Moroccan Hollywood & Marrakech Nightlife!
We started bright and early from our amazing stay at Chez Pierre driving out past the Dades Gorge to Ouarzazate then to Marrakech. On the way to Ouarzazate, we stopped at the Valley of Roses where the whole town exudes the smell of these potent flowers. You can get everything rose scented here, oil, soaps, cloths, perfumes, EVERYTHING... ROSE. If you are a fan of rose, I'd suggest to stop here and getting something!
We stopped for lunch at Ait Benhaddou at this hotel/restaurant place... It was definitely a tourist spot and the food was overpriced and distasteful. Bonnie and I were really disappointed... There was at least a great view of the Kasbah Ait Benhaddou off the rooftop where we were dining. Tucked away within the High Atlas Mountains is the famous and UNESCO World Heritage site, Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, which is considered to be the "Hollywood" of Morocco. Many films used this location for their backdrops like The Gladiator, Alexander, Prince of Persia, the Mummy, and Jesus of Nazareth. It was super hot out and it was a long walk up to the top, but it was definitely worth it! There was a panoramic view from up there and some great shops along the way up. Iddir gave us a background of the area and you can see the split of the old type of kasbahs to the new ones with the river as the border between the two. There were a lot of tour groups going into the kasbah, so this place was a touristy spot, fa sho. Bonnie and I thought it was unmemorable especially after all we have seen so far on our road trip. It was just another UNESCO World Heritage Site check off my list of places to see!
After the super duper hot ass tour of the Hollywood of Morocco, we bought road trip drinks and snacks (including CrunChips, duh) and headed back over the High Atlas Mountains in the direction of Marrakech. It was another beautiful day, so we had the windows down, music blaring, and dancing through the windy streets of the cliffside. The high altitudes eventually wore on us and gave Bonnie and I some altitude sickness, so we ended up both falling asleep until we stopped.
Just right along the outskirts of Marrakech, we stopped by a local Argon Oil women's co-op, Assaiss Ouargan Tichka, where they hand grind the argon nut to make body and cooking oils, lotions, butters, etc. This was supposedly the best argon co-op there is in all of Morocco and the prices really reflected it! The argon prices were cheaper than in the US, but they were still pricey for Africa. You can sniff all the different scents, try the different types of argon butter with bread, and sample oils on your skin. Although it was expensive, it was definitely hight quality argon oil. Bonnie and I literally stayed at this little shop for about an hour trying to buy out the whole store, until we realized that this store only accepted cash... We were in dire need for an ATM, but the closest one was in Marrakech, so Iddir let us borrow from him! So freaking nice of him. This truly shows how dedicated he is to making his customers happy and truly wanting to give us a memorable experience in Morocco! Thanks Iddir!
We finally arrived into hustling and bustling Marrakech. The roads within the old Medina are undriveable, so a wheel barrel man had to come and wheel barrel our shit through the narrow, windy, bumpy roads to our riad. Just like the riad in Fez, we entered through an inconspicuous plain door into the main courtyard area of Riad Maranna. This riad was very nice, but not as lush or traditional as the one in Fez. We didn't want to waste the daylight left, so Bonnie and I walked through and taking notes of street landmarks and names of the labyrinth roads of the old medina to the main square, Djemaa el-Fnaa. We were completely overwhelmed by the amount of tourists and people. The square was packed, shoulder to shoulder, there were people trying to sell you shit here and there, strange noises and smells, food everywhere, ahh! It was such a change from the country side to see such energy and dynamic!
Bonnie and I stopped at a snails cart and had a delicious bowl of... snails... unlike the escargot in France, the seasoning was spicy and the broth was great! It made my stomach turn a bit since I could see the poor little snails eyes, mouth, and antannae very clearly as I was slurping it out of the shell... There were so many outdoor eateries that it was hard to choose one, but we just went to the most crowded hoping that meant the most delicious. To be honest, all the restaurants on the square had their menus translated into 5 different languages and had tripadvisor rating signs up. OBVIOUSLY this was a tourist trap, but we were both starving, so we just said FUCK IT! and sat down at Chez Aigha. We ordered pastilla, fries, sausages and kebabs that they grill right in front of your face, and bread with some sour spicy dipping sauce. It was quite different from the tagine's and couscous we had, so it was a pleasant dinner. Not the BEST thing I have tasted, but just different. For dessert, we stopped at a many abundant fresh orange juice stand along the square, and for 10 DH you can get one giant delicious freshly squeezed cup of orange juice.
With our juices in our had, we dove right into the main souq to shop/walk off all the food we ate. MAN. The Marrakech Souq is AWESOME for gifts for people back home. It had never ending shops filled with clothing, ceramics, spices, leather goods, vases, hookahs, etc. It was by far cheaper than Fez or any other cities we visited our whole trip. I saw the same keychains I bought for almost $15/keychain in Fez for only $1/keychain in Marrakech... :mad: those mother fuckers cheated me... but what can I do! That was my mistake. I know better to never buy anything in the first store you enter in a market since there will always be more cheaper prices deeper in the market. MAH BAD. In this souq, you can really practice your negotiating skills! Always start SUPER low like "oh that shirt costs $50? I will give you $1 for it" and negotiate from there! You'll be surprised on how well this works!
There were many ladies within the market square giving henna tattoos. Bonnie and I really wanted to get it, so why the hell not? When in Morocco, right? For orange henna, it lasts only 2 days, brown for 2 weeks, and black for 1 month. With our work schedules, we both decided to get brown. The lady in the yellow hijab had a test tube filled with the dye and quickly drew a beautiful flower design across our hands. We both loved it and gave her tip after she advised us to not wash this off until after an hour.
Whenever I travel, I always try to check out the nightlife to get the whole experience of the country. Bonnie loves to party and so do I, so we initially decided to check out Pacha (famous club headquartered in Ibiza, which happens to also be in other cities around the world). We were going to go out after dinner and take a taxi back... but there was no way to get a taxi back home since we were staying in the heart of the old medina! There were many men workers trying to get our attention to eat at their restaurant or drink at their bar, but we ignored them until we decided not to go out to Pacha.
Some shady young man came up to us, gave us a free drink coupon, and said "come, follow me." OK maybe this was a little bit of a bad idea, but we decided to follow him. Oopsie. He was taking us somewhere away from the market and into a dark street. Here, I was starting to get very hesitant and had my guard up ready to punch him in the throat if anything happened, but he actually took us to a legitimate lounge called Le Selama. There was a great ambiance to this lounge, upscale, modern yet traditional Moroccan, great rooftop bar, dim warm lighting, and an awesome local DJ. Free drinks + hookah at the rooftop of this lounge was a fantastic way to enjoy the chill nightlife of Marrakech.
We headed home around 2-3AM and literally everything, but leftover trash, was gone in the square. All the busy, packed shops were put away and nonexistent. No one was walking around. The old medina stores that lined the narrow streets back to our hotel were boarded up and closed.... It was dark, with one shady man waiting... WTF?! It was quite terrifying and scary to walk back at this time of night, but we power-walked in silence as fast as we could back to our place. I couldn't even have imagined what it would be like under the influence in our "going out" outfits walking back to our riad after Pacha. SO glad we did not go out to a night club!