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Marrakesh Square of the Dead! Snake charmers, Yve St Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle.

moroccan lanterns, square of dead medina

Morocco remains one of my favorite destinations of all time. Plan-It Fez Tours took us on an extraordinary road trip throughout the country, which we captured in this travel video.

I still have a few tales to tell from mysterious Marrakesh. (Doesn’t it look like I am searching for Aladdin’s magic lamp?)

square of the dead marrakech view night

In this photo diary, I’ll share our photos from the Square of the Dead (Jemaa el-Fnaa), which has a dark history to match its name.

jardin majorelle morocco, fashion blogger

We’ll also take a stroll in Jardin Majorelle, the garden of French couture designer Yve Saint Laurent.

Jemaa el-Fnaa vendors

Anyone who comes to Marrakesh must see the ancient marketplace, the Square of the Dead (Gemaa el Fna). The name likely refers to the public executions that took place in this plaza, around the 11th century.

During the daytime, the Square of the Dead is not as crowded. Vendors begin to set up their food stalls in the afternoon.

snake charmers, square of dead morocco

Even during this less busy time, the Square of the Dead can feel overwhelming to the senses. You’ll encounter monkeys performing tricks, snake charmers sticking out their tongues at cobras, and water bearers in traditional Moroccan costumes.

(Be aware that if you take photos of them, they’ll ask for about a dollar, and won’t let you go until you pay up.)

orange juice vendors marrakesh

You’ll come across rows of friendly orange juice vendors. The citrus fruits are extremely tasty in Morocco, and refreshing on a hot day. The price for a large, freshly squeezed cup is also a fraction of what you’d pay at an American juice shop.

Djeema-el-fna morocco

Many readers asked me: is it safe in Marrakesh, especially for solo female travelers?

Yes. The medina is clean and well policed. Just exercise your usual caution (such as giving a firm no to touts, and keeping your belongings secure). Even if you cover up your limbs, you may encounter some cat-calls — simply move on, and don’t let it take away from your experience here.

woman in burka, morocco

The marketplace is a bit touristy, but still conveys the feeling of time standing still. Incredible that the medina has been the center of activity in Marrakesh, ever since the 11th century!

snake charmers square of dead morocco

We couldn’t resist filming the snake charmers in action. They coaxed the reptiles with music, and put their faces close to cobras who reared their heads and hissed. (Photography by Borderless Media.)

snake charming, cobras morocco

This slithering snake is non-poisonous. This man draped the animal around our heads and shoulders, and encouraged us to stick out our tongues.

tajines, moroccan pottery

There’s a lot to see and shop in the medina. I loved these little tagines, or triangular clay pots that can hold spices or other belongings.  Each is only $1 US , so I got some for my cat to use as food bowls!

main square marrakech, souvenirs

One of these magic lanterns has a genie inside, I’m sure of it…

evening Jemaa el Fna, mosque

Night falls, and the Square of the Dead lives up to its spooky name. From a restaurant high up, we took in this fascinating view of the medina. The food stations are open, and smoke wafts over the hoards of people. (Here’s my Vine video of the action.)

The glowing tower is Koutoubia Mosque, which dates back to the 12th century. From the minaret, we heard the muezzin singing the call to prayer — and felt like we had time-traveled back into time.

moroccan medina games, fishing

The souk was filled with strange and mesmerizing sights. We saw locals gathered in a circle to play a game, which involves using tall fishing poles to grab a soda bottle. Like in amusement parks, very few participants succeeded.

As I explored, I felt like I was in a tale from 1001 Arabian nights. We passed Chleuh dancing-boys (who crossdress as women), storytellers, musicians, peddlers and magicians.

mint tea vendors marrakesh

The energy levels are especially high in the food and drink areas. Vendors set up stations in closely-packed rows, and offer everything from mint tea…

eating snails morocco

… to snails and sheep brains. For the less adventurous eaters, there are grilled meats, dried fruit and nuts, and the ever-present orange juice carts.

traveling alone woman morocco

The atmosphere can be a bit intense, especially for women traveling alone. Be prepared for stares, and for the vendors to approach you and yell out names (I got called Lady Gaga and Barbie).

Just ignore the words, keep on walking, and don’t let them grab you (as the more aggressive sellers might do).

moroccan men, marrakesh street food

It’s all part of the Marrakesh experience, and I never felt unsafe. (Watch our travel video to see these scenes in action.)

private luxury guided tours morocco

One of the best decisions we made was to travel with Plan-It Fez Tours. I spoke with friends who did Morocco on their own, and they told me they felt stressed by logistics such as public transportation. They told me about taxi drivers who tried to scam them, and touts who constantly approached them.

Thanks to our friendly driver and guides, we encountered none of these complications.

sheep crossing road morocco

With a car, we got to visit off the beaten path places — such as Berber villages several miles from Marrakesh. Our Plan-It Fez guides introduced us to locals and translated Arabic, making immersive activities such as a henna workshop possible.

jardin majorelle guided tour

We visited Jardin Majorelle, which was designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 30s. Our guide Mohammed told us about the fascinating history of Marrakesh, from its earliest days through the French protectorate and independence.

marrakesh garden, maroc jardin majorelle

The red paths are surrounded by cacti plants and calm pools dotted with water lilies. Birds call out from under the palm canopies.

The winding garden pathways lead to the French artist’s house, built in Moorish and Art Deco styles. The bold cobalt blue color, which brightens up the entire property, is called Majorelle Blue. 

yve st laurent grave, tomb morocco

Since 1980, Majorelle Garden was owned by fashion legend Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. I visited the gravestone of YSL, who died in 2008.

To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by Jardin Majorelle. There were a lot of tourists around, and I was more impressed with the lush landscapes at our Royal Mansour hotel. Nevertheless, I enjoyed spending time here with the jovial Mohammed, and seeing St Laurent’s illustrations in a special art display.

atlas mountains, morocco scenery

Sometimes, the best travel moments are not from visiting famous attractions — but merely sitting back and enjoying the ride. Nowhere but in Morocco can you see views like these: the High Atlas mountains and argan trees. 

tangier landscape, sunset

We originally came to North Africa by taking the ferry from Algeciras (southern tip of Spain) to Tangier (northernmost point of Morocco). Plan-It Fez picked us up, and we began a road trip along the coast.

tangier attractions, clubs

From these first moments, we were fascinated by the contrast of ancient and modern. We saw glitzy nightclubs pumping with music and women in sequined headscarves on the boardwalk… and then turned into the Tangier medina, which looked like scene from Medieval times.

morocco pink sunset, red sky

The sun set over the waters, turning the sky blood red.

scary arabic poster

As the hours on the road passed, we drifted into semi-sleep. The car zipped by this alien-esque Arabic poster, and I wondered if I was in a dream.

marrakesh square market medina nighttime

I leave you with this image of the lively Square of the Dead, at dusk.

Is Marrakesh what you expected it to be? I hope you enjoy our Morocco travel video – please take a minute to watch, and let us know what you think!

SHARE & COMMENT

Filed Under Fashion, Morocco
29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    A magical city.
    Xoxox

  2. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    So much colour and detail in there :D

    • Posted May 1, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      In real life, even more!

  3. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Go girl!!!

  4. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    oohs & aahs

  5. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Passionate traveler <3

  6. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    nice one

  7. Posted April 29, 2016 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    wow beautiful. love your blog,

  8. Posted April 29, 2016 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    This was an awesome post! Plan It Fez is amazing!!

    • Posted May 1, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      They made this trip go SO smooth, I’m really happy we traveled with them after hearing about other people’s not-as-nice experiences !

  9. Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Marrakesh is the Best.

  10. Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Love This Place …Thanks !

  11. Posted April 30, 2016 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Daaaaamn! Truly, La Carmina. . .you’re a world traveler! <3

  12. Posted May 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    chic

  13. Posted May 1, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    vibrant markets.
    let me come too.

  14. Posted May 2, 2016 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    I get called Lady Gaga so much in China…

  15. Posted May 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    loved this article!!! gorgeous photos too!

  16. Posted May 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’ve travelled to Tunisia and Egypt, and I think that often the traders, trying to get a customer’s attention, will call out whatever English name they know to get attention. Sometimes it gets irritating, but I never felt unsafe . . . I agree with you that the best response is just to keep on walking !

    • Posted May 5, 2016 at 1:30 am | Permalink

      I wish I could travel there…

  17. Posted May 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Keep on keeping on, stay safe as always. from one Pac NW’r to another

  18. Posted May 5, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    this makes my imagination fly!!

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