There’s just something about Marrakech. It is more than just an ancient city in Morocco; it’s a sensory experience, filled with vibrant colors, flavors, smells, sounds, and unique sights. The city bombards your senses and holds nothing back in the process.
The first time I visited was for just one day/one night, at the front-end of a wider Moroccan road trip. This time, because I went for three days, I got to experience a bit more of the excitement and energy that Marrakech beholds.
Below are my recommendations for a weekend spent in the red city.
The restored 18th-century Riad Kniza is a boutique-y 11 room hideout in the heart of Marrakech's old city. When you step through the front door, you leave the hustle of the old town behind you. The guesthouse's atmosphere is peaceful and serene with an authentic Moroccan decor.
Our room, the royal suite (#11), was enormous, with a modern bathroom, seating area, fireplace and lots of Moorish detail.
The riad has a rooftop, spa, pool, several courtyards and a wall of photographs featuring the owner alongside his many famous guests. If it's good enough for Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Goldie Hawn, it's good enough for me!
Marrakech is famous for its souks (markets). Take your time mooching around the labyrinth of covered alleys, getting lost amongst the paintings, rugs, leather goods, lanterns, spice stalls and crockery of all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for a true Marrakechi experience, haggle with the vendors. Start at one quarter of the price you're told, and never pay more than a third of the initial given price.
Whilst the city has become a hotspot for those seeking Arabian luxuries in lavish lodgings, marble clad spas and chic dining experiences, it's interesting to see a different side of Marrakech, hidden from the streets below. From the rooftops, you get a peek behind the curtain, so to speak. You'll see clothes hanging out to dry, crumbling plaster, rusty satellite dishes and weakly installed cabling. Roof terraces are the perfect place to sit back, relax and note the juxtaposition that is Marrakech. I recommend the following (*Note: Some do, and some do not sell alcohol):
Bazaar Cafe: Climb the stairs to the top floor for the best views. Up there, you'll find a relaxed terrace, charming atmosphere and a selection of wine, beer and spirits.
Medina Sky doesn't serve booze, but it sure is pretty. Pop in for a traditional mint tea or have a snack before moving on to the next rooftop.
If you want to visit the highest bar in the Medina and be seen at one of the newest and coolest spots, look no further than Kabana.
Visit El Fenn's rooftop for a delicious lunch, then stay to enjoy the plunge pool and a few bottles of rose in one of the many lounging areas. It's an Instagrammer's paradise.
To sample some of the delectable dishes that Marrakech has to offer, dine at the following:
At Comptoir Darna you'll get exotic decor, dinner and a show. Book in advance and be sure to order the roasted goats cheese starter followed by the famous mechoui for two. The lamb shoulder is cooked for seven hours and then roasted. It's served with vegetables and potatoes and is more than enough to feed four people. Whilst you dine, you will be entertained by belly dancers and women balancing lit candelabras on their heads.
Ask to sit by the pool at Hotel La Maison Arabe. I had great service, a lovely meal and really enjoyed the live music.
For the second time, Morocco did not disappoint. Marrakech is a must-visit destination for travellers seeking a quintessential Moroccan experience with a whole lot of surprises.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
The Moroccan dirham is a closed currency, meaning you can't get any in advance and you are not allowed to take any with you when you leave.
Many places in Marrakech (restaurants, hotels, taxis and some stalls) will accept Euros, but you'll often get dirham as change, with what can be a poor exchange rate.
Be aware of pick-pockets and backpack slashers in crowded markets.
In the souq, be firm but polite. Haggling is part of the Moroccan experience.
Most Moroccans speak French as well as their Berber dialects.
Modest clothing is advised for both female and male travelers to avoid hassles and unwanted attention.
Vendors and performers in the souqs expect to be paid for photographs. And many Moroccans don’t like having their photos taken. Respect their customs.