Marrakech is one of those places I’d been wanting to go to for a while but had never really gotten round to it. Also, I wanted to see it with a local, and after befriending some amazing Moroccan girls during my masters, I felt that it had to be a holiday I’d go on with them.
As it always happens, visas, boyfriends and families got in the way (just kidding, it was over the Christmas break after all), so only 3 of us managed to meet up, but then another bunch of friends joined our trip, making us a group of 7 girls. So let me answer a few frequent questions:
Is Marrakech safe?
Yes, I felt very safe. We were all girls but never had any issues apart from a few drunken men who approached us, nothing that wouldn’t happen in London. The girls were always cautious when driving around and locked the doors, but I must admit I was more worried about us crashing into a donkey / horse & carriage / human / cyclist. The streets are pure mayhem!
Where should we stay?
I’d 100% recommend a Ryad – these are the traditional Moroccan houses and are simply stunning. Most of them have been done up to cater for all needs, they are honestly so beautiful, most have a roof terrace some sort and even a pool. Check out Airbnb for a whole range of them, ranging from as little as £60 or so a night (to be divided among all guests). We were staying at Dar Zaz.
What to do?
We were lucky because we had a car and my friend had kindly pretty much planned out our 3.5 days there. Some of the coolest things to do are:
1) Visit the main square Jemaa el Fnaa & get lost in the souk
You literally feel as if you’ve been catapulted into another reality when you wander the streets of Marrakech. It’s chaos, but beautiful at the same time. There are people, animals and stray cats everywhere, beautiful architecture and vibrants colours. The souk is their bazaar, when locals and tourists alike can buy anything from spices to clothes, jewellery or items to decorate your home (of course at quite different prices). If you have a local bargaining for you you’ll get a much better price.
Travel tip: NEVER settle for the first price they give you. You can usually get it to at least half of that!
Venture into the ‘Spice Market’ – this was my favourite part of the souk as it has a stunning square just full of beautiful colours and delicious smells.
Here you’ll find a few hidden gems like Cafe` des Epices or Cafe` Nomad which are the perfect spots to have a bite to eat, the former for breakfast and the latter for lunch. Nomad is a cool because they serve traditional Moroccan that have been revisited and given a novel twist. Cafe des Epices has an epic view on the square and rooftops. You also get to wear a super cool straw hat to protect you from the sun 😛
The main square, Jemaa el Fnaa is pure madness, as if they were constantly celebrating something: there is dancing, snake charmers, monkeys, musicians, street food.. even some weird dentists that have small stands full of people’s teeth they pulled out. I asked if it was like that every day and it is! It only starts to get lively though after 10:30-11 am.
2) Take a day trip to the desert
If you have several days then definitely try to book a proper trip to the Sahara where you can stay overnight in a Bedouin tent, etc, but if you only have 3 or so days like us, you won’t have enough time to do that. An easy and awesome alternative if you have a car (or even by taxi maybe as they are very cheap) is to go to the Désert d’Agafay – a rocky but equally stunning desert only an hour or so outside Marrakech. The contrast that you see between desert & camels, surrounded by the snowy Atlas mountains is simply breathtaking.
Find out all about it in my next post.
3) Have lunch on a lake
Yes, a lake! Who knew right? I sure wasn’t expecting to find mountains, desert & lake all within 1 hours distance of Marrakech! Take a drive/taxi to La Villa du Lac, about 30 min or so outside the city and you’ll be enveloped by a stunning sense of peace and visual beauty. Picture a pool right on the lake, surrounded by mountains.. that’s La Villa du Lac! The food wasn’t as impressive as our meal in the desert, but it was still good and the surroundings just made it!
4) Visit the Jardin de Majorelle
Designed over the course of 40 years by Jacques Majorelle, it was where Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé spent most of their time, eventually becoming its owners. It’s a calm botanic oasis, full of beautiful shades of blue. I can see why YSL found a lot of his inspiration in this stunning location.
5) Just wander, wander, wander..
As per my usual recommendation: just get lost in the streets on Marrakech because that’s how you’ll stumble across the coolest and most unexpected places.
Find out all about the Agafay Desert in my next post – coming soon!