Dining area, Riad Lorsya.

Marrakech, Morocco

by Eve Andersson

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I hate to malign a place that is gracious enough to open its doors to visitors, but I have to say that I enjoyed myself less in Marrakech than in perhaps any other place I've visited. Most streets lack signs, leaving maps virtually useless. I quickly learned not to ask for directions; more often than not, people's directions were incorrect (instead leading to their or their friends' shops), and regardless of correctness, they'd insist on payment for being a "guide". I was met with a stream of invectives when I refused one person's services, and another cornered me in a narrow, labyrinthine street and demanded money. I saw one female tourist approached by two women and decorated with henna against her wishes (with a subsequent demand of payment, of course).

I did meet a few lovely people: the people who worked at the beautiful riad where I stayed were a pleasure to talk with, and a policeman I met spoke so poetically about his admiration for Hemingway. One thing that impressed me about the people of Marrakech is their command of language. It seemed that most spoke both Arabic and French; many also spoke Spanish, English, German, and other languages.

The Medina

The Medina is the ancient part of the city, surrounded by walls. Most of the streets are too narrow to accommodate cars; instead people travel by foot, donkey, horse, scooter, or bicycle. This is the area in which the city's main attractions lie.

Stork on the tower of a mosque. Cat in front of a door in the Medina. Street in the Medina. Courtyard, Zaou?Sidi Bel Abb? Man and doorway leading to a mosque in the Medina. Small courtyard adjacent to a mosque in the Medina. Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech. Two girls and a fountain in the Medina. Numbers on a wall in the Medina, perhaps related to elections. Street in the Medina. Pedestrian tunnel in the Medina. Wall surrounding the Medina, with 06.68.3415.83 written on it. Courtyard, Zaou?Sidi Bel Abb? Said, a Berber artisan working in a shop in the Medina. Man on a bicycle in front of a butcher in the Medina. Man with a donkey on a street in the Medina.

Jemaa el Fna

Jemaa el Fna, also spelled Djemaa el Fna, is a large square in the middle of the Medina, active during the day and even more active at night. Vendors, henna artists, snake charmers (i.e., people who hold up defanged snakes and charge a few dollars for a photo), and other performers abound. One man had a table full of teeth that looked real. Cafés and restaurants surround the square; a few, including Café de France and Café Glacier, have wonderful, 2nd storey terraces on which you can relax and look out over the entire square.

Snake charmer, Jemaa el Fna. Snake charmer, Jemaa el Fna. Boys practicing acrobatics, Jemaa el Fna. Mosque, Jemaa el Fna. Three women walking, Jemaa el Fna. Boy asleep, manning a dried fruit stand in the midday heat, Jemaa el Fna. Sunset over Jemaa el Fna, viewed from Caf?e France. Mosque at sunset, Jemaa el Fna. Cobra, Jemaa el Fna. Satellite dishes, Jemaa el Fna. Man with monkeys, Jemaa el Fna. Man with table containing teeth, Jemaa el Fna. Man with cart, Jemaa el Fna.

The Souks

The souks are bustling markets; a large one can be found just off Jemaa el Fna. The main stretches contain colorful goods, popular with tourists. Adjacent areas contain butchers and goods more oriented towards local buyers.

Shoes for sale in the souks. Lamps for sale in the souks. Tassels for sale in the souks. Pottery shop, Place Bab Fteuh. P?sserie Belkabir in the souks. Teapots for sale in the souks. The souks.

Bahia Palace

This large palace contains many rooms, courtyards, and gardens, and has intricate decoration throughout. Interestingly, while it is embellished with the geometric patterns so common in Islamic architecture, many of the patterns also contain floral elements.

La Petite Riad, Bahia Palace. Ceiling, Bahia Palace. Shutters near La Grande Cour, Bahia Palace. Walkway near La Grande Cour, Bahia Palace. Design on a wall, Bahia Palace. Walkway near La Grande Cour, Bahia Palace. Room off of Le Grand Riad, Bahia Palace. Room off of Le Grand Riad, Bahia Palace. Grand Court, Bahia Palace. Private apartment, Bahia Palace. Floor, Bahia Palace. Ceiling, Bahia Palace. Wall pattern in a courtyard, Bahia Palace. Flower pattern, Bahia Palace. Flower pattern, Bahia Palace. Small Court, Bahia Palace.

Ben Youssef Medersa

Ben Youssef Medersa was an Islamic school, built in the 14-16th centuries, with a courtyard and chambers for students.

Salle d'ablution, student chambers, Ben Youssef Medersa. Doorway, Ben Youssef Medersa. Doorway, Ben Youssef Medersa. Courtyard, viewed from the student chambers, Ben Youssef Medersa. Pavilion, student chambers, Ben Youssef Medersa.

Jardin Majorelle

This botanical garden is quite nice but not particularly Moroccan; it was designed by a Frenchman, Jacques Majorelle. Its structures are painted in vivid colors, especially cobalt blue.

Jardin Majorelle. Cacti, Jardin Majorelle. Fountain near entrance, Jardin Majorelle.

Saadien Tombs

Built in the late 16th century, parts of this royal necropolis look almost palatial.

Saadiens Tombs. Pattern, Saadiens Tombs. Saadiens Tombs. Room with columns, Saadiens Tombs. Cats, Saadiens Tombs.

Menara Gardens

The pavilion in this large park was built in the 16th century by the Saadi dynasty; the rest of the park, mostly olive trees, dates back to the 12th century. Views of the Atlas Mountains from this park can be spectacular, so I've heard, but through the hazy sky, I was only able to make out their faint outline.

Boys swimming, Saadian garden pavilion, Menara gardens. Olive trees, Menara gardens.

Riad Lorsya

One type of accommodation in Morocco is a riad — a house with a courtyard and internal garden. Riad Lorsya has four rooms, each unique and beautiful.

Dining area, Riad Lorsya. Bathroom, Riad Lorsya. Bed, Riad Lorsya. Courtyard at night, Riad Lorsya.

Earth Cafe

Earth Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant in the Medina, has delicious food and a great atmosphere, and they produce their own olive oil. To get there, walk along Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim from Jemaa el Fna for a few minutes until you see the Earth Cafe sign. (To help you find it, here is what the entrance to Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim looks like.)

Earth Cafe. Earth Cafe. Menu, Earth Cafe.

Atlas Mountains

This large mountain range runs across Morocco and a few other North African countries. Until 350 million years ago, the mountains lay beneath the ocean, and fossils still abound. The mountains are dotted with villages populated by indigenous Berber people.

Berber village on a dry riverbed in the Atlas Mountains. Berber village in the Atlas Mountains. Berber Village in the red Atlas Mountains. Mosque made of stone on the side of a mountain road. Oven and shower.  House belonging to a Berber family.

More photos: View all photos in the directory /photos/morocco/.
Eve Andersson (eve@eveandersson.com)
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