After the tranquility of our visit to Le Jardin Marjorelle, our next stop was throwing us into the middle of the Medina. Weaving through traffic, horse carts and pedestrians with a death wish, our driver expertly manoeuvred his way around the narrow streets and dropped us off outside El Badi Palace…
The palace is nearly 500 years old- the old girl was built in 1578, after the Battle of the Three Kings when Morocco and Portugal were at war. In it’s time, El Badi (or The Incomparable) was dripping in gold, marble and crystal but 75 years later, it was looted and stripped of it’s riches by a new Alaouite Sultan to decorate his palace in the new capital of Meknes. Talk about upcycling.
Today, the sunken courtyards are still blooming and the vast pond is a sad reminder of it’s former glory. Look up, as there are huge stork nests nestled on top of the walls of the ruin. There was no escape from the heat of the sun within the walls either- bring your sunglasses! We got there 15 minutes before it was due to close and so we missed out on the opportunity to climb up to the terrace for a better view.
Also, don’t bring a Go-Pro because the security guards didn’t like that one bit…
To cool off a little, we made our way to the Agdal Gardens, an orchard and man made lake that is popular with locals and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Like everything in Marrakech, outside the medina, everything feels vast. Though only a short distance from the palace, the orchard was quiet (all 700 acres of it!) If you walk up the gravel pathway, the Dar El Hanna pavilion rises into view along with a huge man made lake that is absolutely teeming with Carp.
The sound of these slippery little guys!
Pressed for time, we jumped back into the jeep and into the medina again to explore the souks…
We walked through the famous Jemaa El Fna before picking a random street to walk through- the sights, the sounds, and the smell of the market square is unreal. There are horse carts clip clopping by around you, traders shouting out their wares, so many orange juice stands, snake charmers, monkeys- it’s a real Indiana Jones moment. Still a little uneasy from my panic attack a few days before, I stood on the outskirts of the chaos and watched as Robin made a narrow escape from an overly enthusiastic snake charmer!
As long as you go with an open mind, and know that it’s going to be a little bit crazy, you’ll be fine.
Despite the warnings about the intensity of the market, once meandering through the souk and alleyways, it was fairly cool and quiet. At no point did I feel pressured into buying anything or face any bother from the shopkeepers!
There were a couple of moments we realised we had probably strayed in the wrong direction, which turned out to the best because we stumbled into the Souk Kafe and retreated onto it’s roof terrace for a little while.
The floor below had a precarious looking balcony that I tiptoed onto to take a few pictures of the street. Feeling more refreshed, we headed back towards the square to catch a dinner reservation at a nearby hotel.
But first. Kittens.
If you’re a cat lover, you’ll go nuts in Morocco. They are everywhere! So many sleepy kitties lazing in front of shop doors.
After a day spent in the medina, it felt like we had passed the Marrakech test! There is so much going on at all times. Clothing wise, I read about being respectful and modest so I kept my shoulders covered and wore a summery midi skirt just to be on the ‘safe’ side, but to honest, I really didn’t experience any unwanted attention at any time during our trip.
In fact, everyone was super friendly. Despite being only a three and a bit hour flight away, you’re immersed into a whole new world and I loved that. We had a few days left in Morocco, and I wanted to pack in as much as we could!