On our first visit to Marrakech, Ben and I didn’t love it. However it was somewhere I felt like I hadn’t given a proper chance. Ben, my best friend Harriet, her boyfriend Tom and I all decided it would be the perfect place for a little couple’s break away from the UK for some summer sunshine and different culture.
As Marrakech has become a much more popular tourist destination for Westerners, it has also become more used to Western cultures and dressing although you should still try to be respectful with your clothing choices.
Leaving the safety of our taxi that had met us at the airport, navigating Jemaa el-Fnaa was exactly how I remembered it. Cobra’s dancing to shrill tunes that flittered towards us from the Punghi the Charmers carry via the hot, dry breeze. Monkeys wearing nappies being dragged around for photos with tourists. hundreds of fresh orange juice stalls with their owners shouting for your attention as you walk past. Ladies, fully covered by their Burqa’s reaching out for your hands to draw henna onto and the noise of car horns, motor bikes, horse and donkey hooves all clattering together as we headed for the shade of the souks.
Our Riad was off the main souks, down a narrow alley (as most usually are) but the minute we stepped over the threshold, the squares and souks felt like a million miles away. We had chosen Dar Jaguar as our Riad, wanting something that was beautiful, but less well known than the typical Instagram destinations. Although we had a few hiccups with our air conditioning not working (they very kindly upgraded us to the State of Grace suite for the rest of the trip, to make up for this) and the power/water being off for an entire day, the team were incredibly accommodating and did everything they could to ensure our stay was as lovely as possible. They organised transfers to all our activities, to and from the airport and even booked restaurants for us. Our first dinner was at the Riad and absolutely delicious. We also had breakfast there every morning which was heavenly. One thing I would say is that the pool is not for swimming in and if you’re booking a room, The State of Grace Suite may be more expensive, but it is in a completely different category to the other rooms and 100% worth the splurge.
What to See
Every corner in Marrakech has something beautiful to show. Wandering the Souks is a MUST, as is a trip to Jemaa el-Fnaa and if you can fit it in, a trip to the Tanneries.
The Majorelle Gardens were beautiful, but weren’t as impressive as I had imagined them to be, although that Majorelle Blue against the green foliage, fountains and Rusty dusky pinky brown that Marrakech is famous for, is as aesthetic as you can get. The YSL exhibition is also beautiful and if you’re a fan of fashion, definitely something you’d be interested in.
Personally, I preferred Le Jardin Secret to the YSL gardens. When you go in, you almost assume all there is is a tiny courtyard with a fountain filled with turtles, but when if you head through the red pillars, you’re met by an Emerald City. The most beautiful landscaped open space with nothing but the sounds of birds singing and water flowing. It is the most tranquil spot in Marrakech with more than one gorgeous bench to sit on for a drink.
Where to Eat
Definitely eat at least one meal in your Riad – I would recommend the first meal of your trip to be eaten in your Riad as I really don’t think they ever disappoint. We started ours with a bottle of wine and home made Tagine’s, breads and cous cous dishes before hearing our first call to prayer of the trip and falling asleep in our rooms.
Le Grand Cafe de la Poste was somewhere that Ben and I had loved on our last trip to Marrakech and wanted to re-visit. It’s located outside of the city walls in the newer -part of town but is colonially decorated and just stunning. The food is also really good and a nice little break from the hundreds of tagines you will undoubtedly sample!
Before we went to Marrakech I had read all about the new YSL Restaurant in Rosie’s blog post and knew I wanted to put it into our restaurant mix. We visited on an extremely warm day and courtyard restaurant was exceedingly hot, but the food and the giant drinks made it all worth it.
On our last trip to Marrakech, one night we had ordered take away tagines to our Riad and stayed in. This time, one of the restaurants we had been recommended to try was Hotel la Maison Arabe. It wasn’t until we got there that we realised this was where we had ordered our takeaway Tagine’s from four years previously. The food was delicious, however the service was a little slow and not very attentive. Ask for a table by the pool, it’s incredibly beautiful!
My absolute favourite meal of the entire trip had to be experienced at Scarabeo Desert Camp. We booked a dinner for the four of us under the stars. Following our Camel ride, we were brought our wine (that we had brought to the desert ourselves) and a bucket of ice to enjoy watching the setting sun before a guitarist started up and sung us to our candle lit supper of vegetable tagine, lamb tagine and cous cous. They let us bring a cake to celebrate Harriet’s Birthday which they brought out singing an alternative rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ – the entire evening was an absolute dream!
Nomad is like a cool Shoreditch hotspot in the middle of the Marrakech Souks. It serves a fusion of Moroccan flavours meshed with European foods like Moroccan Gazpacho, Burgers and Flourless Orange cake. Previously an old carpet store, it’s kept the charm of the traditional building and blended it perfectly with neutral tones making it feel super chic. The terrace is absolutely stunning with hanging lights overlooking the spice market so you can watch it transform from day to evening.
We had a meal on the Patio at Cafe Arabe that was delicious. We didn’t get a chance to try any of the terraces, but I have it on great authority that it’s a fab place to grab a drink in the evenings or for dinner.
What to Do
The best Morroccan Activities usually happen away from the centre of town and towards either the mountains or the desert.
On our previous trip to Marrakech, we took a day out to the Atlas Mountains which was incredible, we tacked on a visit to a traditional Berber House for mint tea as well as a visit to the Argan Oil factory and lunch in the mountains.
There are so many places to do Camel Rides in Marrakech, our last one was on our trip the the Atlas Mountains – an amazing experience but not the most picturesque of sceneries. This time, I wanted the full desert camel experience, so while we were at Scarabeo for dinner, we thought we would also book in a camel ride. These camels were incredible. At the touch of the keepers hand, they lay down for us to climb up and then with one verbal command they lifted their back feet and then unfolded their front in a seesaw motion before we were high up above the ground. We rode in the last of the setting sun, so it was much cooler and the whole desert turned a dusky pink. It was truly stunning.
When we first visited Marrakech a hammam was at the top of my list to experience. We went to Les Bains d’Azahara and our entire experience was incredible, they also had an exceptional deal for a full hammam experience and 60 minute massage between 10am and 2pm. Remembering this, I checked the same deal was still happening and all four of us booked in. The same lady who had given us the hammam experience four years previously was still working there and amazingly remembered us too! After the hammam, you’re led to the relaxation room where you’re given a foot massage and tea before being taken to your separate rooms in your couples for the massage. Harriet and Tom both LOVED the experience and Tom even said it was the most relaxing thing he’s ever done. We all walked back through the souks half asleep!