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Visiting Menara gardens and the luxurious Mamounia hotel

Home -> Africa -> Morocco -> Travelogue Morocco -> 13 September 2003

Saturday 13 September, visiting Menara gardens and the luxurious Mamounia hotel

Teije has another one of his good ideas: walking through this weather to the Menara gardens (near the airport), a walk of at least three kilometers. At night we already need the air conditioning, let alone at daytime! At night it is almost impossible to sit on our balcony since the heat accumulates under the low ceiling and it even gets warmer with the recycled air from the air conditioning. In the morning it feels much cooler when we have breakfast, but the sun never shines on this patio.
It is hot!Okay, let's walk! Well, you can see how I look after an hour walking! Exhausted and thirsty we rest against the walls of the huge Hilton hotel. We are already in sight of the Menara Gardens, a large olive grove (90 hectare). Next time we take a cab!
Menara gardens Menara gardensThe Menara Gardens are not really very interesting but when the sky is clear one can see the mountains of the High Atlas. But it is a bit misty, so we see only the outlines of the mountains. From a pavillion we look over a rectangular pool which has been created in the 12th century by a sultan to supply his soldiers with water. Later it became a source of drinking water for the city. To the people here this must be quite extraordinary, such a big pond in the middle of the desert.
Hotel MoumouniaOn our way back to the city we take a cab, it is too hot to walk too far. We want to have a drink at the Mamounia hotel, one of the most famous hotels in the world, as we have been told. Our cabdriver shows us brochures of other hotels and restaurants he wants to show us, but we are not fooled and keep saying we just want to go to the Mamounia hotel.
Hotel Moumounia Hotel MoumouniaWe enter another world when we step through the gate, the luxury world of sultans and pasha's. Churchill often stayed here. The main building is a mixture of art-deco and Arabian styles and we wander in admiration through the building, as if we belong here.
Prices for a normal double room start at € 200 a night in low season (obviously without breakfast which costs another € 19 per person), but for a bit more luxury in high season prices can rise above € 1000 a night. Maybe we could do that after we have won the lottery, now we know of better ways to spend our money. We only order a cheap drink in one of the 6 bars of the hotel: € 4 for a small cup of coffee, but it is served in style. There are many places where we have paid much more for coffee (like in Berlin and Norway).
Hotel Moumounia Hotel MoumouniaIt takes us some time before we have found our way to one of the 6 bars and the terrace outside, but we choose to sit inside to enjoy the air conditioning. After an hour, observing the guests, we are ready to leave this cool place again, but not after walking a bit more through the hallways. We would like to take an astray as a souvenir, but we restrain ourselves.
Hotel MoumouniaThe hotel is surrounded by a beautiful garden (13 hectare according to the Dutch travel guide, 5 according to the English guide) where dozens of gardeners are busy watering the trees. It is quite a contrast to the poor urban districts that we have seen. Therefore, we give a bit more money to the beggars today. It won't help much, but at least it is something we can do.
Roof garden near Jemaa el-FnaFrom the Mamounia hotel we walk through the southern souks to the north until we reach Jemaa el Fna square. Like all days before we take our seat here to watch the restless crowd for hours. I keep being astonished by the chaos and the noise, the women that are totally wrapped up in garbs and the activity op people that often doesn't seem to have a purpose.
There is a man walking with a handcart, building a stall on the square. First he brings some struts and boards. He just leaves them on the spot and walks away with his empty cart. After one hour he returns with more boards and the stall is growing slowly. And again, he takes his cart for the next load. We have no idea what finally became of it since we didn't stay that long.
Another remarkable thing is the behaviour of the people: as soon as a quarrel threatens to start or get out of hand (which happens a lot in the traffic), an outsider interferes to separate the arguers. The same happens here on the square. A Moroccon tourist threatens to attack one of the snakecharmers (who is very annoying, we must say, whining for more money) but a passer-by interferes with them and separates the two men. Another example: a blind man tries to cross the street. When a passer-by sees this, he takes the man's arm and brings him to the other side of the street. Then he walks back and goes his own way. A very social people.
Our hotel, Le Grand SudBack at the hotel, Teije walks to the back to make a picture of the hotel and our balcony. I must be somewhere up there. Like many buildings it is coloured red. Stone red, earth red, a real desert colour. The 5 meters high wall around the Medina has the same colour, as the earth we have seen along the way to the Menara Gardens and also in the Palmeraie. Marrakech is also called the Red City for the clay that is used in the bricks.
At night we look for our favourite beggar but he is already gone, wherever he sleeps. Probably with his family since not many beggars sleep on the streets at night. He just contributes his share of the family income by begging and gets food and housing in return.
Every night we eat something different (tonight in Charly's again) but the taste always seem to be a bit the same. Is it our spoilt taste? It doesn't matter wether it is pizza, beef, or fish, it is all the same. Only the couscous is different, much more tasty but the amount of food is also three times more than the other dishes.
When we walk back to the hotel at 11, we see a woman with her child sitting under a tree, begging. They don't look very healthy and we give her 2 euro. In Holland we could buy 1 coffee for that amount, but here it is much more and she is delighted with it. She starts blessing us in French and Arabian and keeps on even when we have walked on. At least, we feel much better giving the money directly to the beggars than giving it to a relief organisation in Holland where one just never knows how much money will really be used for the people that need it. But still, it is a terrible shame that there is so much poverty in the world.


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