Nine days in Marrakesh went by so fast it almost feels like a dream. I mean, the culture is so different. Markets that go for miles, veiled women and hooded men, scooters racing past pedestrians in a maze of alleys and streets, cafes and tea, prayer calls, monkeys, snakes and snake charmers. The sensory overload can make a Westerner dizzy. Yet, there were a few places that really stood out to me as memorable as an early retirement budget traveler.
Sunset dinner overlooking Jemaa el Fna
Everyone does this – and there are many good and great restaurants on the main square, Jemaa el Fna. We went to the restaurant called Taj’in Darna. I really enjoyed it for the food, the service, and its location. It’s right on the square so you have great views of all the action, and it’s also right next to the Mosque Kharbouche. We went for a meal just before sunset – so it was the perfect spot to record a video of the sunset prayer call. All mosques give the prayer calls, but this speaker is right by the upper dining area of Taj’in Darna.
Here’s that video:
I had a vegetarian special: Moroccan soup (excellent and a huge bowl), couscous with vegetables, sweet mint tea. Tedly had a chef’s salad, similar to what you’d find in the U.S. with what must have been an entire avocado (or two). Our meal came with a basket of Moroccan bread and a bowlful of olives. The service was excellent – the waiter was pleasant and attentive. The whole shebang cost us about $18 USD, including a nice tip.
The Taj’in Darna website is here.
We enjoyed the Marrakesh bus tour on our last two days. The name of the company is Marrakech city tour (link below). This was a great change of pace from our first several days in the city on foot. We spent the first part of our week walking around the maze of streets in the old walled city, or the medina. We got lost more than once, and that was fun! Especially since Tedly’s sense of direction is excellent, so I enjoyed seeing him stumped since I am directionally challenged.
But it was also fun to sit on a bus, be driven around to see more sites, and listen to a tour guide on a recording – in English.
There are two routes – red and green. The red line lasts about 90 minutes, depending on traffic. This is the main line that runs through the more modern parts of the city. The red line shows you a business district, major mall (with children’s play area and a tiny ice rink on the top floor!), a special large garden with a reservoir that is filled from mountain water, as well as the outskirts of the old walled city. A popular stop on the red line is the Starbucks (yes, even we went there because we craved good, strong, brewed coffee). The green line goes about an hour and it goes to the outskirts of the city to the palm fields and an oasis.
Because it’s a ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour, there is a spot where you can jump off if you feel the need to ride a camel (green line), or check out a Moroccan mall, hit the Starbucks, or take a stroll through an olive garden with stunning views of the mountains (red line).
I learned a lot about Marrakesh and Morocco on this bus tour, although it was shorter than most other cities where we have done this. Even though it was a bit pricey at about $19 each, I’d recommend this. Passes are good for 48 hours, and it’s easy transportation around to the sites you want to see.
Tip: try to go earlier in the day. Rush hour traffic in the late afternoon can kinda be a bummer.
The tour company’s website is here.
If you like history and photography, go here. Of the many Trip Advisor reviews of museums in Marrakech, Tedly wanted to try this one – and it was a good pick. To see the city at the turn of the century was interesting. There also are images of other cities taken by photographers who were called to Morocco’s valleys and mountains and deserts. There are even some glass negatives that are amazing to see, and the first color photographs taken in the country.
I loved the documentary by Daniel Chicault from 1957 shown on the third floor during our visit in January 2018. “The Berbers of the High Atlas Mountains” is shot in 16mm color, and it’s actually three short pieces played back-to-back. The film documents his voyage across the Atlas Mountains with the Berber people – the first of its kind.
Admission was about $4 USD each, and if you want a snack, there is also a roof cafe – that happens to have great views of the medina.
The museum’s website is here.
There are other budget-friendly activities, of course. But this is just the top three that stand out in my mind during our week stay in a historic city in a predominantly Muslim country, that is so different from anything I’ve experienced so far.