Last year myself and the girls jetted off to the third largest city in Morocco – Marrakech. I always get asked what Marrakech was like so I thought I’d do a little review for those who haven’t yet made it there, but have it as a definite ‘must visit’. So whether you’re thinking of a summer holiday or just a long weekend away, here’s a handy guide to Marrakech.
Known as the ‘red city’ for its abundance of terracotta bricked buildings, Marrakech is a culturally rich oasis of beauty. We stayed at the gorgeous Ryads Parc & Spa; traditional, authentic and once you were through the lobby doors, provided complete escapism from the outside world.
Being big kids ourselves we befriended some children, also staying at our resort, and had hours of fun making a splash in the swimming pool. We also planned in some excursions during our trip as although we were absolutely loving the relaxation that our resort offered, we also wanted to experience the real Marrakech.
A must do in Morocco is camel riding. There are plenty of camels by the road side so you can always hop on one of those, but if you’re looking for something a little more authentic we’d advise heading a little further afield. Luckily out hotel offered excursions so we booked our trip through the them.
After a very short drive over the rocks and through the dust tracks, we parked up in a little village and followed the crowd in the direction of the camels who were all lined up and ready to go. We were then told that we needed to get changed, so we joined the queue and waited to be handed our ‘dresses’ and be fashioned a turban. With our new clobber and looking suitably ridiculous, we were ready to head out to the desert landscape.
We eventually came full circle and ended up trekking through the village that we started in. It was very humbling to see the locals and everyone was so friendly – especially the children. So, upon dismounting our camels we couldn’t help but pose for a photo with the local children who were adorable. We also shed a few of our personal items, giving them gifts of bracelets and scarves that they were fascinated with.
Marrakech has the largest traditional market (known as a souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa, Djemma el-Fna. The chaos of Djemaa el-Fna is best watched from one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants which overlook the square. Looking down you can see the city is alive with street performers, acrobats, dancers and musicians, donkey drawn carriages everywhere, mopeds speeding around and the authentic sound of snake charmers. All you need is a little shade and a mint tea and you can sit there for hours, just people watching. Trust me, you will not get bored of the view!
Entering ‘Aladdins cave’ (the Souk), we searched through bags, shoes, jewellery, tea pots and lanterns buying as we saw something we liked and using our Arabic speaking knowledge to say ‘La’ (no) and ‘Shukran’ (thank you) where appropriate. We may have also over used the famous SATC quote ‘shoes for everyone‘ a little bit too much, but it was hard not to as every other shop was filled with shoes.
After hours spent weaving in and out of the maze that is the Souks (and plenty of getting lost too) we stumbled upon the most beautiful little rooftop bar, which provided the perfect haven from the hustle and bustle below – Cafe Arabe. Adorned with lanterns, cushioned sofas and draped curtains, this place was like a little drop of heaven and a complete contrast to the craziness going on in the markets. The view is amazing and well worth a trip to Marrakech alone. We sipped cocktails, enjoyed the gorgeous sun set on our last day in Marrakech and listened to the call of prayer and sound of the chants, spilling from the loudspeakers on the side of the nearby Mosque.
Once the sky had turned from day to night, we decided to make our way back into the square. In the time that we had spent above the city, the night market had been assembled and the square had been transformed into a busy open-air restaurant.
The food stalls were decorated with a gazzillion lights each, the sounds were buzzing and the smells pouring from them were mouth-wateringly enticing.
Activities: Lots of culture to embrace and excursions to go on such as camel riding, a trip to the atlas mountains, tagine making classes, Souks etc. 9/10
Beach: There is no beach in Marrakech but you can travel a little further out to Casablanca.
Food: Mainly authentic cuisine so expect lots of pastries, raisin filled cous cous, tender lamb tagines and vegetables. 8/10
Good to know: Hello – ‘Marhaba’; Thank you – ‘Shukran’; No – ‘La’ – this comes in very handy in the Souks. It’s also great to know the basics in French as it’s a predominantly French speaking country. Either that or download a trusty French speaking app for your iPhone (Us? Cheat? Never!).
Value for money: 9/10
All in all Marrakech gets a whopping 9 out of 10. Ideal for a summer holiday or a long weekend away.