Morocco and its Imperial Cities, Part 2
Updated: Apr 22
We had a fantastic time in Fes and it was now time to drive to Marrakech, the last Imperial City of our trip. There are toll roads between the two cities. It took us seven hours (with stops) and we arrived in Marrakech in the afternoon. It was very warm (90 degrees and above) and we were glad that we booked a modern hotel with air conditioning. The riads we stayed at in other cities had AC, but the flow of air coming to your room was similar to AC in most European hotels. We stayed at Les Jardins de la Koutoubia, located next to the legendary Jemaa el-Fna square. They have three restaurants, two bars, two swimming pools and a spa by Carita. The rooftop lounge was closed, but the rooftop restaurant, Les Jardins de Bala, was open. We enjoyed this restaurant so much that we dined there three times. They have a very good choice of Indian and Asian cuisine. The chef is from India and the hostess, his wife, is from Toulouse in France.
We had a private guide for our first day in Marrakech. He picked us up at the hotel. We visited the Jardin Majorelle and the Berber Museum located inside the Yves Saint Laurent mansion. The tickets are pricey but it is well worth the visit. Our guide took us next to the Bahia Palace, located inside the medina. It was built by Grand Vizier Si Musa in the 1860s and later expanded by his son, Si Ba Ahmed, for his four wives and 24 concubines. It has 150 rooms with Andalusian and Moorish influences. Afterwards we walked through the medina and shopped with our guide for a couple of hours. We ended our tour at the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, located a few steps from our hotel.
We had previously decided to make a two-day trip to Ouarzazate, near the High Atlas Mountains. The city is known as a gateway to the Sahara Desert. It’s a five-hour drive from Marrakech. The road has improved since my last trip, but there are still a lot of potholes and on-going construction. I would not recommend this drive unless you are an experienced traveler. Next time we will fly from Marrakech. However, it’s very picturesque and the Atlas Mountains are beautiful.
In Ouarzazate-we visited the Atlas Studios, where they filmed movies such as Gladiators, the Mummy, Jewel of the Nile and some scenes from the Game of Thrones. We spent the night at a riad, the Temple des Arts. It is a boutique hotel with seven rooms owned by a film producer. Again, we had the place for ourselves. The service was excellent and the staff made everything for us to have a perfect stay. We had dinner at the Berber Palace, a favorite location for the stars during their visits. We dined at Le Focaccia, their Italian restaurant located poolside. The food was excellent.
One of the highlights of the trip to Ouarzazate was a visit to Ait Ben Haddou (UNESCO world heritage site). Games of Thrones decided to use Ait Ben Haddou as the backdrop for the so-called ‘yellow city’. We were there early in the morning and were the first visitors in the village. That was amazing!
We returned to Marrakech the next day. We had one day of rest in Marrakech before we flew back to the US. We went back to the square and enjoyed the hotel’s pool and lounge. Altogether it was a fantastic trip. So much to see, wonderful room, beautiful hotels and simply wonderful people.