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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Marrakech: Gardens, Bag Shopping & Henna Tattoos

Our second morning, we didn’t sleep in we were able to enjoy the breakfast at our Riad. It was actually a really tasty breakfast with eggs, bread and jam and a variety of drinks - coffee, mint tea and juice!

Jardin Majorelle

We headed off to Jardin 'Garden' Majorelle, as we had read it is best to go in the morning before the tour groups arrive. It was a bit outside the Medina, but when we exited the walled Medina and it felt like a whole new level of least in the Medina there aren’t a lot of full sized vehicles that go through it. However, when we got there there was a large line up, but then a guard ushered us into the smaller line for tour guide groups. We later discovered that they let families with children younger than 12 years old also go in this line! Very convenient to skip the line-up.

The gardens were beautiful and felt like you were being teleported to different gardens around the world. There was a cacti part, a tropical part with citrus trees, bamboo alley and more. The gardens were first constructed in 1923 by Jacques Majorelle; then in 1980, Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent purchased the property and moved in. They had an architect come in and renovate the home - which they then named it Villa Oasis.

While it was fun to see all the different plants one of the highlights for the kids were the ponds throughout the gardens. There were a few different ones with goldfish in them, and then the favorite was the one with the frogs in it. To be honest, I don’t think I had ever seen so many frogs in one spot before. They spent at least 15-20 minutes just watching the frogs and got a kick of them when they jumped into the water off their lily pads.

It's Hot!!

We headed for lunch after exiting the gardens and found the Pizzeria Cafe a block or so away from the gardens. It was mostly locals there and we could tell by the prices. We paid almost half price of one of the meals we had in the Medina the day before just because we were outside the super touristy areas. The kids especially liked the cafe because they had the water misters, and they could stand underneath them to get some cool mist on them, which was needed as temperatures were approaching 41 degrees!


We then negotiated with a taxi for 40 dirhams to take us to the Medina entrance closest to the tanneries, which is where they dye all the hides to make leather products. This one isn’t as big as the one we’ll see in Fes, but it was still something we thought we’d check out. When he dropped us off there was a man at one of the entrances to the tannery saying that it would cost 60 dirhams for us to enter. Nothing we had read suggested there would be an entrance fee, so we left and walked around to the other side. We eventually found an entrance into the area - and honestly we probably smelled it first. There were people outside the tannery trying to give you mint to smell to help with the odor, but once we were inside I didn’t really notice the odor....perhaps it is due to working with livestock when I was younger. We walked in, and there are all these different wells with the different dyes in them. However, we were also surrounded by all these men that were trying to tell us that we needed to go elsewhere and to one of the viewing terraces above the tannery and that we weren’t allowed to take photos. We didn’t push it with them, as we are more interested in the Fes Tanneries, but it was just ironic, because there is a large sign at the entrance that said something to the effect of “This place is free to the public” and “No one is an employee”.

As it was getting hot, we decided to head back to the Riad for a mid-afternoon break. However, the walk back was interesting as the streets we walked along were more off the tourist path and more of the local vendors and tradesmen making their leather craft.

The Bag Search....Continued

After an AC break in the Riad and a nap for our son, we headed back out for the search for ‘the purse’ for Clara. She knew exactly where she wanted to head back to look - ‘Bag Street’ as we had termed it -- so we navigated our way back and tried to remember exactly where we had seen that particular alley. Even along the way we showed her some new options we hadn’t seen yesterday, but she was dead set on going back to this particular place. We eventually reached there and Alex and her went searching for all the different bags to find ‘the one.’ While they searched, Connor was really enjoying the wooden cooking utensil stand and pretended he was making pizza with the multiple spoons and boards. The man in the shop didn’t seem to mind, as he worked away on carving out other pieces for his shop, which was great because I needed something to entertain Connor while we waited. Because of the shop owner's kindness, we found a wooden camel and donkey and negotiated a price of 65 dirham for the 2 of them. To be honest, it was probably a bit of a high price, but I just appreciated that Connor was able to play with some of his products.

Eventually Clara found one she liked - with pink sequins of course - but it didn’t have a flap on top. They negotiated a price of 100 dirhams and the man agreed to have one of the tradesmen there apply the leather flap on top. We were then able to watch the man cut the leather, sew it on the bag and put the fastener on it, which probably took about 15-20 minutes. However, it made the search for this purse even more special and unique. The fact that we had only paid about $10 USD for the bag as well, for all the work they put in it, made you feel a bit guilty as well. We had her give a small tip to the man as we departed. It’s crazy to think the average Moroccan only makes about $100 USD a month, and they’re just like us - trying to support their families. That area was one of my favorite parts of the market though as we saw so many tradesmen working on constructing the different items, while the flap was sewn on her purse, there was a little space where another man was constructing a wooden box. This was the entertainment for Connor, as he loved watching him glue, hammer nails and use his saw.

Jemaa el-Fnaa

We headed back out to Jemaa el-Fnaa - the main square of the Medina for dinner. We found a terrace restaurant and observed the market below that was full of action and sounds. While we ate our dinner a few wind gusts came through which caused some commotion. After dinner we strolled a bit through the square and saw everything from musicians, to snake charmers to men who had monkeys that you could take your photo with! We decided to take a Tuk tuk back to the Riad, which the kids really seemed to enjoy that experience and it was full of action of waving at all the horses they passed by. Connor kept asking, ‘How come we don’t take taxi back?’ :-)

Day 3 in Marrakech - October 1, 2019

We had a relatively low key day in Marrakech on our 3rd day there. We had thought about venturing to some of the water parks nearby because of the heat and something fun for the kids, but the cost of admission was almost 200 dirhams for adults and 150 dirhams for kids. Plus, with the heat I can’t imagine you can stay out in the direct sun for too long, even if you are in the water. We had also thought about taking the train to Casablanca, but that would be 5 hours total on the train, and the kids will have some long days in the vehicle in the days ahead so we opted not to do that either. However, it turned out best that we didn’t do it because Alex didn’t end up feeling well anyway.

Marrakech Train Station

We first ventured to the train station because they have a relatively new one here in Marrakech and Alex likes to check out train stations. Plus as a bonus they had a McDonalds there that we thought we would have lunch there for our traditional ‘McDonalds abroad’ meal. We were going to try to take the city bus there, but after waiting for a while in the hot sun (no shaded waiting areas) and no sign of the bus we needed, we decided to take a tuk tuk. Connor was pretty disappointed though that he missed out on riding the bus - he’s definitely like his dad in that he enjoys all the modes of transportation almost as much as the destination when we travel.

Moroccan McDonalds

The train station was nice, but the waiting area was a bit smaller than I imagined. However, the McDonalds was a nice break from the heat as it was air conditioned inside. The kids saw a play area at that McDonalds, but with temperatures approaching 40 degrees we thought it would be too hot for them. The kids ordered Happy Meals for about 30 dirham each ($3 USD) and we tried the Big Mac Meals for 50-60 dirham each ($5-6). For the most part there weren’t any major differences between the menu in Morocco and back in North America. I did notice that some people had more wedge-type French fries, but that was in addition to the traditional McDonalds French fries. We also had some soft serve ice cream cones.

Henna Tattoo for 5 Year Old

We came back for a siesta at the Riad to get a break from the heat again in the mid-afternoon. After our break we headed back into the market and headed toward the Henna Art School to get a henna tattoo for our daughter. We had read that this school is one of the more reputable places to get henna done, so we decided to go there for her instead of using one of the women that set up henna shops in the market. She was excited at first and picked out the design that she wanted. Originally she had wanted a butterfly design, but when we started to look in the book of designs the closest we could find were flowers, which she picked. However, when we went into the room for the artist to apply the henna paste, she saw that they had a syringe and started to get nervous and cried. We had to show her that the syringe was just to apply the ‘paint’ and that she wasn’t getting an actual shot. After her fears were eased she enjoyed getting the design applied to her arm and said that it ‘tickled.’

One of the harder parts of the process was that she had to sit in front of a fan for 20 minutes while the paste dried, which is a challenging task for a 5 year old to sit still for that long. Daddy took control and worked with her to entertain her while Mommy and Connor went for a walk outside in the market to kill some time. After the paste had dried she got a lemon/sugar mixture applied to it and then we were able to go. They advised us that she needed to wait 6-8 hours before letting the dried paste peel off, which was basically overnight for her at that point in time. She did complain a bit - I think mostly because it was starting to feel itchy as the paste dried - but after we finally let her put the nylon sock they had given us she didn’t say much more about it.

After that we found a small little cafe in the market for dinner and had one of the cheapest dinners yet - about 85 dirham for 2 crepes and 1 pizza.

It really would have been great to get the kids some playtime at a playground, but the heat is so intense here. You literally step right into the sun and it instantly feels about 10 degrees warmer; whereas in the shaded areas it is at least bearable. We haven’t had to apply any sunscreen so far even with the heat, because we stay in the shade as much as possible. I couldn’t imagine it being any hotter in the summer so I looked up what average highs are in July and August - and it looks like they are about the same as what we have been experiencing - around 37-40 degrees. We must just be experiencing a Fall heat wave - opposite of what they are dealing with back at home in Calgary with an Autumn snowstorm!!

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