21st December: Koutoubia Mosque, the Saadian Tombs & Badii Palace

Today we decided to have a relaxed day to make sure I was fully recovered. After a late start and leisurely breakfast, we chose to leave the manic markets and souks for another day and visit some of the sights of Marrakech that are within an easy walk of the riad.

First we wandered up to the market square at Jemaa El Fna, a stones throw from the riad, then we went past the long row of horse-drawn carriages or caleches offering tours, to the Koutoubia Mosque, the minaret of which dominates the skyline of the city.

After sitting in the mosque gardens for a while to get our bearings, we headed up past Bab Agnaou gate, set into the huge city walls, which form a 6 mile circuit around the old city. Spot the storks on the top! There were lots of police or guards along the opposite side of the road, dressed in differing uniforms but we didn’t dare to take their photo in case they didn’t like it. They had guns!

After popping into the Bains de Marrakech for a price list for a hammam and massage, and passing the lovely  Kasbah Mosque, our next stop was the Saadian Tombs. Here there are 66 ancient royal tombs in ornate rooms decorated with carved cedar wood and brightly coloured mosaics, around a small garden. Very beautiful.

By now we were ready for a rest and popped into the Sultana Hotel next to the tombs. We were led up to a tranquil roof garden, with great views over the tombs and and a small market square. We were to walk through this square later, and get lost in some residential alleyways on our way to the palace. It was very smelly, with fish and chickens on sale, and we had to concentrate on breathing through our mouths!

In the meantime, we rested in the lovely roof garden, enjoying the peace and the view across the city to the snowy Atlas Mountains, where we’d been only yesterday. It seemed ages ago! I was so pleased to be feeling well again, and happy the decision to come down had been the right one.

Our next stop was the Badii Palace, which we finally found our way to with a bit of help from the locals. This would have been magnificent 400 years ago, with a huge central pool and 4 sunken gardens flanked by gold encrusted walls, but all that is left now are the pock-marked walls, some lovely mosaic floors and a series of underground rooms, which the servants would have used.

There are stray cats all over Morocco. I managed to get this picture of a pretty pair in the palace.

By now it was well into the afternoon and we were hungry. We strolled back to the nearest square and chose the roof top restaurant, Kosybar, where we had a delicious lunch and our only alcohol of the holiday so far. Being in a Muslim country will please my liver! We also booked the Kosyspa for Christmas Day, after being shown around the various inviting rooms that are used for the hammam and massage, and relaxing afterwards. I’m looking forward to it!

Back at the riad, I updated my blog. I’ve nearly caught up now! Then we treated ourselves to dinner at Naranj restaurant which was nearby and had good reviews. We had a lovely evening, but I didn’t enjoy the walk back through the alleyways afterwards. There were lots of beggars, who I felt very sorry for, and I was more worried about my handbag and camera than I had been in the daytime… But this would be the same in any city. What was different was the number of bikes and scooters speeding down the alleyways. How we didn’t get hit by one, I don’t know!

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