Sunday, 4 September 2011

Kel hits 30 : Marrakech....

....I surprised Kel with a birthday weekend away, after she'd wanted to visit Marrakech for some time. Fortunately, the hugely anti-social flying times didn't disturb what was a beautiful break. We stayed in Riad W, hosted by the fantastic Elsa - who even upgraded us on arrival, as it turned out that no one else was staying at the 4-bed Riad that weekend, it was all ours. Bonus.

Riad W courtyard

We dropped our bags and headed straight out to the souks, meandering through, getting lost, getting sold to, enjoying the bazaar. We stopped for mint tea on the terrace of cafe des epices, before heading on to the former Islamic College, Ben Youssef Medrasa - full of beautiful rooms, scattered around a central courtyard carved from marble, cedar & stucco.

We still found time to visit the equally impressive Bahia Palace, a 19th Century home to an Islamic Sultan, who used the site to show off his prolific wealth to women. (For once, this money also had taste!)

[ceiling detail]

We returned to the riad for a siesta, (only 2 hours sleep the night before had taken their toll), before an early even stroll around the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, before it had really kicked in to action. We dodged the snake charmers and (cruel) monkey owners and headed straight to one of the various juice stalls for some liquid refreshment.

On returning to the riad, we got ready for dinner, which I had arranged with Elsa prior to our arrival - we would be eating at there, a special dinner cooked by the live-in chef and a birthday treat of champagne & wine.

Happy 30th!

It was a wonderful dinner, in wonderful surroundings and we crashed out shortly afterwards. The next morning, we rose and after breakfast on the balcony, took a dip in the plunge pool to get us going.

We then set about a trip to the Saadian Tombs, dating back to the 16 Century, yet only re-discovered by accident in 1917. Still a beautiful, decorative sight, but the least captivating 'attraction' to date.

Jardin Majorelle, owned by Yves Saint Laurent was next, stepping it up a notch. The gardens are a wonder of colour, ceramic and cacti that come together in a vibrant, beautiful collision. A modernist building houses a cafe & restaurant for those prolonging their stay, but even without it a seat on a bench to absorb the tranquil environment is more than enough.

We returned to the souks, via the dominating Koutoubia mosque, for some more shopping - securing a tagine, a rug and some bowls. (We couldn't be more predictable). A bite to eat and then a drink at Cafe Arabe, on their terrace, provided wonderful respite.

Then came Kel's final treat - a berbere hammam at the Jnane Mogador riad. Much more relaxing than we anticipated, Kel & I stripped down together in a small cement wet room in the bunker of the riad. There we were washed, scrubbed, pasted and washed again. Well worth it! We returned to our own riad, pulled on some evening wear and headed out for our final dinner at Le Tanjia.

Recommended by Elsa, it was a great choice, out on the balcony and live music right by our side. Afterwards we walked back through the medina to Jamaa el-Fnaa Square, to see the real night time scene. The night sky was filled with the glare off lamps on stalls, filled with smoke from open grills, filled with flutes serenading pythons, filled with crowds gasping at street performers. We were thrilled.

We decided to remove ourselves from the throng, and retreated to the balcony of a nearby restaurant, where we grabbed an ice cream with which to survey the scene.

We looked down and summed up that we loved the city, (despite seeing so little of it), we'd had a fantastic time and more importantly, Kel had enjoyed her birthday. We left for bed, then the following morning, after breakfast, left for home. We thanked Elsa, the perfect host, and said goodbye.

Hugs for Elsa

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