Marrakech one of the most popular cities in Morocco, the jewel of Africa, full of colour, spices, tiles, cous cous, textures and amazing landscapes…. Not to mention the magical atmosphere of magic carpets and firey sunsets and the authenticity of just what Morrocan really means
Day 1 – Friday
A very very early flight on a Friday morning which landed before 10am at the main airport, we flew with Ryan air there and back and only took 3 hours to get out of Europe and into the African continent where we were welcomed by a beautiful sunrise over the dessert (hell yeh I got a window seat). The drive from the airport into the main city is about 15 minutes, and cost us about (15 pounds). The whole of the Medina markets are pedestrianised due to how narrow the streets are so be prepared to walk.
We had decided to stay within the hustle and bustle of the Souk Markets, where accommodation here is called Riads. Small gated courtyards with surrounding balconies looking into sometimes mosaiced pools and plants growing up the sides. From the outside on the busy and loud Souk streets it would look like small doors leading to know where… but once you step inside theres silence, calm and amazing authentic food waiting for our arrival. The main obstacle to get to our Riad Cinnamon was the markets themselves, the owner came to collect us with our bags, quickly heading down the tunnels of streets which make up this maze of a Market. The stall owners were just opening up, hanging lamps, carpets and food. Wolf whistles as we went past kindof introduced us quickly to just how cheeky the guys can be here. within 2 minutes I was officially lost, but understood why we had an escort to our Riad Cinnamon. It was chaos outside, with so much attention even with nothing bright or eye catching on but just because you are a woman.
As women in Marrakech, me and my 2 friends had to be considerate of what we wore and had on show, to respect the culture and people here.
We had breakfast within the Riad, traditional bread, houmous, cous cous, fresh fruits, morrocan teas which is called Maghrebi mint tea and you will be served it at every meal and jams. I felt like we were in a movie, with the family who owned the place so friendly while they handed us more.
We decided to venture out, I couldn’t get enough of the Medina market which had suddenly come to life after one hour. Its like we had gone through a rabbit hole to wonderland. There were children following us through the streets, asking to high five them, women within the small archways stitching and having conversations with the women next door, men laughing with their friends throughout the streets. Bartering and getting on with their daily routine. We got a lot of attention, which at first we found funny, its best to laugh that take it personally. Whistles, comments about certain body parts, and sometimes light touches. Its all things to be aware of. We found a small haven in the form of Le Jardens Secret. An open space in the midst of all the chaos down the narrow streets, so much light instead of dark. Beautiful emerald floor tiles throughout the main walkways and detailed door ways. It was beautiful and you wouldn’t even have known you were in the heart of the market due to how quiet it was. We headed up to the top of the building where there was a small bar and cheered to Marrakesh.
We came across the main market Djemaa el Fna Square full of snake charmers, monkeys, and women selling henna art. However try to not take pictures of them, they will come up to you and ask for money for the pictures. It was chaotic but I loved seeing what everyone was selling and eating. The market is surrounded by 3 – 4 story buildings with lots of food restaurants and bars. One of them was the SKYBAR, with pool and cocktails on the beautiful roof top (loads found in this area) overlooking the busy streets below. We had some drinks here and ended up staying for food. The first Tagine of the holiday. I had the chicken option which was marinated in a delicious rich sauce , with raisins and nuts within the cous cous. My friend had the vegetarian one also suitable for vegans, with had aubergines, carrots and potatoes. The only way of telling what time of day it was from the chanting horn from the main mosque which is then echoed through the city like a morrocan wave from all the others. Marrakech has a grand number of over 180 mosques, the main and biggest one being the Koutoubia Mosque found just off the main market, with beautiful gardens and interior but you wont be able to go in unless your Muslim. The chanting when time to prayer is beautiful to hear across the city but especially in front of this mosque with the sunset.
We headed back, getting lost several times on the way to the Riad, I wanted to buy everything I saw still, and the streets were straight out of Aladdin. Longing for the carpets to start flying round, and a monkey to come and perch on your shoulder, while the darker areas of the markets were lightened by the beautiful lamp shades with every colour crystal you can think of. The smells of the leather items are strong, and make you automatically want to buy something especially the pointed leather Jasmin shoes.
We headed towards the new part of the city in the evening, our Riad made sure we had an escort to the taxis on the outskirts to get there. You will find this is how a lot of tourists make their way round Marrakech unless they drive, due to how wide spread certain areas are. The new Gueliz district is where you can find high street shops, much bigger resort hotels and a more modernised way of living. We still found it very male dominated especially in the bars and restaurants at this time, and again we were harassed with some men coming up to us and being very forward due to it being dark I think it was worse, but definitely have your wits about you, we kindof decided not to go out after dark on our own.
Day 2 – The tourist day (Saturday)
Today was the day we headed out into the desert and did the tourist thing of riding a camel. It was great and we booked it in advance but even if you drive out to the area you can get a great price. We spent 50 pounds which included a whole 4 hours of activities. Camel riding for an hour with a stop at a traditional house for tea and biscuits, we ended up in the traditional clothing too, (we looked like the tots TV characters)… But the whole experience was so much fun. The main surprise was the quad biking afterwards, we had a private guide that took us right out into the dessert out of the restraints of where we had parked up, from here we went through farmlands, main roads, not seeing a sole for ages. In front of us the Atlas mountains in all their glory, and for the first time in the trip I felt so free and calm. The best experience was going to a families house for lunch where they could not have been more hospitable, even though we couldn’t speak their language my friend spoke French and could actually have conversation with some of them who spoke French. It was a special moment with the small kids fascinated by us, and us by them. A beautiful end to the day .
We had an early meal at Azar, which is an amazing restaurant in the new town, with belly dancers, and high end food with a twist of Japanese at times. There was live music, beautiful interiors and shish to keep you going into the night. The earlier you go the more likely you are to get a table but the later is when it really comes to like with more people.
I didn’t realise this when heading to Marrakech just how crazy the Nightlife is, I thought we would be in bed early after busy days exploring and buying things we dont need. However I soon found out this wasn’t the case. Marrakech comes alive at night, the cool air means more people can bare the heat, so eating late is the norm. We headed out for an evening of dancing and some cheeky drinks at Theatro , meeting some of the youthful locals who have very different values, perspectives and morals to the older generation we had come across in the markets. We found them more open and respectful to women, a generation drinking, enjoying themselves, smoking which is allowed inside in Morroco. Enjoy dancing and just living life. The extravagance of these places is also noticeable in the champagnes fireworks, and the dancers who rotate round the club for photos and entertainment, its one big party!
Day 3 – Sunday
The day I had been waiting for (minus a headache), we again took a taxi a little further out of the Medina souk market , and were dropped off at the walled Jarden de Majorelle. This wonderful twelve-acre ornamental garden with cacti and lily ponds was created in the 1920s and 1930s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later saved from destruction by Ives Saint Laurent. Known for its striking bright coloured main house, this is one of the main attraction for anyone visiting for the first time.
After the Gardens we walked through the North west part of the Souk markets, with spaces and food displayed in front of every stall, this is the place to buy spices if you love taste. We were on the hunt for the famous BE Marrakech Riad , refurbished recently to become an Instagram must do, with teal tiles, palm trees, all with the courtyard, with eclectic furniture, accessories and ornaments to make it a treasure trove of interest. We headed upto the roof terrace which again was full of quirky features, one being the turtles, 2nd the hammocks, 3rd the views across the roof tops, and 4 the roof service for the most amazing Moroccan food, we ate so much and was definitely the best we had had so far.
Day 5 – Monday
The Atlas Mountains and been calling us for quite a few days, always seen on teh roof tops of our Riad just calling us… we rented a car for £50 (great value) from the airport car hire kiosks and headed out of the city going south for a good hour… On the way we got to see more authentic villages, children and women selling things on the road sides, but mainly the silhouette of the giant mountains in front of us. We bought snacks, had lots of water and made sure we wore our seat belts. It sounds silly but the police will try it on with tourists pull them over and say if you aren’t wearing your seat belt to pay a fine.
The more we drove, the steeper the roads were getting and at times the more narrow they did too (scary) as a passenger my view got a littttle to close to the edge at times, but looking back in the mirror to the mountains behind was incredible. We drove all the way upto Mount Toubkal which at the time of year in March we went was starting to melt, with only a few skiers still round, there was plenty of hikers and people enjoying the small bit of snow there was left. We randomly had chicken schnitzels at the top in this cute little log hut restaurant called the
The Ouzoud Falls which is found North West of Marrakech is also an amazing day trip out of the city but we missed out on this due to being in the wrong area of the mountains but if I had more time I would definitely have visited it , very easy to get too and just shows off the diversity that Morocco has to offer.
Day 5 – Chilllllday (Tuesday)
The final fullday we needed some relaxation aware from the hustle and bustle of the markets . We ended up buying a day pass to one of the many large resorts around the new town of Marrakech area, Es Saadi Gardens and Resort was the place we ended up. The prices can range from around 50 pounds up, but for towels, lunch, and use of the pool all day it was perfect. Anyway what is a trip to Marrakech without being treated like a queen.
Another bucket list experience was the Hammam normally available in all resort spas this takes place in a specially designed steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where Moroccans habitually go each week to cleanse themselves. It’s a hot steam bath followed by a massage. It isn’t for the easily embarrassed as the first thing they tell you to do is completely strip!! Don’t even think of wearing a robe. Someone will wash you and scrub you so hard that all your old skin will be gone. It’s sort of once in a lifetime experience. When you go to Morocco, you’d be crazy not to go to a hammam. I felt amazing from it, within the resort spas these treatments can be around 60 pounds (Marrakech money), but if you go further into the Souks these can be as little as 30 pounds, but maybe not as luxurious.
The last supper was at the SO night lounge Marrakech, one drink and civilised meal turned into a wild night of dancing on tables, the stage and meeting a resident singer for the club, all very bazaar but awesome. This was until we had to get up for our 7 am flight after 2 hours sleep.
Anyways ending on a high, and in a magical haze, overall Marrakech is growing in popularity due to its pull of authenticity, colours and its own unique character which has never been lost even in the recent years of extra tourism… As a woman I would not go on my own, but there are hostels, womens only hostels and trips with a lot of different travel companies who go to Marrakech and Morroco within 5 – 10 days. Its one of the only cities where the urge to buy the many beautiful things on sale is real… So go and become mesmerised with the beauty of Marrakech. Shukran
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