Tuesday 1 November 2022
We wake for the first time at 6.30 when the call to prayer sounds. Not being very religious, I find it hard to understand quite why one would feel the need to get up at 6.30 for anything let alone to pray. Once the faithful have been summoned, we settle down to a couple more hours sleep.
Finally, it’s 8.30 and time for breakfast. We climb to the roof of the riad, which has a seating area, plunge pool and a good view of the medina. By now I haven’t eat for 18 hours, so am pleased and relieved to find that breakfast is substantial; breads with cheese, jam and honey, fruit, yoghurt, an omelette and some very freshly squeezed orange juice.
This morning we are walking in a kind of square (theoretically, although to be honest we do get lost a few times) with 5 points of interest along the way.
Djemaa El Fna
We head first (or second, to be more precise, as we start off in the wrong direction) to Djeemaa el Fna, where we walked last night but were unable to stop as we were following our porter.
This morning, it’s somewhat less frenetic. Some stalls are open but many aren’t yet. It’s thinned out enough to be able to see the snake charmers and monkey owners, which I don’t really want to see, so we pass straight through to Katoubia Mosque at the far end.
The boards outside the Mosque explains that this 12th Century mosque is in fact the second to be built on the site. The first was a similar construction but did not facing Mecca. Oops.
The tall minaret topped by a spire of brass balls can be seen across much of the city. Non Muslims are not allowed to enter. So take a walk around the perimeter, then cross into the gardens opposite.
The palm lined gardens with their fountains and flower beds with the mosque in the background make for a great photo op.
Open daily 9-5
Entry 70 Dirhams
Next up, we head for the Saadian Tombs, a 16th Century Sultan’s tomb complex. My guide book says that the entrance to the Saadian Tombs is unmarked and provides directions how to locate it, which we manage third time lucky, primarily because a tour bus pulls up at the side of the road and we have a group to follow. The complex, in a garden filled with tombs of women and court staff is lined with a row of buildings containing the more splendid tombs of the men.
Chamber of Three Niches and Prayer Room
The first building you come to is the the Chamber of Three Niches. These tomb rooms with prayer niche to indicate direction of Mecca are all intricately decorated.
Chamber of the 12 Pillars
Next is the even more intricately decorated Chamber of the 12 Pillars. The chamber with its multi couloured tiles, plaster inlaid with gold and 12 marble pillars is the final resting place of Sultan Al Mansour.
There’s quite a queue to see the Chamber. I’m getting airport déjà vu, but we get into line anyway, like the Brits we are. A mere 20 minutes later, we have reached the front and get our chance to see (and of course photograph) the chamber. While we were waiting, I overheard tour guides telling their clients that it wasn’t worth the wait. Either I have a different opinion to the tour guides or they were deliberately misleading their clients to avoid standing around for half an hour.
Open daily 9-5
Entry 70 Dirhams
Next on the itinerary is the 16th Century Palace Badi Palace ruins, which promise storks and views from the ramparts. Again, we follow the directions of my guide book which says that to reach the palace entrance, head through Place des Ferblantiers and turn right along the ramparts. The first entrance we come to is blocked and a man tells us the palace is closed, so we move on. However, as we continue along the street, we notice people on the top of the palace and work our way along until we discover the entrance.
Upon entry to the palace, we are in a small courtyard lined with subterranean chambers. These contain some displays of photographs of the Kasbah and conditions of slaves and prisoners who used to live in the chambers. There are, indeed storks watching on from the ruined walls.
On through a gate and we find ourselves in a large courtyard consisting of sunken gardens and reflecting pools. The pools are pretty empty but you can get a feel for how grand the palace must once have been.
Room housing the Katoubia Minbar
One room houses the 12th Century Minbar (similar to a pulpit in Christianity) which is decorated with gold and silver calligraphy. Apparently, the reason it ended up here is related to the whole Mosque not facing Mecca saga. To be honest, I lose interest when I spot the ‘No Photography’ signs. But not before taking a sneaky photo of the minbar, which also features a reflection of me taking a sneaky photo. Caught in the act…
Open daily 9-5
Entry 70 Dirhams
Last on today’s ‘To Do List’ is the Bahia Palace, an ornate 19th Century Palace. The palace consist of a series of buildings and courtyards. We purchase our tickets and step into the first courtyard. There are so many people crammed into the palace we can hardly move, let alone see the highlights of this complex.
First, we enter the Petit Riad. Here, white plasterwork inscribed with verses from the Quran. To be honest it’s so crowded it’s hard to see much at all. We move on to the Grand Riad.
According to my guide book; ‘this Riad built round a courtyard of fountains and foliage was conceived by former slave who became Sultan’s top aide’. I’m sure he’d be impressed at how many people were currently milling around his grand courtyard taking photos of other people taking photos of his grand riad.
Supposed to be the piece de resistance, this 1500 square metre marble floored former harem is being refurbished. So it is so somewhat of an anti-climax as only one end of the courtyard is accessible, the rest is a building site.
It’s been a long day and we’ve walked 6 miles already, so we decide to head back through the chaos of the Medina to our Riad for a rest. We’re getting the hang of the Medina now, and make it back to our Riad in its tiny alleyway without even making a wrong turn.
With so many miles covered today, my feet are killing me, so we head to the roof to relax for a while. Apart from a covered seating area and some sun loungers, there is, theoretically, a plunge pool. It has no water in it, but we have been told that it can be filled upon request. Someone has obviously requested it, as the water has been turned on. Some considerable time later, there is a few inches of water in the bottom of the pool. Some guests appear in swimsuits, take photos and leave again. It all looks like too much effort for too little reward. We order a beer instead.
Suitable rested, we set off in search of dinner. Hooray – today I get dinner! We head along our alleyway to Restaurant chez Brahim which gets reviews on Tripadvisor, where it claims to be open from midday until 11.45. We are told the kitchen isn’t ready and to come back in an hour.
Djeemaa el Fna at night
So, we take a wander back to the main square to see it in full evening swing. I order some really tasty freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from one of the many juice stalls and we wander round, trying to give the snake charmers a wide berth.
Dinner at Chez Brahim
After an hour we head back in search of dinner. The kitchen still isn’t quite ready, but we take a seat and spend some time perusing the menu. To be honest, Morocco isn’t the best culinary choice for someone with a nut allergy. And the narrow alleyways of the medina aren’t the place to be taking a risk. How on earth they would get an ambulance anywhere near the place is a mystery to me.
So I order an eggplant salad which tastes amazing, followed by kofta kebabs and chips. The old man’s tagine, brought to the table still sizzling looks amazing, albeit laced with almonds. He obviously agrees as he gazes at it lovingly before tucking in. I round dinner off (the 3 course menu costs 100 Dirhams) with fruit of the day; pomegranate. I’ve certainly had my 5 a day, and most of them were pomegranate!
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