This is a first class compartment on the train from Marrakesh. In fact, it's the express train from Marrakesh. Please feel free to invent your own joke now. The only thing that really makes this first class is that there are 6 seats instead of 8. Ostensibly these seats are more comfortable. The real advantage is that you get assigned seats so you're guaranteed a place to sit. You'll probably want this going from Marrakesh to Casablanca as it isn't exactly one of the more interesting train rides in Morocco.
A bit north of the medina is the Majorelle House and Gardens. This is a lovely place to come during the heat of the Moroccan afternoon and hang out under assorted palms and shaded terraces. Of course, we went in December so it wasn't really very hot. The highlight of the Majorelle gardens is undeniably this particular shade of blue.
The home and gardens were built by a French artist named (surprisingly) Majorelle. His artwork (what you can see of it) is not particularly inspired but his home surely is. A small museum of Islamic art is now located inside the home.
Away from the home, the gardens specialize in tropical flowers and desert plants. There are a wide range of bizarre succulents and several species of orchids. From the northern entrances to the medina, it's probably only a 10 minute walk to the Majorelle gardens.
The nouvelle ville of Marrakesh is clearly inspired by the French. Big wide avenues, generally laid out in arcs predominate. It's a nice place to walk around and you'd almost not believe you're in the same city that contains the medina.
The medina is an elongated oval. Most of the walls are reconstructed and there are regular gates like this one. Oddly enough walking into the medina is a hassle-free experience. It's walking out that will result in a lot more unsolicited offers of help, mostly from taxi and carriage drivers.
Just south of the main medina abutting the back of the palace walls are the Saadian tombs. This was the single most crowded locale we visited in Morocco, perhaps due largely to our own bad timing as we arrived just slightly after most of Spain did. The Saadians were an early ruling dynasty of Marrakesh. Subsequent dynasties were afraid of messing around with the dead and thus the tombs went untouched. The Saadians buried their most honored leaders in highly decorated crypts like this one.
In between crypts is a narrow garden like space hemmed in by walls of the medina, the mellah and the royal palace. There are probably a hundred more tombs located outside. All of them were once lavishly decorated in tile and the majority of them still display it.
We visited the Saadian tombs just before the afternoon closing which meant we had a couple hours to kill before we could visit the palace. We spent that time wandering through the mellah (Jewish quarter) and in particular the vast Jewish cemetery. These tombs range from hundreds of years old to just a few years although the Jewish population of Marrakesh numbers only a few hundred now. A few older tombs still have legible Hebrew inscriptions on them, more recent ones are written in French.
The royal palace which also dates from the Saadian dynasty is a highlight of Marrakesh. If you're planning to visit bring a flashlight of some sort because it makes exploring the underground rooms like these much easier. We brought one to Marrakesh but then brilliantly left it in the riad. Thus we explored these rooms using the viewfinder light from the cameras (it sort of works). Some of the original tile in the courtyard can still be seen in the foreground of this picture.
This is our one obligatory stork picture. There are dozens of storks nesting on the walls of the palace and we may well have a picture of every single one of them. Interested ornithologists can contact us for details. For the sake of everyone else we'll move on.
The most notable and impressive feature of the royal palace is the sunken courtyards which are home to orange groves. The reflecting pool isn't a bad touch either. The main entrance was off to the left, the audience chamber to the right and living quarters on both wings. Concubines had their own courtyard, so long as there were not more than four of them at once.
Another good reason to visit the palace is for the view back across the medina, as well as south to the High Atlas mountains. From here you can see signs of the courtyards at the center of many homes, even if those signs are mostly just the tops of trees. This is a particularly nice vantage point during the call to prayer if you can manage it.