Riad Dar Alsaad is a beautifully decorated guest house inside the Walled Old City of Marrakech. We stayed in the Sahara Double Room, which had a comfortable bed and southwest red walls. The bathroom was fabricated from sculpted concrete, which was unusual. All the plumbing worked fine. The night manager spoke good English, and was helpful arranging excursions and the airport shuttle. The central courtyard where breakfast is served is open to the sky, decorated with plants and a water fountain, and candlelit in the evening. The food was good. A computer with internet connection is available for guest use.
The hotel is at the end of a narrow, dead-end side street and therefore very hard to find. Our taxi from the train station passed the street to the hotel. The taxi driver found two boys in the square nearby to take us to the hotel, which was about 150 feet back on a one-way street. The boys grabbed our luggage and started toward the hotel, and I hurried to pay the taxi and follow them. Fortunately, the boys lead us to the hotel. They ridiculed the $1.50 tip that I offered them, demanding $5 each. I only paid $3.50 for the taxi, and I gave him $1 and told them thanks and have a nice day.
The neighborhood around the hotel is like going back in time. The city walls date back to 1000 AD. Three thousand years of human technology in one place at the same time. Slabs of meat hang above the butcher shop counter outside. Donkeys and mules move freight through narrow, winding streets. Motorcycles, cars, cell phones, internet cafes inject modern life.
Walking the Old City is an experience. Old City Marrakech on the outside has a patina of grime like an old car left out to weather. Homes, shops and hotels are clean on the inside. Vendors can be very aggressive, especially street vendors. When bargaining on the price, start at one-tenth the original asking price. Negotiate a price with the taxi driver before getting into the taxi. They understand French.
Be wary of the snake charmers in the main market. Pay in advance $2 if you want to take photos. They demanded $10, and can be very aggressive. I was followed out of the square by a snake charmer demanding $10. After I gave $2 to another crew of snake charmers and started taking photos, I was confronted by two more fellows demanding more money. A fellow put a snake around my neck although I told them no. He said the snake was good luck—his good luck. I gave him $5 after he took the snake off.
Local art is available at a good price in Marrakech and in the area, if you know how to negotiate the price: Rugs, paintings, metalwork, ceramics, and leather. We took a car trip to the Atlas Mountains and hiked trails to the waterfalls. Nice excursion. Along the roads and the trails, many shops selling crafts. Upscale restaurants are hard to find, but we found the food to be generally good (especially the lamb). We ate at a nice Italian restaurant just outside the Old City Walls, across the street from the Medina of Marrakech.
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