Monday was a waste. We spent our day on the road from Fez to Marrakech, and it was my least favorite portion of the Gate 1 itinerary. I would have chosen an alternate option instead of traveling via bus from Casablanca to Rabat to Fez to Marrakech and back to Casablanca. Since there was only a week to explore four cities, every hour mattered. Unfortunately we wasted too much time on the road.
I knew I would like Marrakech as soon as we entered the city. There was a modern feel that I didn’t get from any of the other Moroccan cities we had previously visited. It felt cleaner and slightly more glamorous – a bit more palatable for a common tourist.
Before checking into our hotel, we stopped at Herboristerie Bab Agnoua. The men showcased the various Moroccan herbs, oils, and spices available. They explained the ingredients and it’s impact on the body. I bought argan oil and eczema ointment, and these products were the best purchase I made in Morocco.
The hotel Gate 1 used in Marrakech was the worst of them all. There we were in the North African heat, and none of the hotels had air conditioning that was up to par. The air conditioning at the hotel in Marrakech was so faint that we didn’t bother running it. We attempted to change rooms, but a second room had the same issue. This is the main reason I would refrain from using Gate 1 for this particular tour.
Unbeknownst to me, everyone from the group was going to the optional carriage ride and dinner that night, so I was left on my own. I decided to dress up and have a solo dinner at La Mamounia. La Mamounia was noted as one of the best hotels on the continent of Africa, and I was expecting a pleasant experience.
Have you ever been somewhere and just knew you were too poor to be there? That’s what I felt about La Mamounia. I’m sure the only thing I could afford there was the meal. Everything else was outside of my tax bracket. It was a beautiful hotel with attention to every detail and several luxury shops.
I sat at the outdoor terrace and caught the breeze under the night sky. I counted the stars, and thanked the gods for allowing me to be there. I thanked the gods for some alone time. I was served bread, wine, an appetizer, the main course selection of osso buco, and a limoncello dessert. I devoured it all before taking the slow stroll back to my hotel.
Tuesday, the group members were free to do anything at their leisure. I woke up with the intention of visiting Marjorelle Gardens, getting henna, and having a nice lunch before enjoying a spa treatment. Instead I woke up to a group chat message from our group leader stating she was organizing a tour of the Marrakech medina. I decided to be a team player despite being uninterested – I had done enough shopping in the Fez medina. My urge to control each and everything would be the death of me, and I needed to learn how to let some things go.
We arrived at the medina with a guide our group leader hired off the side of the road, and was welcomed to a crazy scene that included snake charmers and random henna artists. When one approached me and offered henna, I shrugged and told her “la.” She scolded me like I was her child and said “La??? La shukran!” I smiled at her demands for me to respect my elders, repeated “la shukran” apologetically, and kept moving.
The plan for the day was to purchase abayas at one of the many shops for a group photo on the following day in Casablanca. I already had plans to purchase mine at a shop next door to the spa, so I was really just hanging around and joking with the other ladies. Once everyone found what they were looking for, there wasn’t much time left before three of us needed to leave for our spa appointment.
When the group decided to get lunch at a haphazardly selected restaurant, I started sweating. This thing of just finding the closest restaurant in view wasn’t how I did things, and unresearched visits stressed me out. It turned out to be a lovely restaurant, but I only ordered a cheesecake because time was ticking. We still needed to navigate out of the medina and take a taxi to the location of the spa. The guide finally lead us out of the medina, and we were able to make it to our appointment 30 minutes late.
We arrived at Les Bains de Marrakech, and they welcomed us despite our tardiness. I was thankful I selected this spa out of all of the others because it was easy to find. My appointment was for a 45-minute hammam and one-hour massage. The hammam included traditional body scrub with black soap and kessa glove and ghassoul body mask, while the relaxing body massage was with argan oil and herbal extracts.
It was a group of three of us during the hammam bath. We entered the marble room naked and before I could sit all the way down on the marble bench, the woman threw a bucket of warm water in my face. I wasn’t ready! She rinsed, washed, and scrubbed me all the way down. Then I went for a relaxing massage, and every bit of aggravation I had earlier that day went away. I walked out of that massage like a whole new woman.
My roommate and I had both complained about lack of washcloths in Morocco, and we’d been washing our bodies with our hands. I usually brought a pack of cheap washcloths when I travelled, but I forgot to put them in my luggage. Getting a good scrub down felt like we were finally clean, and the spa let us keep the scrubbing mits, so we were clean the rest of the trip.
“Maybe if they used wash cloths, they wouldn’t have to go to the hammam every week and scrub their skin every week,” my roommate said smugly. I laughed and agreed.
We left the spa and caught a taxi who was dropping someone else off at the gate. Instead of asking how much it would be to get to our hotel, the ladies to hopped in. In my minimal french, I tried to tell the driver to turn on the meter, but he refused. Que sera sera. I was trying to let things go. If we overpay, we overpay. We paid the equivalent of $5 dollars for the ride, and I let out a sigh of relief at not being over-overcharged. Since I only had that cheesecake earlier, I stopped at the hotel restaurant for a burger. Yes, I was quite disappointed in myself for failing to eat Moroccan food all day everyday.
Later that evening, the group met for a dinner at a lounge inside a nearby hotel. SO Lounge was beautiful spot, but not very busy on the Tuesday. They had a dj playing 90s r&b, a burlesque show, and live music. We were sitting in our section when the dj starting playing a gospel song. It thought it sounded familiar and as I kept listening, I realized it was Mary Mary. I chuckled. That night was probably the most fun I had the entire trip. I was relaxed and not sweating the small stuff, and enjoying great food and drinks along with great people.
The next day we went to Casablanca.