The call to prayer
After the sights, scents and sounds of the Djamaa el Fna (and the pain of my broken foot – ouch), one of my abiding memories of Marrakesh will be the sound of the call to prayer wakening me at 5.15 each morning or floating over the hubbub of the Night Market each evening. While we have heard this elsewhere on our travels, in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, it is in Marrakesh that I have most aware of it as an integral aspect of life in the city. Perhaps this is because it seems so in tune with the ancient streets and walls of the Medina, or maybe it was the knowledge that at the Koutoubia Mosque at least a muezzin still climbs the minaret five times a day to make the call. Whatever the reason, this reminder of more spiritual things rising above the secular, commercial frenzy of the city is definitely an integral part of the Marrakesh experience.
The call to prayer, or “adhan”, summons Muslims to follow the mandatory five prayer times of each day. Starting with four repetitions of “Allahu Akbar” (”Allah is the greatest”), listeners are summoned to hurry to worship and, at dawn, reminded that “prayer is better than sleep”. I can’t say that I always agreed with that last point, but somehow I found myself always happy to have my sleep interrupted by the call.
Djemma El Fna by Night
The square completely changes at night time. Get there as the sun is going down and you'll notice how quickly the smoke gets thicker, the music gets faster and the heavy air gets sweeter. This assault on the senses is absolute. This is the place to relax, get a bite to eat and dance to the most inspiring live music you'll ever hear. The monkeys and snakes have gone to bed and now the musicians and storytellers pull the crowds. The suspense of the storytellers captivates despite the language barrier and the musicians are entrancing - the tempo is really fast and steady. Each small group gathers around a lamp until the group becomes a crowd. As you like it - although as a woman, I feel more comfortable with my shoulders, legs and hair covered (besides, it's not so warm at night.)
Marrakech Museum Café - good for a light lunch
After a few hours of exploring the souqs we found ourselves at the Musee de Marrakech. We liked the look of the small museum cafe so decided to have lunch there.
The cafe is located in the courtyard, just through the gate from Place Ben Youssef. There were tables and chairs scattered about in the centre of the courtyard making the most of the winter sun, plus some more seating inside the café. We chose a sunny table and then ordered our lunch up at the cafe's counter. There wasn’t a huge amount to choose from – basically just sandwiches and salads on offer.
Alison and I both ordered a tuna & salad sandwich, which was served with a side of olives (which were really nice, and I don't usually like olives). The food was tasty and filling, and the café setting was lovely.
Bab Agnaou Gate
This beautiful gate is the traditional entrance to the Kasbah, named after the black slaves brought from sub-Saharan Africa.
The gate was built in 1185 and is one of the very few stone structures. It is in distinctive contrast to the mud brick city walls.
Riad Dar Eliane - Marrakech
We were in Marrakech for four nights and stayed at the Riad Dar Eliane for the remaining two nights as it was not available for the whole four. Well, what can I say-I think for once I was dumbstruck and just said ' wow ' on first arrival.
This stunning riad with its vibrant colours, fantastic finishing touches of Moroccan artifacts on the wall and welcome atmosphere take your breath away.
The riad is in the souks, and I would say the best thing to do is to ask a local how to get there (we ended up paying a local boy the equivalent of a pound to find this gorgeous place-and it's well worth it when you see the maze of souks ahead of you).
Once we arrived the hosts couldn't do enough for us, and everything is just so stunning we seemed to take pictures of every corner of the place from the plants, furnishings, ornaments, carved pillars and even the shower!
The roof terrace is relaxed and stylish with sun beds and great views - and so peaceful which is amazing considering how near the bustle of the souks you are.
Once you are orientated the riad is easy to find if you get to the small square that is the 'spice market' and then go past the local vegetable market area-I have no sense of direction and even I got the hang of it, and we were only here for two nights.
The room was gorgeous and had everything we needed. Towels were soft, beds were comfortable and gorgeous, the bathroom was stunning and the breakfast area in the downstairs open-air courtyard was full of stunning architecture and gorgeous touches.
I would come here again in a flash.
The photos on the website are stunning but still nothing but being here would capture its beauty and ambiance- but it still remains cosy and homely too.
The riad is only ten minutes walk from the main square.
I love the hectic atmosphere of the main square and love Moroccan food and enjoy listening to the calls to prayer from all the surrounding mosques, and I also enjoy having fun haggling in the souks. We visited the Majorelle gardens which are well worth it, as is the museum within it -we took a horse and carriage there and it was stunning.
We shopped in the souks, and had an impromptu drumming lesson in a shop! We ate in the main square at the food stalls that get set up in the evening (the prices are so low its amazing) and the entire time we were not disappointed with any food we had anywhere.
If the hectic nature of the square or souks gets on top of you then get out to the gardens, the 'new town', or further a field to the waterfalls (Cascades d'Ouzoud) or Essaouira for a day trip.
I had been to Marrakesh before just briefly and loved it. This trip I discovered a lot more of it, and I feel that this city will have another surprise for me hidden away somewhere each time I visit. I will be back again and again (hopefully to the Riad Dar Eliane), as will my partner who had not visited a place with such a different culture before and he said he 'fell in love' with it.
No 39, Derb Maada,Azbezt, Medina, Marrakech, Morocco