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    Slippered footsteps through the Bahia Palace, Marrakech

    Every step Becca and I took with our local guide Sahmi seemed to sink us further and further into a gem box as we explored the winding souk lanes of Marrakech and then the Bahia Palace. Exquisitely laid mosaic floors, fragrant orange-tree lined terraces and bare plaster walls awaiting thick winter tapestries, crowned with neck achingly ornate ceilings.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

     

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    And the occasional inevitable shoefie. You can take the blogger out of London, but you’ll never quite conquer her photography addiction…

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh   

    The Bahia Palace set in extensive gardens, was built in the late 19th century by the Grand Vizier of Marrakech, Si Ahmed ben Musa (Bou-Ahmed). Bou Ahmed resided here with his four wives, 24 concubines and many children.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh
     

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    With a name meaning “brilliance”, it was intended to be the greatest palace of its time and, as in similar developments of the period in other countries, it was designed to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. 

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    Our imaginations ran riot through the secret doors, worship chambers, enclosed spaces, large sun filled courtyards and bloom carved doors.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    Bou-Ahmed paid special attention to the privacy of the palace in its construction and employed architectural features such as multiple doors which prevented unwelcome views of the interior (mostly to protect his harem and their children.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    The palace took seven years to build, with hundreds of craftsmen from Fes working on its wood, carved stucco and zellij.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

    You can easily imagine (without the selfie wielding tourists) the slippered hustle and bustle of a Grand Vizier’s court; trays of sweetened mint tea and bite size delicacies wheeling through the corridors, whispered familial intrigues, children being naughty in amongst the lavish greenery and occasional biting words between the wives vying for affection.

    Bahia Palace, Marrakesh 

    Ahh, Marrakech.

    Morocco was such a entrancing experience 

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    The Aladdin’s Cave of Marrakech Medina pathways

    Haunting calls to prayer echoed through early afternoon hillsides raising the hair on our arms, the sun shone for most of the day before dissolving into an early wet twilight and the tang of freshly made tagines filled our plates. Our first day in Morocco had passed in a haze of poolside snacks (and a very excited Skype call home) after a bone wearingly flight, so as the second dawned we were determined to explore. (Well, ok, dawned is a touch untruthful, perhaps ‘as the second day 8am-ed’ is a little more accurate – we were after all on holiday.)

    Souk of Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Forewarned about the attention we could get travelling as women on our own in Morocco, we arranged for a local guide to meet us in the foyer of our hotel. His name was Sahmi, an enthusiastic 65-year old ex-primary school teacher who asked us what we wanted to see.

    Still slightly clueless despite frantic googling the night before and rather jet-lagged, we arranged for a half day walking tour to include the Yves St Laurent cactus garden, the labyrinthine souk and Sahmi’s favourite spots. We also asked to see the tanneries to Sahmi’s slight discomfort – they’re not a very ladylike place to show guests.

    Marrakesh The Ochure City Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Old Town of Marrakech nestles behind high walls of weather-beaten earth punctuated with square slits to let the dusty Arabic winds whistle through and keep the city breathing. Homes dripping with exotic dessert plants drape the outskirts of the sprawling souk, and somewhere at the centre lies a tourist enticing gem.

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

     

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    The Jardin Majorelle is a carefully manicured collection of exotic plantings from 5 continents, gathered over 40 years by Jacques Majorelle, a French painter who discovered the delights of Marrakech in 1917; immediately bewitched by the “oasis-city whose colours, light and souks [were] soaked with fertile and happy life”.

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    We dodged through the selfie taking tourists (selfie sticks abounded) and admired the striking studio, painted in “Majorelle blue, an ultramarine, cobalt blue, ‘evoking Africa’. Strong, deep, intense, it accentuates the green of the leaves and makes them sing.” With the intense cost of garden upkeep, it looked likely to be sold and bulldozed for a hotel before being discovered by Yves St Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. It inspired the fashion of Yves St Laurent for many years before his death in 2008, at which point a very classical memorial was built in the garden.

     

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Yves St Laurent Garden Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We left the garden to begin tracing our guides steps through the ochre walls of the Souk, a fantastical collection of winding street heaped with everything you could imagine. Stalls festooned with silk scarves, hand carved wooden everythings (included polished life size football ornaments!?), tables laden with teeth suckingly sweet slices flavoured with rose, spice, orange and cardamon.

    Souk of Marrakesh Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    Marrakesh Souk Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Walls lined with jars of Berber health cures as old as the dessert itself, the odd set of coloured fake spice cones surrounded by agog tourists, bewitching door frames hung with lamps in every metal and glass hue and tagine pots heaped in groaning piles, every size shape and colour. The smell was a riot of fragrance: fresh lemon wood carving, ylang-ylang, wafts of food from small cafes, winter orange blossom heavy on the trees, mint tea and just the hustle and bustle of people.

    Marrakesh Souk Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What struck me the most were the eyes of the shop owners. Most were trained outwards to watch their passing trade as we wandered around corners hung with metal work and down teeny alleyways. We trotted along behind our guide, popping into suggested shops (usually his friends I guess?) and Rebecca and I just soaked it all in.

    Marrakesh Souk Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We did make it through the tanneries – our sweet guide stopping off at a local market to buy handfuls of Mint for us to hold to our noses against the, er, earthy smells.

    Marrakesh Tanneries Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The Morocco tanneries were almost primal; small rooms of men hand scraping the hides off animals, a field of men stood hip deep in pits full of natural dyes and storerooms of feathers, straw, mopeds speeding around corners and donkeys pulling carts of goods (who then enjoyed a sweet treat of our mint).

    We then were taken to the mosaic encrusted Bahia Palace.

     

    Marrakesh Tanneries Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was an experience like no other.

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