The charm of Marrakesh: A mini guide

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The city of colour, hustlers and hidden gems. Marrakesh needs to be on your travel bucket list for multiple reasons. Marrakesh is a city in Morocco and a major must see, it is home to mosques, palaces and beautiful gardens. The medina (probably where you’d spend majority of your time) is a densely packed medieval city with maze-like alleys where you’ll find the thriving souks (marketplaces) selling traditional textiles, clothes and shoes, pottery, jewellery, spices, soaps and oils and a variety of other magnificent trinkets. You can find everything in the souks, including Sting Ray eggs (interesting hey).

Prepare to haggle hard on this trip, everyone is hustling, they’ll try sell you the lovely handmade woven basket with the multi-coloured pompoms you have set your heart on for around 400 Dirham, which is about £80 (lol), I walked away paying £7, so just keep going until you’re happy. Don’t feel bad about bartering with market vendors, they’re ready for you to do just that. Prepare also to get lost a good few times in the souks, walk past the same stall probably twenty five times (but not actually recognise it once), and also to be offered “help and directions” when you look lost! But you’ll soon get your bearings, it’s not that big of a place really, and getting lost is all part of the adventure right?

You’ll be woken up at the crack of dawn by the first call to prayer, the Imam (the person who leads the prayers in the mosque) will recite a summoning call to all muslims melodically and beautifully, this is called azan, and it really is beautiful. The reason it is so loud is because of the modern times we live in and mosques have adapted to this by adding a speakerphone to their minarets. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is just one Imam, and one mosque he recites from, there are many, all over and it happens 5 times a day. It’s amazing to be honest with you.

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Where to stay: There are a lot of Riad’s to choose from in and around the medina, they seem to be the place to stay unless you’ve got big bucks then you’d probably not mind spending a couple grand for a week at the world renowned La Mamounia, a five star uber luxury hotel. We stayed at the Riad Amina, and visited Riad Yasmin (Instagram goals might I add). The majority of hotels, or in this case, I would actually describe them more like guest houses, are traditionally Moroccan in architecture and their offering of fresh mint tea.

What to do:

Relax… with a Hammam - a traditional bathing and cleansing ritual, a woman washes you (I literally felt like a royal princess) and she then removes all the dead skin from your body, watching what comes off your body is so gross, but wow this ritual is an amazing experience and one not to be missed!

Get lost… in the souks. The vibrant colours, the smell of spices and the multitude of things to look at and buy is endless, a real eye opener into how Marrakesh works.

Fascination begins… in Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square where you’ll find the snake charmers, monkey owners, henna ladies, the man selling teeth, fresh juice bars, food markets, horse rides and all the other weird and wonderful acts.

Act like a princess… at the Bahia Palace and its set of stunning gardens. The beautiful mosaic tiles, stained glass windows and Islamic style architecture is just mind blowing.

Play tourist… at The Majorelle Garden, a two and half acre botanical garden of bright blues, greens and yellows. A true gem in Marrakesh that has to be seen if you go.

The fanciest history lesson ever… at the YSL Museum, right next to the Majorelle Garden, this is one spectacular exhibition to explore.

Get cultural… and visit the outside of the Mosques, they’re stunning.

Tours:

I did all of the below a few years ago with my family but definitely worth doing if you’ve not been before.

  • Atlas mountain and berber village tour, a true way to experience the ethnically indigenous people and traditional culture.

  • Camel ride through the dessert, might not be for you… but if it is, it’s an option.

  • Fantasia Show, allow yourself to be bewitched by the songs and dances of folk groups, you’ll eat, listen and watch a unique entertainment show in an arena as large as a football field, a beautiful parade from Arabic horse jumpers, unforgettable acrobats and traditional songs and belly dancers.

Avoid:

  • Waking through the lonely alleys alone in the dark. Although a predominantly safe city, you wouldn’t do that at home anyway would you?

  • When a man, woman or even a child say the famous words “Lady, the road is closed because of mosque, come this way I will take you..”, DO NOT believe it, they use the religion line to make you feel uncomfortable, but actually even when a mosque is in session, you can still walk past it. Just carry on the way you were going and trust your instincts. Even if the kid is cute (and trust me on this) they will lead you somewhere else claiming to take you the way you need to go, but you’ll end up meeting another man who demands money from you.

Restaurants:

There are loads of options, but these are the top spots I visited and highly recommend with something for everyone at each of them.

  • Le Jardin - gorgeous setting, very Insta-worthy. Food fantastic.

  • Nomad - Rooftop restaurant in the heart of the souks. Food amazing.

  • La Ferme - Tucked away, almost as if eating in a tree house. Food good.

  • Cafe Des Epics - Traditional Moroccan cuisine, rooftop option. Food great.

  • Riad Yasmin - Rooftop or inside. Food delicious.

Top tips:

  • Get your phone unlocked before you go so you can buy a Moroccan SIM with 4G data in Marrakesh airport (on arrival you’ll see them).

  • Hire a taxi man, direct from your hotel (not the street) to be your driver for a day at around £50-£70 so he can take you to all the best spots without getting lost or hassled all day because walking 10 miles (yep, that happened to us) to never actually get anywhere but go round in circles in the souks is not ideal. When I said maze-like at the beginning, I truly meant it and don’t think google maps will help you because there’s limited service everywhere.

  • Watch out for the motorbikes, they whizz through the souks and don’t stop for nothing or no-one.

  • Carry cash.

  • Take a back pack, or zip up bag on your front.

  • Dress respectfully.

  • Have fun!

I hope this brief summary of my trip and little guide helps you if you’re planning a visit to Marrakesh anytime soon. Feel free to ask me any questions you still might have though. And if you haven’t a trip planned, I really hope this has inspired you to book one.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the video below,

Alex x

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