Friday 21st March 2014
After a lie in, by mums standards anyway, we got ready to hit the souk. We had arranged a guide for half a day to get a better sense of the madness beyond the riad walls. I would highly recommend doing so as not only had he infinate knowledge of the city and the history of the culture but he led us to areas we my have not found without guidance.
He took us to three historical sites, firstly we visited the maison de la photographie where beautiful photos of times passed lay on yhde walls of a converted house, these dated back to 1890 and it was fascinating to see the changes, there were three floors including a roof terrace which held a spectacular view of the sprawling city.
Our next stop was the Ben Yusuf Medrasa, built somewhere between 1557-1574, it is a museum but was originally a school that homed students studying to be priest’s. It is a sight to behold, the ornate nature of the courtyard takes your breath away with a shallow pool in the centre reflecting the light and the impressive walls. Our final historical destination was just next door.
The Marrakech museum, it had been restored in 1997 and displayed the culture of the city as well as an art exhibition, a beautiful and poignant poem dressed the wall, unusually written in English and from 1164 it talked about not judging others on what they believe but to believe in the religion of love.
Once we had finished the educational part of the tour we were led to the heart of the souk where market stalls lined the roads and strong herbal scents filled your nose. We were led to a shop which sold everything from silver teapots to jewellery to slippers, what caught my attention was a beautiful glass sheesha or bong and I decided I must have it! After a good barter with the owner I walked away with my bong and 300 dirhum off the original asking price, I was most pleased with this purchase.
The guide showed us to an opening in the high walls which led into a courtyard, we had the distinct feeling we were walking into someones home, with items strewn across the ground. This is where they hand made the leather slippers you see all over the souk. It is in these places when taken with someone such as a guide that you can get the best price on leather shoes, much better than on the market stalls. I love Moroccan architecture and design and I really did have a fascination with doors at this point. So strong and elegant, these doors feel as though they have sheltered many lives, keeping their occupants safe in their castle, creating mystery to what lies beyond.
We then moved on to a herbalist, it was government approved which meant everything in the shop was natural as in the markets be wary of argan oil as it is often diluted with other substances. We were shown how the argan oil is made by hand crushing almonds to a paste, very labour intensive, we were then lead into a room piled top to toe with jars of oils, herbs and spices. A lovely man explained what each was used for and allowed us to smell and sample most of the products. We ended up purchasing argan oil, rose oil, tea, spices and an acne treatment as well as a few bits and bobs. We were given a quick neck massage for a small fee and I must say it was great, I felt any tension I had melt away. As it is my birthday, mum and I were both given a small pot of essential oil free, probably due to the amount we spent rather than the fact it was my birthday!
After this we were led back to the square we found ourselves forcefully marked with henna In yesterday and that was the end of the tour. We decided on a mint tea in the cafe del France, definitely worth a visit, the roof terrace gives a panoramic view of the Jemma-el-Fna square but allows you to warm your bones in the days sun. We decided we were rather peckish and returned to cafe Arabs for lunch, I had the lamb cous cous once again and mum had vegetable tagline which she said was fabulous with huge pieces of veg cooked to perfection. We sat in the sun and enjoyed the atmosphere before returning to the riad to prepare for our hammam.
This was definitely worth doing, if you do go however make sure to remove any makeup or you will end up looking pandaesque, a look I like to think I pulled off but, I’m sure I was more scary than sexy. We went to hammam de la rose about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, we got lost and so asked for directions, be aware when doing this as if they walk you to your desired location they will expect money and may just take you to a friends shop instead!
When we arrived at the hammam we were taken to a changing room where we had to style a rather fetching paper thingy that might as well have not existed as it covered very little. Modesty is not welcome here so, if you are slightly prudish about showing a stranger your intimate areas a hammam is something to avoid but if you can get over the initial uncomfortable feeling, the relaxation is worth it! We were given robes to retain our modesty whilst we were led to a large saunaesque room, we payed for a 90 minute ceremony of the rose hammam which firstly consisted of a traditional hammam ritua and then a massage.
On arriving in the sauna there is a large goblet in the centre of the room, the floors and walls are to hot to touch and so you are given a pad to sit on to stop yourself burning and flip flops to save your feet. A lady runs water in the goblet and asks you to stand up, using a bowl she douces you in warm water before lathering you top to toe in eucalyptus scented savon noir (black soap) which is olive oil based and so feels lovely on your skin. You let the soap sit on your skin for a few minutes before she rinses you, once rinsed she leads you to a room off the side of the sauna and asks you to lie down on your front. She then uses a rough cloth to exfoliate your entire body, I mean everywhere! She then rinses your dead skin off and asks you to sit while she pours water over your head before rubbing beautiful caramel scented shampoo and conditioner into your hair, leaving the conditioner in she applies a course rose scented scrub and sends you back into the suna to allow you hair and skin to absorb the goodness. You are rinsed for a final time before a rose mask is rubbed all over your body and she wraps you up in your robe, the hammam phase is done. It may sound very intimate and unusual but I must say it was a lovely sensation you won’t get to experience in many places so I beg of you, forget your insecurities and just enjoy the sensations on your skin.
We were lead to a waiting room and greeted with water and mint tea, it is divine, before being led to your private room ready for your massage. You are given a choice of scented oils, I went for rose as it is one if my favourite smells and it is pure and essential here in Morocco unlike in England. Every muscle sings with joy at the firm but relaxing touch of the masseur and I even drop off to sleep for a few minutes before turning on to my front, I was ever so sad when it had to end! The price for this was abput 60-70 pounds which is about the same as at home but with the added luxury of the hammam too. Walking back through the streets felt a bit strange with my hair slicked back from the oils and my bare face shining for all to see but it was worth it.
When we reached the hotel we headed to the rooftop terrace to enjoy a mint tea and biscuits whilst watching the sun set over the skyline of Marrakech, it was a beautiful sun set. We returned to our rooms and washed our hair taking care not to wash any of the lovely rose oil off our bodies and glammed up ready for a night on the town.
Khalid a friendly (if not slightly too friendly) member of staff booked us a table at the Lotus Club for dinner, we had to get a taxi there as it is located in new town outside of the Medina walls but cost just under 5 pounds. On arrival the club was very glamorous yet empty and we were a little disappointed though it was only half eight, we were sat right next to a stage and we ordered a lovely bottle if red wine to go with our lamb tagine. Mum was disappointed in her meal as it was Luke warm and was nothing more than lamb, no sides of anything but bread, I was originally brought the wrong dish and so had to return my meal, this did mean mine was hot and was very tasty. I also had lamb tagine but rather than onions and tomartoes that accompanied mums mine was paired with dates, prunes and almonds, it was tasty there is no denying it but not a scratch on cafe Arabs. However, the club soon started to come alive and by 10 there were performers on the stage doing a series of dances, clearly aimed at a male aumdience with a lot of shaking and jiggling involved but it was very good and we both enjoyed it. For pudding mum had a chocolate mousse and I enjoyed a cheese platter, both yum, scrum, pigs bum, the drinks flowed and by 12 we were ready to move into the next destination. Khalid joined us and did say that after 12 the venue became less of a restaurant and more if a club, we could see this to be true with litre bottles of vodka acting as signs of reserved tables.
The next place we visited was the casino that has its own club, entry was 200 dirhum so close to 20 pound and this also gave you one free drink at the bar, this was a proper night club as we know in England with staff dressed in shirts and ties with hard hats on their heads, covered in sparklers and poles attached to tables for those who like to show off their moves. The music is house and in my opinion slightly monotonous but the experience is that of a high class club night. We left at 2am as the club was starting to fill up simply due to the fact I had drank rather a huge amount and could not function that well. Overall the night was shockingly expensive but ever so much fun and if you have the money I would recommend going to both.
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