We are returning May 2021 and adding Casablanca and Rabat. In Casablanca, “Bogey said, “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. Wait until you hear my Casablanca story from my visit in 1992.
Marrakech Menara AIrport
Our Hotel Lobby
Around the Hotel Pool
My Livingroom and Terrace
In the Medina
Lunch at Dar Moha
Tagine of Lamb Shank
Tagine of Sea Bass and Prawn
Dar Moha Restaurant
Jamaa el Fna by night
Jamaa el Fna by Day
Our Air France flight departed Marseille at 7am and in 2 1/2 hrs we arrived. The Menara International Airport is lovely and getting through Immigration was a breeze with no lines. Our guide, Abdul was there to greet us. Abdul is of Berber descent; Morocco’s original inhabitants. Again, Kattrax has been blessed with another very knowledgeable guide. He has been the guide for many celebrities, such as P. Diddy and the Clintons, to name a few.
Our hotel, Les Jardins de La Koutoubia is an upscale 5 star property featuring a spa, 3 restaurants and 2 pools. It is a lovely, welcoming oasis in the middle of the craziness of the Medina.
Marrakech, the 4th largest city in Morocco, located to the north of the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. The only other 2 Moroccan cities I’ve visited in the 90’s were Casablanca and the beach resort town of Agadir. Marrakech is 150 miles south of Casablanca and 150 miles north of Agadir. The busyness of this city is unlike any I’ve seen. Also known as the “Red City” because the color of the buildings and ramparts are of beaten clay. Former French rulers decreed all buildings must be painted in that same shade. Marrakech is the French spelling and Marrakesh is the English. The heart of the Medina is Jamaa el-Fna, also known as “The Square” is a very vibrant marketplace that is very different by day vs night. A Medina is the old part of a town or city found in many countries of North Africa, not just Morocco. It is typically walled, containing narrow maze like streets, fountains, palaces and mosques. Many are car free as there is not enough space in the alleyways for cars to pass. Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina” lyrics written by Young MC refers to a fictional aphrodisiac that’s got people and a dog doing some wild and crazy things. Not the same but there is definitely some wild and crazy things going on in this Medina.
Before leaving Marseille, I booked 3 treatments at the Spa by Carita, known in Paris and worldwide. This one in Marrakech is located in our hotel – how convenient! My first 2 would be shortly after hotel check in. I had the lymphatic drainage, followed by the Oriental massage with Argan oil scented with mandarin. Later in the week I will visit the private Hammam here in the Spa. Hammams are traditional bath houses and steam rooms that stretch back hundreds of years where people visit for a deep cleanse and a casual encounter. You get a scrub with black soap, An exfoliating glove and a massage with Argan oil. For some, this is a part of their everyday life. After my treatments, I felt like a million dollars; totally relaxed and mentally in sync.
Our welcome dinner was fantastic which was in one of the hotel’s restaurants as was our lunch the next day at DAR MOHA, owned by critically acclaimed Chef Dar Moha. The starters were an experience for all to enjoy in experimenting several new tastes. Several of us chose tagines. I had one of sea bass and prawn and others had one of lamb shank.
We visited the Koutoubia Mosque ( one of the few, not open to the public). It’s minaret rises 252 ft into the sky, quite an impressive sight. Next we visited El Bahia Palace with over 150 rooms. The palace was the residence of Bou Ahmed, his 4 wives and 24 concubines…yes I’d say Bou was big pimpin’ back then. His favorite wife, of course had the most ornate and elaborate apartment; beautifully painted with carved cedar wood.
While the group hit a few more corners, I waited for them at the Herboriste Bab Agnaou better known as the “Berber Pharmacy”. The setup is similar to the Essence of Life (fragrances and oils) in Egypt but this is all about health. Moustafa gave me an introduction to the various herbs, ointments and powders. It was quite an education. By the time the others had arrived I had already made my purchases which consisted of an oil to reduce swelling, a cream for under eyes, a cream for age spots used by celebrities (prickly pear) and costing a fortune in the states, and ointments for loved ones with eczema or an occasional cold sore. We learned the health benefits of saffron, not just for cooking. We learned that drinking a hot tea of hibiscus is for low blood pressure but for high blood pressure you drink it cold; a few leaves in a bottle of water, shake it up til it turns red and voila! Several got their sinuses cleared out by crushing black cumin seeds in a napkin, making a pouch and inhaling slowly in each nostril. Its not to be done quickly otherwise one feels a burning sensation. Overall, it was quite an educational experience and a definite highlight for me.
Afterwards, others were rushing to the caftan shop and while I was dropped off at the hotel. Wow! What a day. Today was a very good day and I didn’t have to use my AK.