The Secret Garden and One Last Day in the Souk

Secret garden in Marrakech

A Little Haven in the Medina

Our last day in Marrakech and initially we’d thought of taking a bus to the coast but we didn’t fancy another 3 hour drive and we haven’t really spent enough time here in the city, so we had a change of heart. We enjoyed another lazy morning with no alarm and breakfast at 9.00, which consists of little pancakes, honey and jams and hot coffee. I have my pancakes made fresh from Gluten free flour and my soya milk is warmed and served separately just for me; perfect! Yesterday we bought a lemon as we decided a little fresh lemon juice would be the perfect accompaniment… and it was.

We meandered back to the Souk. We passed some young lads playing football, we met them last night also and they remembered us. One passed Gerry the ball had he did a fake tackle and pretended to score and shouted Hakimi. They all laughed and high- fived and we left them playing; maybe the next great Moroccan player will surface from these ten year olds.

Lose Yourself in the Medina

We tried to take another route through the maze of Medina streets but still ended up at our usual roads. We wanted to buy a fridge magnet, a postcard, a little football and maybe a bag. We read blogs before we arrived with so much negative information about security in the Souk. We were initially nervous but honestly we’ve had no problems. Yes of course keep belongings safe. Yes of course pay attention as you would in any city or busy street. But, we’ve never felt unsafe and we’ve never felt pressured to buy. We look in the shops and of course the shopkeepers encourage you to go in in but you can politely say no thanks and continue. We had several jokes with us saying “only looking” “just browsing” and “maybe later”. One guy asked if we liked the colour of his cat and told us he had a green one back in the shop. People were good natured. They like to joke. Join in. Please don’t be fearful of the Medina or the Souk. We did try to buy a few things but we didn’t quite find what we were looking for. One guy did have what I wanted but wouldn’t budge on his price so we said no thanks. As we left the old guy with him told him off for being greedy, and we agreed but its always light hearted.

Le Jardin Secret

We also wanted to visit the Jardin Secret today which is in the heart of the Medina on the edge of the Souk. I guess i should explain that the Medina is Old Marrakesh; everything behind the city walls. The wall is 18 kilometres long! And inside are streets and houses and mosques and shops. In the centre of the Medina is the Souk. It feels like there are layers of shops in the Medina, in ever decreasing circles, until you reach the Souk. Inside the Souk the streets are narrow and its easy to get lost in but keep going and you’ll eventually pop out. And Google maps works inside the Souk too!

Le Jardin Secret dates back to the Saadian Dynasty, more than four hundred years ago. It eventually was left abandoned but there was a project to restore it. Inside the garden there are photos showing the restauration which took place in the early 2000s. Le Jardin Secret has been the home of some of Morocco and Marrakech’s most important political figures and is used as part of the great tradition of stately Arab-Andalusian and Moroccan palaces.

You can buy tickets at the entrance, and thankfully, unlike the Bahai Palace, the garden wasn’t too busy.

There are two sections. The Exotic Garden and the Islamic Garden. Both are lovely but we preferred the former. We sat in a quiet corner and dreamt of how we could ever recreate a garden like this. We won’t of course but we can dream! We also booked a Tower Tour. We paid an extra 40 MAD but I would say don’t bother. You can go up to the cafe, partway up the tower and get good views for free. It’s true, they are not as good as from the top but to see those views you have to stand on a box and peer over the tower walls for all of a minute. I would rather enjoy a cup of tea from the cafe.

Allow at least an hour in the garden, if you wish to linger there are plenty of shady benches; Its a quiet oasis from the bustle of the Medina.

When in Marrakech visit Jemaa el-Fna

It was after 2.00pm when we left and we headed off in the direction of Jemaa-el-Fna ( the main square) in search of a restaurant. We enjoyed our meal yesterday at the Ancient Cafe; I had a salad and Gerry had a pizza so we went back for more today. Our plan was after lunch to return to our room and pack. Some of us decided an afternoon nap would be a good idea too but I packed.

Jemaa el Fna At Night

Later we returned to the square to wander Jemaa at night. You should do this as it comes alive. First we ate at our usual ‘locals’ restaurant, Restaurant Oscar. Its just off Jemaa, sort of behind (or to the left) of the post office. Our walking guide recommended it and we’ve eaten here a few times. It’s very inexpensive and tasty simple food. I had Salad Oscar, its a meal in itself! The waiter couldn’t help laughing at Gerry’s French pronunciation, French is widely spoken in Morocco but Gerry has a strong Devon accent with his French and he’s often misunderstood. We all laughed and Gerry told him “you should hear my Moroccan” to which the waiter laughed even more and we could see him telling his colleagues and laughing again.

After we’d eaten we went in search of a cafe with a rooftop over the square for tea. We chose one right above the action and savoured our last mint tea before heading off back towards the Souk. One thing I would say is give a firm no thank you to the Henna Tattoo ladies and don’t give them your hands, I kept mine in my pockets. They have a bad reputation and our guide warned us that the ink isn’t Henna. They’re persistent but not a problem. Likewise we gave the snake charmers and monkeys similar treatment.

Gemma el Fna comes alive at night!

In the Souk, folks were closing up but we still enjoyed a few exchanges. We can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t fear the Souk, we enjoyed wandering around. Just be sensible as you would in any busy place. There is a lot of stuff that is tourist tat, probably not even made in Morocco! But there are still artisans working here and its a great experience just to wander. The Medina at night is a crazy place, an experience unlike anything we’ve experienced before. We’ll miss the energy! We’re go home tomorrow. No more travelling for us in 2022 but it is only a few weeks until 2023!

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