From Essaouira, I took a Supratours bus to Marrakech. It cost about 80 dirham (8 usd) and took abot 3.5 hours. I had received much misinformation and discouragement about Marrakech, so I planned only 2 nights in my trip. I regretted it. Marrakech was wonderful, and I didn't encounter any issues. It's beautiful, mixing modern and ancient together. It gave you the best of both worlds, depending on if you wanted to time travel or have the comforts of home. The same could be said of other cities, but the red toned buildings and architecture was distinctively different and esthetically refreshing. In the places that I had visited, Marrakech was the most westernized.
I stayed with an Israeli girl I met in Tangier, so I got to experience life like a local. She lived in the newer area of the city near the train station (pictured below). It's always a treat to have an insider's list of places to visit.
One of the most unexpected recommendations was Menara Mall. It's a four story mall about a mile away from the train station. I opted to walk and enjoy the scenery, which didn't disappoint.
I thoroughly enjoy traveling to countries where you find modern transportation driving next to old fashioned carts and horses. Much like Asian countries, there were a fair share of mopeds zipping through the roads.
Aside from offering the standard shops, Menara Mall boasts a food court area in the top floor balcony with a 180 degree view over the city and old medina. It was peaceful and relaxing. I spent several hours with a cup of tea and writing in my journal.
The same day, I took a taxi to Jardin Majorelle. Photographing in mid-day is never ideal, but I was told that the lines are always terribly long, and my best bet was arriving around opening time. The line spanned for blocks and it took 30 minutes to get inside. Apparently, that was short. And naturally, like any other tourist attraction, that meant people were EVERYWHERE. Literally. So it was nearly impossible to take any incredible photos that you see if you google the place. (Notice the backpack in the left corner and the people on the right? Craziness, I tell you!)
The next day was medina day. Because I had such a difficult time in Fes, I was slightly concerned, but it ended up being peaceful and rather uneventful.
The first place I visited was Ben Youseff Madrassa, an islamic theological college. It could house up to 900 students, and the rooms were. . . extremely tiny. Which sparked an hour long conversation with a British couple in a corridor. Leading to discussions of art, travel, and random musings of the Moroccan experience.
My next mission was visiting the Bahia Palace, or "Brilliance". It's a 19th century palace with over 150 rooms, yet tourists have access to only a few. I was rather disappointed. After wandering through the inner maze, I stepped outside to the palace grounds concerned that I missed something! How could I see the place so quickly? There had to be more rooms that I didn't see. . . so I went back inside. But no, it was really that short of a visit. It was rather dark in some rooms, so I didn't even bother taking photos.
After leaving the palace, it was time for the final destination. The infamous square. The Jemaa el-Fna!
It was quite the experience, reminiscent of a huge festival or fair. There was so much activity, smoke in the air, music playing, "snake charmers" trying to get their snakes to dance. . . SPOILER ALERT. . . it wasn't working. It was so funny! They would have several snakes grouped together in hopes that one would dance for them. It was pathetic more than anything else. I laughed from afar - not wanting to risk them slivering towards me!
I had a good experience, as most things get uglier after dark (so I was told). The Henna ladies didn't grab me, and when they said hello, they left me alone after I said "no". Vendors acted the norm and nobody was unkind. I stopped by a packed food tent to see what the fuss was about. A young (male) patron greeted me, and I inquired about the popularity. He ended up offering to let me try his food and explained everything on the menu. It was mostly straight seafood, most breaded and fried, so I declined. But was overwhelmed with the hospitality and friendliness. The guy ended up walking me to another place with a fresh vegetable menu.
I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly orange juice guys, you could drink samples all day and never pay, but each glass was only 40 cents, so why not pay? Some offered the "mixed fruit" sample to up-sell people from the oranges. One vendor gave me a second glass, which I had originally rejected, so I offered it to a lady who seemed to be poor and in need of filling her stomach.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Marrakech, and fully intend on returning in the future. . . when I need to do interior shopping! Rugs, lanterns and poufs, oh my!