Wednesday 3 November 2022
Today we have an early start as we have tickets to visit the Jardin Majorelle. According to my guide book, this is the most visited attraction in Morocco, so lord knows how crowded it’s going to be. I thought yesterday’s trip to the Bahia Palace was crowded enough.
After a most substantial breakfast of omelette, pancakes, bread, yoghurt and pomegranate, we go in search of a taxi. Everything I have read about Moroccan taxis tells us that we should haggle over the fare. The old man is not very good at haggling. And to be honest, even when he does negotiate a price downwards he adds a tip on top, often reaching or even surpassing the initial price. But he has been practicing hard all morning, so I am intrigued to find out how much the journey of a little under 3 miles ends up costing us.
We walk as far as the square, locate a taxi and ask how much to take us to the garden. He says 50 dirhams, the old man says OK and we jump in. So much for haggling!
Open daily 8-6
Entry 120 dirham (including Berber Museum 150 Dirham)
The exotic former garden of French artist Jacques Majorelle, created in the 1920s, fell into ruin after his death, until it was purchased by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner who had it restored to its former glory.
I’m looking forward to the Jardin Majorelle because everything I have read leads me to believe it’s magnificent and not looking forward to it because everything I have read leads me to believe it will be extremely crowded.
We have purchased a time specific ticket online in advance. This means we can skip one of the two queues. We have selected 9 am in the hope that it will be less crowded.
It was a good decision on both counts. We arrive at 9 am, don’t actually have to wait at all and the number of other people is tolerable.
We take a wander round the garden, which is full of hundreds of species of cacti and exotic plants interspersed with pergolas and water features. In the centre is Majorelle’s studio, painted an electric ‘Majorelle blue’.
Pierre Bergé Museum of Berber Arts
Majorelle’s psychedelic blue studio is now the Pierre Bergé Museum of Berber Arts. Set up by Yves Saint Laurent’s partner, the museum was founded to preserve elements of the Berber culture.
First, we walk past a series of artwork by Yves Saint Laurent; ‘The Four Seasons’ and his ‘Love’ collection which he produced annually going back to 1970.
Inside the museum are photographs, clothes and many other items. however, the pride of place is a jewellery display in an octagonal (maybe more sides) room lined with mirrors with a ceiling full of many mini lights. It’s like entering an infinite universe of jewellery. Photography is prohibited in the museum so here is a picture I found on the internet.
Back outside, things have really cranked up a notch and it’s tour group hell. There are people everywhere all trying to take photos and getting angry at other people getting in their way. As if to add to the general commotion, the toads in the water features have joined in and are now croaking away loudly.
We take one more circuit of the garden. The old man and I have differing opinions on how long it is acceptable to wait patiently because the path is blocked by photographers. Things come to a head at the Yves Saint Laurent Memorial. The path is completely blocked by a lady lying on the floor shouting at passers by who get in the way as she tries to photograph her friend posing in front of the memorial. I huff and climb over her. She is not impressed and huffs more. I think it’s way too busy to be attempting to keep out of other people’s photographs . Either way, we’ve had enough of the Jardin Majorelle and, after the obligatory purchase of a postcard (it’s a very expensive post card but it comes in a fancy Majorelle Blue envelope) we depart.
We catch a taxi back to the medina. The old man is very proud of himself as he manages to knock a full 10 dirhams off the price. The driver explains that he can only take us to within a 5 minute walk of the museum. He goes on to explain (3 times) the route to follow from the drop off point.
The first line of instructions; walk straight until you reach a gate, don’t go through the gate, turn left. He drops us at the edge of the medina, we walk straight until we reach a gate. The old man proceeds through the gate. A discussion ensues. Eventually I win and we turn left instead, reaching the madrasa without further incident.
Medersa Ben Youssef
Open daily 9-6
Entry 50 Dirhams
I used to be a big fan of Lonely Planet, each time I planned a trip I would purchase the relevant book and pour over its contents and. But they’ve really dropped the ball recently. Even the online Marrakech guide states that the Medersa is “currently closed for restoration that’s scheduled to finish in Spring 2020.” In reality, 2020 has come and gone, the refurbishment is complete and Lonely Planet is shockingly out of date.
Meanwhile, back at the recently refurbished, beautifully ornate 14th Century medersa, we purchase tickets and take a wander around. Like many buildings in Marrakech, it is build around a central courtyard, with a pool in the middle.
You can climb to the small rooms on the second floor for a bird’s eye view of the courtyard.
As non Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques of Marrakech, this decommissioned school is a rare opportunity for un infidels to see the ornate interior of a religious building.
Museum of Marrakech
Entry 50 Dirhams
Open daily 9-5
Last on today’s list is the Museum of Marrakech. I have read mixed reviews about the museum; exhibits inside a former palace with courtyard decorated with tiles and stained glass. The general consensus seems to be that the displays aren’t up to much but the building is pretty cool.
Either way, entry is 50 dirhams each, we only have 70 dirhams left and there isn’t a cashpoint to be seen anywhere along our route. One more circumnavigation of the nearby square and the roads leading off it unsuccessfully attempting to locate a cashpoint, then the old man suggests that he waits outside while I go in.
The museum is as I’d expected; rather naff but in a beautiful building. I don’t stay too long, just wander round the main courtyard and look at some of the art in the side rooms. Then I attempt to relocate the old man. A downside of Marrakech is the lack of tourist infrastructure . There are no benches or bins etc and I finally find him sitting on a step in an alleyway playing Candy Crush (yes I know). We set off back through the medina.
In an ideal world, we would have found a pleasant little café to sit in along the route, where we could enjoy a cold beer and watch the world go by. But the Riad is the only place we’ve found that actually sells beer, so we set off there instead.
In any case, that’s the plan. After walking through the souks of the medina for some considerable time, I mention that I recognise the hotel we just passed. The old man tells me I’m mistaken as we haven’t visited the area north of the main square beforehand and ploughs on. Some more time passes and I stop to check my phone GPS. We have somehow managed to walk straight past the enormous square a while back. We retrace our steps, stop in the square to get more cash, and finally make it back to the Riad for a nice, cool beer.
Dinner at Chez Brahim
We briefly consider being adventurous and try somewhere new for dinner. However, Chez Brahim is close, has good reviews and we enjoyed last night’s meal. So we decide to return there again. This time, we go a little earlier before the kitchen closes for its evening break.
We opt again for the set 3 course meal. Today, as it’s technically still lunch time, 3 courses is only 85 dirhams. The old man goes for another tagine, while I have briwats, which are similar Indian samosas, but with a different spice combination.
And that is the end of our final evening in Marrakech. It has been interesting, but I think 2 days in the medina was probably enough. I have found the crowded confines of the old town to be rather claustrophobic. And I’m pretty much over constantly having to jump out of the way of motor cycles. We walk back to the Riad past the many cats who live in the labyrinth of alleyways.
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