In Marrakesh, we walked to all the main sights. Here is our itinerary for the day.
Kasbah Mosque -> Saadian Tombs -> El Bahia Palace -> Marrakesh Museum -> Ben Youssef Madrasa -> Koutoubia Mosque
One important thing to note for independent travelers is that at Marrakesh sights, there are no English leaflets/display signs available. As a result, before the visit it is best to do some research on the backgrounds of each site. That way, it would be easier to appreciate the architecture in its historical context.
Our first stop was Kasbah Mosque, since it was closest to our riad in the Medina. Right behind the Mosque was Saadian Tombs, where sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty from the 1500s were buried. Among the buried were the Sultan family and their soldier and servants.
Next up was El Bahia Palace. “Bahia” translates into “brilliance”, and the 19th century palace was intended to be greatest palace of all time. While we were looking for El Bahia Palace, we came across a common scam in Marrakesh. A local kept following us and said “Palace? Wrong way! Wrong way!”. We had learned from other blogs that this is a common scam to disorient tourists, then ask for money to show you the way, so we simply ignored him and kept going. When we really needed direction, we would ask people who were not following us. They were the helpful ones.
In the center of the palace is a court with a elaborate basin. On the four sides of the court are rooms for Si Moussa’s concubines, grand vizier (minister) to the sultan.
After Bahia Palace, we headed towards Marrakesh Museum. Before we arrived at the museum we passed by a couple colorful souks selling carpets, spices and other souvenirs. We also went to one of the small local restaurants for lunch.
At Marrakesh Museum, all the descriptions to the displays were in Arabic and French. Since we come unprepared, we were not able to appreciate the displays in their historical context.
Just a few steps from Marrakesh Museum is Ben Youssef Madrasa. It was an Islamic College found in the 14th century and is one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa. Its dormitory cells could host up to 130 students.
Outside Ben Youssef Madrasa there was a small pavilion I could not figure out the name of. There was a barrier surrounding the site and it was not open to the public. Nevertheless, it was an interesting sight to behold.
By this time, we were pretty tired of all the walking and the midday sun, so we made our ways to our riad in the Medina. On our way we passed by Koutoubia Mosque. The grounds were breathtakingly beautiful.
After our afternoon nap in the riad, we would brave the chaotic market in the Medina.
We learned our lesson from the previous night and avoided the stalls in the center with touts enthusiastically luring in customers. The stall we went the day before randomly brought us a few dishes and at the end charged us $30 for two people which was a lot in Morocco. This time, we asked for the price before we order, and only had one dish per stall so the final bill would be clear. Also this way, we got to try more variety of dishes. We sampled a bowl of snails and a plate of sheep organs, among other local cuisines. They were not very flavorful and would not be something I normally crave for, but we got a kick out of trying these exotic dishes.
This concludes our first day in Morocco. The next day, we will begin our 3 day 2 night tour to Sahara desert.