My parents had just got back from a trip a few weeks ago and spoke so highly of it that I mentioned it to a few friends who were keen on a mini-break. The flight is only about 3 hours long so it’s great for a long weekend, although due to my work commitments we did Monday -Thursday. So on my folks advice we booked to stay in a Riad, these are traditional Moroccan homes built around a central courtyard, a sort of Bed and Breakfast if you will. We found ours online for a unbelievably reasonable £10 a night and on arrival the Riad El Sagaya, situated just inside the Medina walls, lived up to my expectations and then some!
We were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for most of the trip (probably as we stayed early in the week) and our hosts could not of been more welcoming. On arrival we were given delicious mint tea and the owner gave us tips and a little info about the Marrakech way of life. Travelling as 4 girls has its concerns but he put us all right at ease straight away and he was right, we had no trouble and felt very safe during our visit, even after staying out late.
I had bought quite a few new bits of clothing for this trip as Moroccans don’t show shoulders or knees, so despite the warm weather it’s best to be respectful and cover up, dressing conservatively both for the culture and the heat. Save the bikini tops for the privacy of the Riads where it is acceptable poolside, we all had light shawls with us in the day for covering up and they were great against the heat. Our Riad really was a charming little oasis of tranquility away for the frantic, hustle bustle of the Medina streets outside!
Talking of peaceful surroundings on our first full day we all headed over to the Jardin Majorelle for an afternoon in the cool shade of the gardens and it really was spectacular !The gardens were taken on and restored by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and are one of the most beautiful and vibrant things I’ve ever seen! There is a beautiful cafe and although the gardens aren’t huge we spent several hours there just chilling out and taking it all in.
Outside of the tranquility of the Riads the Medina streets are teaming with life and the streets are as exciting as they are busy, so expect the unexpected and watch out for the scooters, they go at quite a pace on very narrow streets! We soon realised Marrakech doesn’t believe in road signs and those that are there often don’t lead to where they say! It’s also worth bearing in mind that if someone offers to give you directions you might end up at their shop so it’s generally best to politely decline and make your own way. Even though we planned our routes to things we still got very lost so be prepared for this, its just part of the adventure that is Marrakech!
The Souks were far less frantic than I imagined, they were cool and shady places but we went early in the day when it was cloudy to avoid the worse of the heat. The richness and colour of the souks is just incredible, we loved the spice market area where we had a lovely lunch but mostly just wondered down interesting streets full of life and colour. You’ll need to haggle, it’s a way of life in the Souks and once you get into the spirit of it, it’s a lot of fun. The traders are charming and very cheeky so expect some rather colourful banter if you are a group of girls! If you are after anything in particular, for me it was jewellery, then it’s worth deciding what you want to pay before you go in, be polite, firm and most of all look at everything as you never know what’s just around the next corner!
If you eat one thing in Marrakech make sure to order a Moroccan salad, trust me it’s worth it! The food was stunning and as our Riad provided a great breakfast so we only needed a light lunch, saving our main meal for the coolness of the evening. We ate on the rooftop of the Riad the first night as we were so tired and had a few beers too. Our Riad allowed alcohol and there was a small off-licence a 15 minute walk away. As a Muslim country alcohol isn’t always on the menu, however we had no trouble finding a few beers and cocktails when required and at around 90dh a cocktail, the equivalent of £5.98, it’s pretty reasonably priced. We ate at Le Marrakchi on the second night, another place my parents recommended, which served food and alcohol on Jemaa el Fna, the main square. It was a fantastic restaurant with great food and entertainment and thanks to it’s huge windows and mirrored dinning room, is a clever way to see the square without getting caught up in the crowds and accosted by pushy traders. Unfortunately I got caught down in the square by a couple of pushy hena ladies who wouldn’t take no for an answer, so do watch out at night there but it’s nothing to really worry about and only seems to happen in that one area. The square is still definitely worth a visit though and the restaurants there do offer a great way to view it all as most have roof terraces too. We also found a great cocktail bar on the way home called Rock’n’Kech, that was literally a rock themed roof terrace that sold strong cocktails, it was like being in the Flintstones! The final night we ventured into the new part of town outside of the Medina walls. Here the streets are much wider and the area feels more Western, the rules of the Medina don’t seem to apply here and it’s a more relaxed pace. We ate at Djellabar a pop-art, kitsch looking place with great food and cocktails in a bright, magical setting a real fusion of old Marrakech meets new.
The trip was only 4 days but I loved every minute of it. Marrakech is basically a place of extremes, it’s bright, bustling, exciting, shabby, hot, noisy, rough round the edges, loud, frantic, and sometimes frustrating but also cool, tranquil, beautiful, friendly, charming, mystical and full of magic! I’ll leave you with one of my favourite places I found on the trip, my little pool side reading nook at the riad, I cant wait to go back!