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72 Hours in: Marrakech

Saturday 23 January 2016

Marrakech | The Guide

So, Marrakech? It's been about three weeks since I returned and can honestly say it was one of the best three-night-four-day trips I've ever embarked upon. Although it was only for three nights, I have wanted to visit the North African country for what feels like forever and I could have gone for a day-trip and still concluded the same.

Although I am pretty keen, my family aren't overly obsessed with hot climates so visiting in December was perfect. The weather was apparently much warmer than average and at about 24 degrees at the peak of the day, we couldn't complain! Everybody needs a little bit of winter sun, and only a two and a quarter hour plane journey from Bristol we arrived in no time. The nights are freezing in comparison so make sure you do pack jumpers and coats for walking about after dark, but the cosy fires in the riads are lovely.

Initially researching somewhere to escape to in order to avoid spending my 21st birthday in the UK (it falls on New Year's Eve... oh the pressure), Marrakech seemed like the perfect ideal - somewhere not too far away for a short break, but completely different in terms of culture and continent. We chose to stay in a beautiful little riad in the Medina. I 100% recommend staying in the Medina as you receive a truly wholesome Moroccan experience with such friendly and special care. The New Town is home to many of the city's luxury resorts, but I can assure you if you want to be able to stroll out and explore the true Marrakech on foot, the Medina offers hundreds of little retreats like ours (Riad Malika, read on for more info) or El Fenn and La Sultana for example.

Where to Stay

Riad Malika
29 Arset Aouzal, Quartier Palais Dar El Bacha Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

Booked as a surprise, my Mum obviously has fantastic taste. It's a tiny riad with a distinctly homely feel. Originally home to a French couple, the interior is full of antique Moroccan and French decor with a decidedly Art Deco feel. Our suite was full of such incredible furniture, two stunning bathrooms and two bedrooms with a conservatory linking the two. Full of plenty of little nooks and crannies and places to explore, the riad was everything I could've asked for. The staff speak amazing English and French and were always magically on hand too.

We arrived at about midday to a clear-skied and warm Marrakech and were greeted with Moroccan tea and biscuits at the riad (why oh why can't I find these anywhere in the UK). My mum and I became a little obsessed with the traditional Moroccan mint tea served in clear glasses; so refreshing. I opted for a full body massage on my birthday morning in their teeny spa. Although a tad pricey, it was certainly worth it and I'd much rather the comfort of relaxing in my robe in the riad than have to source an external spa. They also have a beautiful pool and private area in a separate courtyard which is heated in the warmer months and suprisingly deep for what it is (I attempted to try and reach the bottom but failed!) So unlike the majority of riads you can actually take a proper swim rather than a dunk. The two rooftop terraces offered private places to sunbathe - it got super hot up there and it was only 24 degrees max - Morocco is much closer to the equator so you can really feel the heat of the sun.

Breakfast consists of bread, pancakes, donuts, jams, yoghurt, freshly squeezed orange juice and savoury tarts and tend to be HUGE! I have also concluded that Moroccan orange juice is the best in the whole world! In the warmer months they are served outside, but we had ours beside the fire in one of the downstairs sitting rooms. We had two dinners at the riad consisting of three courses (it's all cooked in house so you don't choose what you're getting) and are delicious and very traditional with the added bonus of surprise!

What to See/Do

The Souks
29 Arset Aouzal, Quartier Palais Dar El Bacha Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

The souks are what Marrakech is known for. If I could describe them in one word it would simply be; madness. Complete and utter madness! Once you enter, it's a Aladdin's cave of mostly treasures (and some trash) and the deeper you go, the harder it is to find your way back out! If you look even the slightest bit lost, traders will start beckoning you into their stalls and on some occasions (yes, we experienced plenty of this) stating that the way out was indeed into their shop!

Getting completely lost in the souks seemed to be what we were best at. Oh, but the haggling... Quite the opposite. All I returned with was a little silver bracelet! I recommend you do your research before entering the souks, even make a list of things you want to find (cushion covers, teapots, jewellery, leather sandals, rugs) and work out how much you should really pay for such items. If you fall in love with something then chances are you will probably see the same item again (or very similar). But on some occasions you may not see it ever again... I learnt the hard way and spent an hour searching for the same shoe stall and ended up really regretting not stopping and purchasing a pair of gorgeous leather lace-up sandals. So if you really do like something; go for it. The majority of traders are really cheeky and begin with absolutely ridiculous prices, so stick with your gun and make sure you keep a clear, no-nonsense attitude.

Jemaa el-Fnaa Square
El Ksour, Marrakech, Morocco

Don't leave without paying the main square a visit. Yes, you will be pestered but it's all part of the experience. Be polite, say a simple non, merci/no thank you and walk away from anyone giving you hassle - you definitely didn't need that plastic lantern anyway. Try and stay clear of the groups with monkeys, they are trained to tap you on the shoulder and the owners are sly in approaching you from all angles! If you do take photos, take them from afar. The snake charmers are interesting too, but trust me, all it takes is one teeny tiny little peek and you've got a man holding a rather large cobra approaching you - these guys have eyes on the back of their heads! (I personally don't mind snakes one bit, but I know a lot of people who would be close to tears!)

When you get a bit fed up of the hassle, pay a visit to one of the rooftop cafés serving teas and cold drinks. They don't tend to be very fancy, but for a little break and sit down they are perfectly fine and you get to watch all the action completely hassle-free. Do be warned that the milk here probably hasn't been pasteurised, so stick to a black coffee, delicious Moroccan mint tea or soda. The higher the floor, the higher the price of the drinks as street sellers will still hassle you on the ground floors of the cafés.

Don't forget to cover up, the general code is to cover chest, shoulders and knees. I can imagine this is much easier in the winter months than in August when it can reach almost 45 degrees!

Henna Café
Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

Get your henna tattoo at the Henna Café. I had researched this place prior to our trip but had no idea that it was about 10 steps away from our riad = yaaaaas. This registered cultural foundation uses all its income to give free education and assistance to less fortunate Moroccans. The food was fantastic; I had falafels and flat bread and my brother had roasted veg and couscous. I also had beautiful henna done on both hands (do keep in mind that most of the designs are actually more expensive than the food they offer). There are plenty of little old women offering cheaper henna on the main square, but I wouldn't trust that the henna is safe or clean.

Camel Riding at La Palmeraie
La Palmeraie, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

Although my dad and I had a great time, I don't think I'd recommend the company we used (our driver was almost 45-minutes late picking us up and he also forgot to collect us after the ride, leaving us sat in the desert sun for an hour drinking tea from glasses that didn't particularly look clean - out of politeness and thirst!) BUT - do book a camel ride during some point in your stay! 

There are plenty of companies offering different locations and ride durations, but we opted for a short one-hour ride around La Palmeraie, a beautiful palm-tree desert just outside the city. The rest tend to be half-day or whole-day excursions to the Atlas mountains which we unfortunately didn't have time for. Our guide was a lovely young man from the Atlas mountains who was fluent in French, Berben and extremely good at English, answering all our random questions and very keen to take photos of us at every opportunity (I didn't even have to ask!) 

Jardin Majorelle
Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech, Morocco

One of the most famous tourist attractions is the YSL Jardin Majorelle, owned by the late French-Algerian designer. My friends really hyped me up about my visit here as they knew I'd absolutely adore the gardens. It really was cacti-galore, with beautiful little benches and shady spots to escape the sun. The café (see below) serves amazing lunches and juices - so do pay a visit here for quality food and service. 

Where to Eat

Oh the food! Unlike most cultural foods, I felt as if I had never really tried true Moroccan food prior to my trip. I now can't wait to whip up a tagine for my friends at Uni. We mostly ate at our riad, but either lunched at the Henna Café and Jardin Majorelle's Café Bousafsaf or were absolutely stuffed from our breakfast at the riad. We ate dinner at our riad for 2/3 nights but can definitely recommend the following...

Le Comptoir Darna
Avenue Echouhada, Marrakech, Morocco

Located in the New Town, we booked for the 30th December. Famous for its live performers and belly dancers, this restaurant-turn-club offers an incredible all-round experience. I had a fantastic meal, try the seafood tagine (octopus, shrimps and mussels) - it was by far my favourite meal of the trip. They knew it was my birthday once it reached 12am and delivered a little firework chocolate cake to the table along with a red rose - such a special touch. It was lovely to venture out of the Medina for this dinner, giving us a brief chance to experience the New Town and the modern and international side of such a historic city. 

Café Bousafsaf du Jardin Majorelle
Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech, Morocco

We decided to eat here on my birthday for lunch. We walked to the gardens from our riad and arrived very parched and hot and couldn't wait to sit down in the shade with a refreshing drink! I chose a delicious light avocado and boiled egg salad and freshly squeezed juice. The café was full of American and European tourists with a quite a distinctly French feel, but I recommend stopping here for a bite to eat or something to drink while you visit the gardens.

So that's my guide, I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions I will try my best to answer; simply comment on this post or tweet me @maisieivy.

Shot on the Olympus PEN E-PL7.


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  1. Love this... Photography is super strong with a cool colour palette! Did you use some VSCO film filters for Lightroom? Think me and Lucy are going to have to check Marrakech out, she's been banging on about going for ages now!

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