RTW Trip Ouarzazate to Marrakech, Morocco Day 40: Diving deep into the bustling Jemaa El Fnaa Square
Taking the bus from Ouarzazate to Marrakech is definitely full of winding roads, so be sure to take your anti motion sickness pills. Since you are driving through mountainous roads, the views are really amazing. In fact, I felt this bus ride was one of the highlights of our trip!
It looks like Greg is enjoying his conversation with this guy, but he was very scary and strange and was tagging along a bit too long.
When we arrived at the train station, we got an extremely overpriced taxi ride. All the Marrakech taxi drivers must have joined a pact to only take tourists for a rip off price. We tried bargaining, but it wasn’t happening.
Our taxi could only take us so far into the medina, and then we had to walk the last 7 minutes or so. There were a bunch of kids playing on a small street, and they knew exactly where we were headed and guided us to the tiny door, fit for a hobbit. We knocked on the door, and a French woman from Brittany answered the door, immediately telling us that we had the wrong place. After about 10 minutes confirming we were at the right place and her double checking her Booking.com account, Florence had told us that the room was occupied, but that it would be free in a couple hours. We left our bags there and headed out into town.
Within our short walk to the famous Jemaa El Fna Square, we saw donkeys, horse carts, vendors selling anything from snails to sweet pastries to sheep’s sweetbreads, and scooter traffic galore.
It was already late afternoon, so by the time we reached the square, it was dinner time. All the restaurant vendors were set up, smoke filled the air, and entertainers filled the grounds. Nightly, you would see the snake charmers, musicians, cross dressing belly dancers, water sellers, astrologers, boxers, monkey pet owners, henna artists, and primitive dentists. Taking photos of anyone proved to be difficult as they demanded high amounts of money for each photo.
We found it entertaining to watch innocent travelers take non evasive photos of the entertainers in the square, and then you would see the entertainers themselves, chase them down demanding money. Once receiving the tip, they would demand even more!?! When Lonely Planet says that it is difficult to take photos in Morocco, they really meant it. To date, it has been the hardest country to take photos in. Even if I was taking photos of spices or fruit, and not of their faces, people would get angry about it.
Watch Andrew Zimmern’s How Bizarre episode on Morocco, as it really gives you the sense of the energy in the square, and you will see all the entertainers at work!
Our first stop was a delicious one. I always want to eat where locals eat, as I am convinced that the food should be legit. We had the tasty harira soup at booth 75. The taste was consistent, the soup was hot, and the locals were gobbling it up, all for 3 dirham per bowl.
All the temporary restaurants in the square basically look the same, and basically have the same price. We opted for Chez Ben Driss (booth 20) and ate some beef brochette and fried eggplant. New found this meal to be the best touristy restaurant in the square. They did not wait for a tip, and asked upfront for a tip (which I sort of found to be the norm in a lot of touristy places in Morocco), but I didn’t mind as the service and food here were pretty good.
We stuck to the right side of the road when heading back to our Riad Dar Al Jawhara. I only caught a brief glimpse of it before, but remembered the beautiful open air court yard, with fuchsia pink floral vines climbing up the side of the wall. Our room was on the top floor, decorated with crushed velvet blankets, wooden hand carved shutters, silk pillows, Moroccan tiling, and leather poufs. It was small but cozy. If you stay here, be sure to get the room on the top floor as this room is directly above the wifi router. Florence said that room has the best wifi connection in the riad!
Cancellation fee for Riad Johnboy (I freaked out because I saw some bad reviews) €5.70
Pastries, orange juice and water 37 dirham
Hotel Riad Al Jawhara $43
CTM bus luggage fee 5 dirham
CTM bus from Ouarzazate to Morocco 180 dirham
Bathroom 1 dirham
Booth 75 Harira soup 6 dirham
Tea, fanta, chips 30 dirham
Taxi to Riad Al Jawhara 30 dirham
Chez Ben Driss booth twenty 130 dirham
Total cost: 419 dirham + €5.70 + $43 = $48.34 per person
What I learned: When using Booking.com, try to reserve a room at least 48 hours in advance your host will see your reservation before your arrival!
Actual date of travel: Oct. 13, 2014