My expectations were blown away…In every way! You arrive in a stunning airport. The people, the food, and the service and hospitality is wonderful. The city is beautiful, clean and feels very safe.
10 things that made my trip *MAGICAL!*
With trepidation mixed with excitement, I flung myself into the world of ‘The Red City’. It felt all or nothing. I was traveling alone. It was dark and I was following a man into a twisting turning labyrinth. An archway, a turn, an orange tree, a wheelbarrow, pot plants, another archway. Narrower, darker.
How the hell am I going to find this again? Am I going to get out alive??
Enclosed in meters high walls punctuated with impressive doors studded with metal, oozing history and atmosphere and still we walked deeper into the rabbit warren until we reached a dead end…
My heart was bonking irregularly! Mourde reached out, took the big metal ring on the door and knocked gently. Inside the ancient door, a much smaller door opened and we bent down to enter the small family riad. It was warm, smelt nice, with soft lights. There were bougainvillea petals on my bed and a towel twirled in the shape of a snake. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, entering a Hobbit House in an Arabian Night story. I loved it all!
When I travel I like engagement and authenticity. Marrakech has that by the donkey load! It’s a short flight to a completely different world…
I would recommend you…
1. Find yourself a riad IN the Medina, the place to be! A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard, sometimes with a garden, hanging plants, water features, swimming pools, roof terraces. Sumptuous, romantic, authentic and to fit every wallet there are many to chose from. DO take the riad’s offer of a taxi to pick you up at the airport. You’ll never find it otherwise!
2. Check out Jemaa el Fna. “THE Square” can be a bit ‘intense’ for the faint-hearted. I thought it was fascinating! During the day there are snake charmers and monkey men and henna artists. Don’t even think of breaking step by the cobras if you don’t want a snake around your neck! In the evening this all makes space for the massive food market with juicers and BBQ where you sit alongside locals and eat fresh fried fish, tajine, goats heads or anything else you might fancy. Great food – great fun!
3. A ‘must do‘ in Marrakesh is to leave the hustle and bustle on the ground floor and walk up to a ‘sky bar’ or restaurant. Nowhere in Marrakesh is higher than 5 stories high. The minarets rise higher and in the distance, you see the snow-capped Atlas. It’s magical! The Terrasse Des Epices looks over the Secret Garden in the Medina. It is a particularly lovely fresh aired space to have a break and enjoy a glass of wine. Jemaa el Fna is also surrounded by cafes with panoramic roof terraces for breakfast or dinner.
4. Visit Le Jardin Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent’s house, garden, and studio. It’s one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever been! If you like gardens, colour, all things exotic..this is for you! It’s fascinating to watch the professional selfie crowd. People come wearing YSL yellow and red to be photographed next to Majorelle Blue. Go early.
5. Buy the combination ticket to go to Majorelle and the YSL Museum next door. This state-of-the-art exhibition space is really amazing, the attention to detail is exquisite and the service in the cafe, just divine!
6. Interact, engage and haggle. The Moroccans are lovely, good-natured people. Sure, they want you to eat tajine in their restaurant, buy their carpet, go to their sky bar but it’s all done in a nice way. You might pay a little more but you’ll probably still have a bargain. “Merhaba”…’ you’re welcome’ you hear it from everybody in Morocco. It’s one of the most social and friendly places I’ve ever been.
7. When you want to escape for a moment – Take out a sketchbook! I always travel with one. It allows me to take time for myself; to reflect. I ask myself “What do I find really interesting here?” I make a quick drawing and write something; it allows me to remember in a much better way. Under the motto “if you draw – you see more” I travel the world. I teach travel sketching and note-taking. Make a personal or a family book and create a visual souvenir of your holiday. Check out my sketches of Morocco and other places @madebykate2 . I teach a travel sketching class every week in Amsterdam. Check out what other people say about the joys of starting a travel journal!
8. A day trip! You pass through the ancient red walls and pretty soon you’re in open countryside. Across the plain, the Atlas Mountains beckon. The Atlantic coast is within striking distance to the west. You can have all the city has to offer and still head off on a desert or coast experience too! It’s so close and many tours are available with camels and tents, 4X4, music and Berber breakfasts. With more time you can take visit Telouet on the Road of a 1000 Kasbahs and on to famous Ait Ben Haddou (Gladiator) or Ouzazarte (Games of Thrones) and Zagora and the Draa Valley, the huge date oasis. With 4 days you can have the real desert experience in Merzouga or Mhamid and loop back to Marrakech.
9. When you get lost in the Medina (..not if!) I read a useful tip, ‘B r e a t h e’. It really helps! I had no idea where to go, it was dark and everything looked familiar… or was it unfamiliar? I just didn’t know anymore! GPS didn’t work as the streets are so narrow and I kept coming to the same dead end?! Finally, a teenager said he’d take me there… through the archway I’d missed 5 times! I gave him 2 euros for his trouble.
Whenever you look lost…a local will say ‘The Square?” and point. I found people really tried to help. Everything revolves around The Square. Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret rise above everything it and are your orientation points. I advise taking a walking tour through the Medina, souk, and tannery with a guide. It’s handy for your first day, they help you negotiate with vendors in Arabic for tips for photos etc and show you things you’d miss otherwise. But be prepared to be lost when they’ve gone!
10. After all that..treat yourself to a hammam with a massage – you won’t regret it!
A final word…
I’ll be back!
So…any tips for my next trip??