Marrakech is a place that you either love or hate but it’s also a place like no other and before you go you need to prepare so that you don’t get dissapointed. The first thing that everyone asked me was is Marrakech safe?
Before I went I heard lots of bad experiences mainly from women, how they were hassled or scammed by random people. Personally, I didn’t have any bad experience but you need to be alert and keep in mind that people will try to scam you, starting from the taxi drivers. Any drive within Marrakech by taxi shouldn’t be cost more than 50 dirhams (€5). You need to be prapered to bargain. If they don’t want to lower the fare, you should leave or pretend to leave because they will probably accept your offer or in the worse case you will find another taxi driver.
Also, don’t accept help from random people on the street who want to give you directions, or people who come up to you to sell you something. Always make sure you look like you know where you are going, even if you don’t.
I would advise getting a Moroccan SIM card at the airport so that you can use it for Google Maps. Before you leave the terminal building at Marrakech airport you will see many different vendors selling SIM cards with data plans included, we got a plan with Orange which cost €10 and included 4GB of data. We also found that Google Maps in Marrakech was pretty accurate unlike Venice or Seattle where it didn’t work for us, and we ended up walking in circles.
We stayed at a new boutique riad called Ksar Kasbah & Spa, it’s located in the old town just a short walk from the main attractions like Sadian Tombs and Bahia Palace or if you prefer, a 20 minute walk to the souks. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the most friendly staff. They offered us mint tea and some Moroccan pastries to enjoy by the pool. The turquoise pool is in the heart of the riad, covered in pretty mosaic tiles, luscious green plants and ornate furniture, it’s like your personal Eden! Ksar Kasbah is so peaceful and calm that you will wish you could stay here all day. This riad has a total of eleven rooms all built around the pool and furnished in a pure bohemian style (price range: from €100 to €150 per night).
I really loved the rooftop, with its sun loungers, and cacti it was especially magical during the sunset.
The breakfast, which was included in the price was a delight: tasty Moroccan crepes, fluffy lemon/poppy seeds, fresh fruits, eggs and dairy products. You can choose to eat on the rooftop or by the pool. We also opted for dinner one night, which we had under the stars. Their chicken and lemon tajine was devine and the couscous Royal was amazing!
Another feature of Ksar Kasbah is its spa, located on the rooftop. With a traditional hammam and 2 cabins for treatments and massage, the spa is open every day from 8 am to 9 pm. All the treatments are performed with natural local products.
Whether you’re staying there or not, you’ll probably want to make a trip to the breathtaking Mamounia, a luxury 5-star hotel set in a former royal palace. I can’t comment on the experience of staying there because, sadly, it was outside of my budget, but we did manage to go for a drink and stroll around the grounds and I have to say it felt like a glimpse of a different world. Plus if you’re looking for gram-worthy spots, you’ll find plenty of #InstaGold. Those Insta -famous monochrome pillars are now closed to the general public and only for guests so I didn’t get the snap there but the rest of the hotel is just as beautiful.
Le Jardin is located in the middle of the souks and the athmosphere lives up to its name- it’s a beautiful, calm green oasis. When you walk in you will forget that you are just few steps away from the hustle and bustle of the souks. Le Jardin is owned by the same group as Nomad so you can expect delicious food, amazing interiors and even a few turtles wandering around.
Probably the most famous food place in Marrakech, this lively restaurant serves simple “Modern Moroccan” cuisine: traditional local cuisine and international dishes with a Moroccan twist. It is spread over four floors with two levels of terraces that offer amazing views of the surrounding Medina and the Atlas mountain range. Nomad is perfect for both lunch and dinner or drinks at the bar to rest from the craziness of the souks. We went for dinner and even though I’m not a big lamb fan, I had one of the best ever (lamb)burgers.
Another serene restaurant right in the middle of the chaos of Medina. It might be hard to spot at first because all that separates the alley from the restaurant is a set of tiny wooden doors. But when you pass through them you will step into an unexpected world – tiled courtyard shaded with lemon trees, calm music and the scent of delicious Italian and Moroccan food. We spent two hours there, just relaxing, people watching and listening to the birds.
No matter where you are going for food, make sure to try famous Moroccan dish tajine. Moroccan tajine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews, typically made with sliced meat, poultry or fish together with vegetables or fruit. Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used.
More Food: Café Des Épices,Le Salama, Atay Cafe
Le Jardin Majorelle & Yves Saint Laurent Museum
One of the few sights in the New Town is the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful botanical garden previously owned by Yves Saint Laurent and housing the Museum of the late French fashion designer. It’s pretty small, but well worth visiting for the striking design, colours and beautiful range of foliage where you can wander around and hide from the heat. I don’t have any pictures from inside the musuem because it is not permitted to take photos, but believe me, you will be amazed with the garments exibited inside.
The Bahia Palace is a striking example of Moroccan architecture consisting of several grand rooms and courtyards. The gardens are particulary beautiful with their orange trees and fountains. This palace was never a home of the royal family but it was a home of Si Moussa, the man who managed sultan’s household. After his son died, the servents ransacked the palace so today the palace stands completely empty and without any furniture, so when you visit you can only admire the woodwork and the tiles and try to imagine how it once looked.
You can’t really miss the souks, the main markets of Marrakech. There’s a central covered area made up of a maze of alleyways twisting through stalls selling traditional crafts, Moroccan lamps, designer fakes, and lots of beautiful crockery and it’s really hard to resist. You can easily spend hours browsing the stalls, but make sure to haggle. We found out that before going to the main market the best thing to do is to visit the smaller, local market where the prices are fixed and there is no negotiation. That will give you an insight into what is an acceptable price for the items you want to buy. Also keep in mind shopkeepers can be quite agressive if you try taking pictures, there were a few times we were told we couldn’t take photos unless we bought something so I ended up buying a tea pot, two plates and a wooden camel.
On your wander around markets, you will probably end up at Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square and market place. Personally, I didn’t like it. It was too chaotic, there were live snakes (which are my biggest phobia) I also found the people there very pushy.
Le Jardin Secret
The garden is located in the middle of Medina and from the outside is advertised as an open air museum. You enter the complex into a tiled courtyard with running water, and foliage. It’s almost unbelievable peaceful, especially because there is not many tourists inside. Originally built in 16th century these gardens were previously ruined and left decay for years until 2008 when they started renovation and finally opened it for the public in 2016. There is not much you can do inside except enjoy the serenity and Islamic architecture so if you want you can sit in one of the two cafes.Entrance fee is 50 dirhams.
Other places: Marrakech Museum, Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace, Ben Youseff Madrasa(currently closed for renovation-2019)
There are so many things you can do while staying in Marrakech from day trip to Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate, to a night at luxury desert camps in Agafay desert or 3 day tour to Merzouga (proper sand) desert. Because we were only there for 3 days, we needed to choose the most convenient one. We booked a private camel ride in Agafay desert through the Dunes & Desert tour agency. We had a private driver and a guide who picked us up at 9am from near our Riad and took us to the Berber village in Agafay desert. For those who don’t know, Berbers are people ethnicly indigenous to North Africa. Their rich cultural history dates back to prehistoric times, over 4000 years ago. Although, the Berber people today don’t live exclusively in rural areas, these communities offer an interesting insight into the Berber tradition and history. All the camels there are owned by a local family and they appeared to be very well looked after. After our camel ride, (which was overwhelming experience for me because I simply adore camels) we were served freshly made Moroccan pancakes with condiments and mint tea.
I have to say, this was one of the best experiences that I ever had. We had a chance to see communities that live in the middle of nowhere, leading a life that was so different from ours.
If you want to ride a camel, you can also do that in Marrakech, at the Palm Grove, but I would recommend a more unique and authentic experience.