Essaouira - A Colorful Medina -

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Essaouira is a port city perched on the Atlantic Ocean about two and a half hours for the bus ride from Marrakesh. The bus lines are operated by Supratours. Buses depart from Gueliz and arrive at a bus stop adjacent to the Medina in Essaouira.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted by blue skies filled with seagulls along with a refreshing sea breeze and bustle of busy fisherman scurrying about. The Medina of Essaouira is circled by tall walls. Within you’ll find the famous white and blue buildings along the main roads surrounding the souk. If you’d like to stop for a drink or something to eat, I suggest the square in the center of the Medina. The souk here is a much less chaotic and more maritime version of the one in Marrakesh. It is still just as disorienting though, especially the Souk au poisson (fish souk).

Walking around the seafront, you’ll notice numerous stalls selling freshly squeezed orange juice, or alternatively, some sweets made with marijuana ;-).

For dinner, I strongly recommend trying one of the many fish stalls around the “grillade de poissons” (grilled fish). Here you’ll be able to find grilled freshly caught fish straight from boat to plate.

Marrakech - Palais de la Bahia & Mellah -

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The Palais de la Bahia (Bahia Palace) is, in my opinion, the most interesting palace in Marrakesh. The palace, built in a nouveau riche style, served as the former harem for the visir, housing his 4 wives and numerous concubines. Although there are no longer any furnishings, the opulent decorations and mosaics on the courtyard walls are worth the visit. The palace includes 8 hectares of gardens all interconnected by magnificent fountains. Entry is quite cheap at 10 dirhams, around one euro.

Mellah, the Jewish quarter, is just steps away from the Palais de la Bahia. It’s not hard to see at first glance that this neighborhood is different than the rest. It is the poorest and least touristic area, as evidenced by it’s cleanliness and upkeep compared to Medina. Mellah is, however, famous for its spice market. Here you can find items at considerably lower prices than in the souk. Don’t miss the synagogue and Jewish cemetery!

Marrakech - The Souk & Place Jemaa-el-Fna -

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The souks, or suqs, are the typical covered markets that you can find scattered throughout the Medina. They are one of the main attractions of Marrakesh. As soon as you enter, you’ll get lost in the small alleys full of tiny shops, colorful stalls, exotic smells, sounds, and the loud voices of the merchants trying to tout their wares- all sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitors. Remember the golden rule in Marrakesh, NEGOTIATE for EVERYTHING! The market stretches from the Ben Youssef Mosque in the North to the famous Jemaa-el-Fna square in the South. It is organized into areas dedicated to specific goods and activities: leathers, wool, jewelry, produce, lanterns, apparel, dried goods, spices etc.. Take a break afterwards in one of the many terraces to sip on a mint tea and admire the sunset.

Of the souvenirs available I suggest: some small bottles of argan or rose oil, spices (curry, turmeric, etc), the famous black soap used in hammam for a quick scrub or the iconic Morrocan slippers worn by none other than Aladdin.

Jemaa-el-Fna square is the true epicenter of all the chaos that is Marrakesh. During the day, you’ll find snake charmers and stalls selling dentures (yes, you read correctly, dentures), street artists, monkey trainers, henna tattoo artists, horse drawn carts, and vendors selling dates and freshly squeezed orange juice.

By night, the market makes way for stalls serving up fresh local cuisine. It is definitely worth trying at least once! Although there are seemingly an infinite number of stalls, they are all in fact numbered which is helpful to find specific ones. The most famous that I tried was the“Aicha N°1” read here to learn more!

The square is dominated by the Koutubia mosque, the tallest in Marrakesh. A few steps from the mosques is the Cyber Jardin on Avenue Mohammed V, and L’Embsemble Artisanal, a sort of artisans quarter where prices are fixed and there is no bargaining. It seemed a little too touristy for my liking.