A Return Visit to Marrakech, Morocco

February 9, 2020

We visited Marrakech over 14 years ago and we loved everything about our experience. When we left, we knew that we would return one day.

Snake charmer in the Medina back in 2006.

While in Sevilla, Spain, we realized that we could get a cheap flight on Ryanair directly to Marrakech for around $75. Of course, this included no luggage and we had to, in true Ryanair fashion, wear all of our clothing and take just a small backpack. So, we were headed for a return trip to Marrakech.

We deposited our bags in a checked storage locker at the Seville Bus Station and hopped on a bus to get to the Seville airport. After an easy check-in and security process, we were off on our 1 hour flight to Marrakech.

Once you exit the plane, you are dropped into a totally different world. Morocco is a Muslim nation and the dress, rituals and daily life are quite a contrast to America or Europe. The men and women generally wear a djellaba. This is a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves and is generally dark in color for the men and more colorful for the women.

Market vendors, horse carts and locals just outside the Medina.
Sitting outside on cushions in a restaurant, a local in his djellaba, horse carriage and Moroccan buildings and arches – a typical and addictive view. Something is always happening.

You will also see a mostly male dominated working society. Taxi drivers, store workers, waiters and barkers will all be men. You will also encounter many coffee/tea shops that are men only. Be sure to pay attention before you sit down for a cup of coffee. Remember, you are in their country and it’s very important to be polite.

Another big change you will notice is the call to prayer. This will be broadcast over loud speakers from all the the Mosques. The calls will happen at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. In some places it can be quite loud and we found that we didn’t even hear the calls after the second or third day. You just become accustomed to the noise of the town.

If you are asthmatic or allergic to dust and incense, then you might want to reconsider a trip to Morocco. The towns are full of smells, dust and smoke from fires. To us, it adds to the magic of Morocco but we also took our Allegra daily. Smoking is also a way of life for Moroccans and for tourists. Not filtered cigarettes, but hand rolled and much stronger in the smell category.

Tourists heading into the Medina.

Riad Jnane Mogador

We loved the Riad we stayed at during our first visit to Marrakech and were thrilled that they had openings for us. The rates had raised from $20 to $36 a night. However, breakfast was now included cost and a 1 hour massage for each of us at their Hammam. We walked right to the Riad and it was exactly as we remembered. This isn’t a 4 star hotel, but it is very nice, clean and comfortable and the staff is lovely.

The beautiful tiles and fountain in the lobby of Jnane Mogador.
Our room at Jnane Mogador.

Even though much of the Medina had stayed the same, so much had also changed. On our previous visit, we were two of a very few “English” looking tourists. Today, the area was full of tourists from around the globe. We marveled each evening at the large amount of tourists.

Bahía Palace

This was our first visit to the Bahía Palace and it was jaw-dropping amazing. It was built in the late 1800’s by the Grand Vizier of the Sultán. He named the palace after one of his wives and designed it to be the most beautiful palace in Marrakech (is it wise to one-up your Sultan). The palace is covered in beautiful tiles and ornate woodwork. The Visier created four equal sized rooms for his four wives around a beautifully designed courtyard. He also has quarters for his 24 concubines, a school and mosque in the palace. It is an unbelievable place to visit. We both said we wish that a couple of the rooms had been furnished to really get a grasp of its grandeur. Entrance fee was 70 dirhams pp.

Upper walls of the Bahía Palace.
Wooden ceiling in one of the palace rooms.

Saadian Tombs

Sultan al-Ghalib Abdullah constructed the tombs in the late 1500’s to bury his father. The site of the burial chambers was selected because it was close to the largest and oldest Mosque in Marrakech. The mausoleums were grand and decorated with elaborate tiles, marble from Carrara, Italy, gold leaf, hand carved and designed arching ceilings. At the end of the Saadian empire, the inside mausoleums housed 66 tombs of princes and other notable figures and the garden area contained more than 100.

The entry fee is 70 dirhams per person and expect to wait at least an hour in line to see the Chamber of the Twelve Columns. It is worth the wait to see this beautiful burial chamber.

The Chamber of the Twelve Columns.
Burial tombs in the garden area.

Mirara Jewish Cemetery

The Mirara is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco. It is located in the Jewish section of Marrekech and it is still maintained daily by local Jewish population of about 200. The cemetery dates back to the 1500’s and is still used today for burials. There are separate sections for men, women and children. The oldest above-ground and coffin shaped graves are around 200 years old. It costs 10 dirham to enter and is a very interesting cemetery.

Looking across the Mirará Cemetery.
Local caretaker repairing the graves.
Older inscribed tombs of Rabis.

Arriving Directions: If you are arriving from the airport and your Riad is around the Médina, you will take Bus 19. At the Airport the pick up spot is not marked. Walk out to the Hertz rental sign, across from the police mobile post and wait. It will come by every 15-20 minutes and costs 30 dirham. If arriving after 11pm, then you will need to get a taxi. Negotiate first but it should be about 60 dirham pp (40dh +50% extra at night).

Departing Directions: Returning to the airport you will take Bus 19 from the Arset El Bilk park. The bus stop runs along the main road (horse drawn carriages will be on your RH side). Bus 19 will arrive at the closest bus shelter to the horses. Look for the plaquard next to the bus shelter (check both sides because the numbers are not always displayed on both sides.) Return trip is 30 dirham and takes about 30 min.

Seville Baggage Storage: This is available at the main bus station and is accessible 24 hours a day. You pick a locker and then go to the Info desk and give them the locker number and the number on the dial above the lock. You will pay €3.50 to get a coin to put in the lock, shove your luggage inside, turn the key and away you go. Keep the key and don’t lose it! When you return, you give the locker number and the updated number above the lock to the attendant. You will then pay €3.50 per day and receive another chip to put in the locker to be able to open it with the key. Our locker held two carry on bags with room to spare.

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