The Ensemble Artisanal is an open-air shopping mall where artisans can sell their products and, in some cases, make them in situ. The place where we bought a couple of blankets had a working loom and a spinning wheel. It was interesting to see the whole process.

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go. Where to stay, what to buy, what to avoid in the pink city. #Marrakech #Morocco #travel

The quality of the merchandise is higher than in the medina and the best thing is that it’s fixed prices for everything. No haggling! When you walk into a shop, they say bonjour and that’s it. The let you browse for as long as you want.

What to buy in Marrakech

Beautiful pottery bowls and plates.

Leather slippers, but consider whether you’ll wear them at home.  

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go. Where to stay, what to buy, what to avoid in the pink city. #Marrakech #Morocco #travel

Berber jewellery with semiprecious stones.  

Pashminas, wool blankets, rugs.

Argan oil does wonders to your skin and hair. Beware of the argan oil sold in the medina, as it can be an inferior grade or mixed with neutral oils. Buy it from a reputable seller (ask at your riad). I bought mine from a women’s cooperative. They showed us the artisanal process from beginning to end, it was very interesting. It’s great on my skin. We also bought the edible oil. It’s nutty and delicious drizzled over vegetables.  

Marrakech: what you need to know before you go. Where to stay, what to buy, what to avoid in the pink city. #Marrakech #Morocco #travel

Marrakech: how to visit the New City

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I’ll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two. The Medina is the ancient walled city. The walls date from the 12th century, when Sultan Ali Ben Youssef had them built to defend the city against the attacks of the Almohad tribe from the south.

The modern city was built during the French Protectorate (1912-1956). There could not be a greater contrast between the two. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

Hivernage

 Tree-lined streets and 5-star hotels (Movenpick, Sofitel) define this elegant neighburhood of Marrakech. Although there isn’t a lot to do here, Hivernage provides a welcome respite from the hectic activity of the Medina among orange trees and rosebushes. 

The Menara Mall is on Boulevard Mohamed VI. I found that the best feature is the restaurants with tables on the curb and the panoramic views from the food court. Other than that, the mall is pretty unremarkable. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

Staright ahead on Prince Moulay Rachid Avenue is the Jardin Menara. These botanical gardens were created in the 12th century during the Almohad dynasty. It’s rather a giant olive grove with a central water reservoir and an ancient irrigation system that brings water from the mountains. 

The pavilion dates from the 16th century. Entrance to the Jardin Menara is free of charge but you have to pay to go into the pavilion. We didn’t. It didn’t seem worth it. The gardens are a UNESCO World Heritgae Site. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

Gueliz

The French colonial rulers decided to get out of the medina and build their own neighbourhood with electricity and plumbing. Also, with wide streets fit for cars. As time went by, wealthy Moroccans moved to Gueliz as well. 

Nowadays, Gueliz is the hub for restaurants, nightclubs, high-end shops and cafes like any other Western city. We went to the Plaza Jardin 16 Novembre square for tea and coffee. It felt like we were in another galaxy from the Medina, it was all modern, clean and so French.  

We had planned to visit the Majorelle Garden that morning. The gardens were created by French artist Jacques Majorelle and restored by Yves Saint-Laurent. The people from our riad told us to get there early, or it gets too crowded. With one thing and another, we got there by 11 am. Too late. There were way too many people for the tiny place. We changed plans and that’s how we ended up in that square. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

Mamounia Hotel

I insisted on visiting the Mamounia Hotel, a historic 19th century palace converted into a hotel in 1923. Winston Churchill was a fan of the hotel and the city. 

So we walked along Mohamed V Avenue, lined with orange trees as well, and then on to Al Yarmouk Boulevard. This boulevard runs parallel to the Medina walls. Across the street, there are beautiful mansions.  We walked by the Royal Mansour Hotel, with rooms ranging from USD 1,200 to 6,800 per night. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

You go through a metal detector at the Mamounia Hotel. They make you leave your backpack at the security thingy too. However, it’s worth it. The building is intricately decorated and very grand. We had lunch on the terrace, lulled by birdsong and the calls to prayer. After lunch, we strolled around the grounds. A riot of rosebushes, orange trees and cacti. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

There are bicycle stations in the new city. I dare not ride in traffic, let alone in Marrakech, but I’ve seen adventurous tourists riding bikes. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco

We walked a lot; however, taxis are readily available. You should negotiate the price, but it got to be very exhausting. Our peace of mind wasn’t worth haggling over a couple of euros. 

Marrakech is a fascinating and chaotic city divided in two: the old Medina and the New City. I'll show you how to visit the New City. #travel #Marrakech #Morocco
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