I can't quite believe that already six weeks have passed since our short trip to Marrakech! Going to Morocco is something that for some reason, seems crazily bold for many people, and very unusual due to the fact that it is a *dun-dun* Muslim country AND in "Africa". I've had seasoned travellers gape in wonder when I told them I went to Morocco on my own when I was 23, and before I had gone to any other "non 1st world" country.

Now, Morocco remains one of my favourity countries, yet, going there is simply no big deal. Morocco has had close ties with Western Europe for a long time (simply given its location and the fact that is used to both a French and Spanish colony), and given the influx of cheap flights, has become even more western-friendly. Morocco has an excellent train network and pretty much all ameneties you would look for in a "rich" country, yet it remains decidedly... Moroccan (people don't seem to like being lumped in with "Arab" countries as a big part of the population is Berber and the middle and upper classes strongly influenced by French culture).

If you are in Europe already, it's not a difficult place to get to, either: a flight from London to the Northern half of Morocco takes 3 hrs, 3.5 hours to Marrakech.

In short: there's no reason to hesitate or be intimidated to go to Morocco!

A visit to Yves Saint Laurent's Jardin Marjorelle offers an interesting combination of Spanish, French, Arab and Berber (native North African) culture. I actually missed out on the place on my last visit as I was only in Marrakech for two days, so this was on top of my list.

The gardens were established by French artist Jacques Marjorelle and later bought by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner - another example how Morocco accepted even those who were somehow "different" decades ago already (an openly gay couple running a landscaped garden in a Muslim country!).

Unfortunately, while we visited, about half of the garden seemed to be closed to the public due to renovation works, but that wasn't actually that bad because it's the atmosphere with lots of water and cooling blue tiles that makes the visit worthwile, more so than the plants themselves in my opinion (after all, it's not a botanical garden).

The absolute highlight for me was the small Berber museum, in which we unfortunately couldn't take any pictures and where every room seemed to have a ridiculous amount of "security" in the form of pushy bouncers you'd expect in a fancy west London nightclub. The different rooms show crafts, jewellery, clothing and much more about Berber culture and would be worth the quite hefty entrance fee (about $12, a lot considering most attractions in Morocco will cost you maybe $3).

Especially if you spend most of your time in the hustle of Marrakech's touristy main square and medina, the garden and museum seem like an oasis of tranquility.

On top of that, there are a bunch of really fancy yuppy-ish restaurants and an organic juice bar place outside the gardens - it might not be traditional Moroccan, but the place right at the corner opposite the entrance was uber trendy and served some of the best smoothies we've ever tried!


One Comment

  1. Great post. I gave you a shout out on Queer Landia today. Here's the link! Happy and safe travels.

    http://queerlandia.com/2013/04/30/the-queer-nomad/

    Mike Martinez, Chief Queer

    ReplyDelete

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