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Marrakech 2012

For the third Christmas in a row I was off to foreign climes. This time I was heading to north east Africa to experience the madness of Marrakech – and taking a baby with me?! (My own baby. I hadn’t stolen someone else’s!!) I normally stay in budget and mid-range hotels when I travel. But, with a not-yet-one-year-old in tow, I decided to up my game and lodge at an ultra-luxurious former Palace instead. And, thanks to a little charm and a lot of generosity, I got another upgrade… to an Imperial Suite!!

Marrakech Menara International Airport
The holiday begins! Arrived at Marrakech Menara International Airport. Much cleaner, more modern and organised than I was expecting.

Things started really badly though. British Airways routed our bags to somewhere else. They didn’t get them back to us for four days. And never apologised for their f*ckup either. Have you ever tried looking after a baby in a foreign land without an adequate supply of milk, nappies and clothes?? It’s pretty damned stressful. The hotel staff went above and beyond though, and we couldn’t have been more grateful for all their help.

UPDATE: So I’d filed a complaint at the airport before leaving and given BA my hotel address and several phone numbers. Heard nothing. On the off-chance, I gave them a ring for an update on the missing suitcase. Result! It had arrived at Marrakech airport. Were they going to send it to me? Were they hell! They wanted ME to go and pick it up from THEM! Because, you know… it was MY fault THEY lost my luggage.
Desperately needed the baby milk, baby food and clothes so I couldn’t be bothered to argue. Jumped in a cab, high-tailed it down to the airport. Took them 30 mins to find it. However, before I could leave with it, customs wanted to go through it to make sure I wasn’t smuggling contraband. FFS. Another 30 mins.
Eventually, dumped the suitcase in a cab and went back to the hotel. So relieved to finally have access to my (twelvety) precious things. But luck just wasn’t on my side. The taxi boot wouldn’t open. Jammed! Driver, assisted by hotel staff, tried for 20 mins to get it open. No joy.
Driver said he was going to go somewhere and get the boot opened. Not really comfortable about that but he was known to the hotel so thought I didn’t really have a choice. TWO hours later he comes back. Told me had to have someone cut the lock out with an acetylene torch. It cost him £120 and he wanted ME to pay for it. Yeh right!? Because it’s MY fault YOUR taxi had a mechanical problem. Gave him the standard fare and a tip. Grabbed my bag and said goodbye. FINALLY the holiday can begin properly.

The Imperial Palace (Sofitel)

Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Welcome to The Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech.

Do you want to know how nice the staff are here? At breakfast in the hotel restaurant, the baby sneezed and a passing waiter said “Alhamdulillah”! (Then the baby grabbed my expensive new watch off my wrist and smashed it into the marble breakfast table and the screen shattered. So, overall, breakfast wasn’t an entirely positive experience. But you can’t blame that on the staff.)

Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech. It looks beautiful from the outside.
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech. Even more beautiful on the inside.
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The Sofitel is truly beautiful. They’ve clearly put a lot of time, money and effort into the decor.
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Good Morning Marrakech. Our new Imperial Suite has it’s own private little garden, with hammocks and loungers. Just beyond that is the heated pool, which is steaming in the morning cold. And behind that are the Atlas mountains (which you can’t see because my camera is a bit crappy!).
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Early morning and it’s COLD. Luckily there is a heated pool outside my suite that I can jump straight in to. 🙂
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Our own private little garden, which we share with the two other Imperial Suites. Beautiful place to relax.
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Anyone fancy some giant chess?? 🙂
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Anyone fancy some giant chess?? 🙂
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
It’s Christmas! So let’s put chandeliers on the orange trees… yeh, that makes *total* sense. 🙂
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Relaxing by the pool…
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Summery drinks at the poolside. 🙂
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
Not many vegetarian options in Morocco. Everything has meat. Even when it doesn’t say so on the menu. So all that’s left for me is… Vegetarian couscous tagine. 🙂 The hotel restaurant did a fantastic job with the food – but the prices they charge.. let’s just say I’m glad it was a one-off.
Sofitel Palais Imperial Marrakech
The hotel is really very clean here. You could almost be in Paris. But every now and then a little reminder pops up that you are *definitely* in Africa. For example, this visitor to our lounge… :O

Exploring Marrakech

Our hotel was in the Hivernage district of Marrakech. About 30 minutes walk from the centre. But, trust me, you don’t want to make that journey on foot in the daytime heat!

Hivernage District, Marrakech.
The Hivernage District, Marrakech.
Louis Vuitton Store Marrakech
Louis Vuitton Store, in the Hivernage district, opposite our hotel. Not really within my price range! 🙂
Palais des Congrés
Palais des Congrés – a convention centre and concert venue.
Mamounia Palace
Mamounia Palace. Possibly the fanciest residence in town. Even fancier than where I was staying!
Jardins de la Mamounia.
Jardins de la Mamounia.
Jardins de la Mamounia.
Jardins de la Mamounia, where I got to enjoy probably the most expensive lunch of my lifetime! 🙂
Marrakech Central Train Station
Marrakech Central Train Station – definitely better looking than the ones we have in the UK! 🙂
Plaza Marrakech
Plaza Marrakech – a shopaholics paradise.
Plaza Marrakech
Plaza Marrakech
Al Mazar Mall, Marrakech
Al Mazar Mall, Marrakech. Doing some shopping to replace all the clothes, toiletries and baby stuff British Airways sent to the wrong country!!
Al Mazar Mall, Marrakech.
Shopping at Al Mazar Mall, Marrakech. Trying to replace some of the essentials that British Airways decided to send to another country!
Al Mazar Mall, Marrakech.
At Al Mazar Mall, and these two really confused the baby.
(Obviously, you can’t see the confused look on her face.)

Marrakech Medina and Djemaa El-Fna

Medina entrance, Marrakech
The entrance to the Medina – the old walled city of Marrakech….

At the heart of Marrakech is the famous Djemaa El-Fnaa square. The whole place is one giant tourist trap. Always busy and bustling, crowded full of food, entertainment and so many, many scam artists. You can’t walk a yard without being accosted by hustlers and fraudsters. You’ll see local musicians, dancers, food vendors and scores of stalls selling a wide array of cheap souvenirs, worthless tat, and overpriced tours.

Expect to be accosted by women wanting to give you a henna tattoo, fake Berbers putting hats on your head, and cruel animal wranglers forcing you to handle their monkey (fnarr fnarr). And every one of them will hassle you for a massive payout. They’re best avoided. Especially the henna tattooists, who use illegal and dangerous chemicals that could well burn your skin. But, if you do want a cheesy photo in a Berber outfit or with a snake around your neck then be prepared to part with some dirhams for the privilege.

Square de Foucauld
Caleche horse-drawn carriages are plentiful in Square de Foucauld.
Place Djemaa El-Fna, Marrakech.
Place Djemaa El-Fna, Marrakech.
Place Djemaa El-Fna, Marrakech.
Souvenirs aplenty at Djemaa El-Fna.
Djemaa El-Fna
Definitely try out the fresh fruit juice at the stalls in Djemaa El-Fna.
But double-check the price before you agree to buy!
Djemaa El-Fna horses
Time for a horsie ride…
Marrakech Medina
The souks of Marrakech Medina.
Marrakech Medina.
The souks of Marrakech Medina.
Marrakech Medina.
The souks of Marrakech Medina.
Marrakech Medina.
The souks of Marrakech Medina.
Marrakech Halal KFC
Halal KFC. It’s the only place in the Medina where we could actually change the baby.
Wouldn’t dream of doing it in any of the grotty cafés dotted around the place.
Masjid Koutoubia
My first view of the Masjid Koutoubia, the large mosque next to the Djemaa El-Fna in central Marrakech.
Masjid Koutoubia
Masjid Koutoubia
Masjid Koutoubia
Masjid Koutoubia
Kasbah, Marrakech
Spice shopping in the Kasbah area of town.
Djemaa El-Fna
Djemaa El-Fna – very busy on a Friday after prayers. Snake charmers, monkey shows, traditional music live, so much to see.
Djemaa El-Fna
Djemaa El-Fna
Djemaa El-Fna
Djemaa El-Fna – very busy on a Friday after prayers.
Snake charmers, monkey shows, traditional live music, so much to see.
Marrakech Halal KFC
My favourite restaurant! Kidding. It’s just convenient for changing the baby. 🙂

Le Jardin Majorelle

The Majorelle Botanical Garden was created by the French Orientalist artist Jacques Majorelle in 1923, and took more than forty years to perfect. Situated in two and half acres, north of the city centre, just off the Rue Yves Saint Laurent. It’s home to the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech, the Berber Museum and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum.

Le Jardin Majorelle.
A beautiful oasis in the middle of Marrakech.
Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Jardin Majorelle.
The Yves Saint Laurent monument at Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Café Majorelle at Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Café Majorelle at Le Jardin Majorelle.
Le Café Majorelle.
Traditional Berber lunch at Le Café Majorelle. (I’m showing you pictures of my food. I’m so ashamed!)

Bahia Palace

Le Palais De La Bahia is an ornate and beautiful palace, built at the end of the 19th century for grand viziers of the Sultan. It gives you a good idea of what it must have been like to be a 19th-century nobleman in Morocco. There is a nice garden with banana flowers, tranquil courtyards, and other lovely plants. And stray cats. Lots and lots of stray cats.

Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.
Le Palais De La Bahia.

Farewell Marrakech

Before I left Marrakech, just before the New Year arrived, I had one last chance to stroll around the town and also to explore the hotel a little bit more.

The Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains can be easily seen from almost anywhere in Marrakech.
Bab Jdid, Marrakech
Bab Jdid. Behind the fountains you can see the Atlas Mountains. This was the last sunset before we had to leave.
Hivernage Quarter of Marrakech
Time to say goodbye to the Hivernage Quarter of Marrakech. 🙁
Atlas Mountains
View of the Atlas Mountains from our hotel. Truly stunning.
Atlas Mountains
Marrakech Medina
Taking one last look at Marrakech Medina from our hotel rooftop. Very sad to be leaving. Hope to return again soon.
Published inAfricaMoroccoMuslim WorldTravels

One Comment

  1. […] Another popular attraction that’s on every “must do in Marrakech” list is the 19th century Bahia Palace. Unfortunately, my photos didn’t come out well this time around. However, you can always click here to see the post from my last visit. […]

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