Sunday, 3 April 2016

5 places you must see in Marrakech, Morocco

It seems like this is the time of year when people catch a glimpse of the Spring sunshine, remember what it's like to experience a bit of warmth and daylight, and head straight to the travel agents or Expedia website.

Marrakech is definitely a hot destination at the moment. It's very affordable (we did our whole trip - flights, accommodation, food, the lot - for £600) and the Moroccan city is hot, vibrant, busy and beautiful. There's an awful lot to do there, so I thought I'd share our top 5 places to visit:



1. The Souks

The markets of Marrakech (known as souks) are an absolute must visit if you want to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city. When I visited we stayed just off the main market square, Jemaa el Fna, which is a central hub for both locals and tourists alike.

Don't be put off by how chaotic it seems, or be afraid to haggle for everything from spices to pottery and leather handbags. It's a maze-like market with artisan workshops at the centre and more touristy trinkets around the edges, so if you're open to getting slightly lost be sure to dive straight in.

Make sure you head back to Jemaa el Fna at night too. As you take in the beautiful sunset from one of the many cafe terraces, street food stalls begin to pop up on the ground below. Be sure to enjoy some of the skewered meat and Khobz bread, followed by deliciously sweet pastries and mint tea.

There are about 50 stalls but all serve very similar food and very similar prices and will go for the hard sell to get you to choose theirs. I'd also advise eating with your hands as they often clean cutlery in the same bucket of water all night thanks to the lack of running water on the stalls. We did and it was not only fine but totally yummy and a real experience!



2. La Jardin Majorelle

These gardens require a quick taxi ride into the new part of the city but are a true oasis compared to the hot and dusty old town. French painter Jacques Majorelle created the gardens, which then become home to designer Yves Saint Laurent until his death in 2008. The bright blues and yellows of the buildings interspersed with cool, shady greenery are honestly such a joy to behold. It felt like we'd stepped into another world. 

The gardens are also home to a museum dedicated to the ancient tribal cultures of the Atlas mountain region and a gorgeous cafe. Visit first thing in the morning for a relaxing few hours, as the bus loads of tourists that arrive before and after lunch can make things quite busy.



3. Madrasa Ben Youseff

We visited many a historic site in the 5 days that we were in Marrakech but none blew me away quite as much as the ancient religious school of Ben Youseff. Entry was incredibly cheap but the asymmetrical architecture and central courtyard complete with a clear blue pool of water are just stunning.

The mosaic work that covers the entire building is perfect and you can wonder in and out of the many rooms to your heart's content. It's also virtually next door to the Musée de Marrakech that contains some impressive works of art and is also a beautiful building, having once been a palace.




4. The tanneries

Our trip to the tanneries was somewhat involuntary, thanks to a very sneaky, pushy young man who claimed to be a guide and kind of swept us towards the leather district. Be wary of this and be sure to make your own way there as these phony 'tour guides' will demand a large sum of money in exchange for their 'help', even if you didn't want or ask for it!

Shady wheeler dealers aside a properly planned visit to the tanneries is still a sight to behold. Hides are treated and cured on the rooftops, so not only is it interesting to see how it's done but the views are ah-mazing (I'm running out of adjectives to describe just how picturesque Marrakech actually is!).

The 'exit through the gift shop' trick has also not been lost on the Moroccans, so if you find yourself in one at the end of your tannery tour and don't want to haggle for a purchase then politely but firmly decline. The prices they will try and charge you will be astronomical.


5. La Palmeraie

The very last thing we did our trip was take a camel tour through the palm groves on the outskirts of the city. The land here is flat and dry but populated by, you guessed it, a lot of palm trees. You can do all sorts of activities in the area, from walking to quad biking, and there are also golf courses dotted around, but we opted for more traditional transport. Gotta try everything once!

We went at the end of the day as a storm was brewing, which was good because it meant that the June weather wasn't so scorching, but not so good because my camel had properly had enough. He was as scary as he was fed up (I have to admit I did feel quite bad for him once I saw that) but eventually he settled into it and I think we both had a good time. The guide was interesting too and made us little origami camels out of dried leaves.


Don't forget to read this post on what I wore during our trip to help you cater your wardrobe to the climate and local customs!

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3 comments

  1. I've always wanted to go to but it seems like a bit of a stressful holiday to me! Looks like there's loads to experience though 😊

    www.wordsbynina.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought it would be but it wasn't! We got so swept up in everything and the riad we stayed in was an oasis of calm so we just retreated there every afternoon!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The gardens look incredible! I'd love to visit one day :)

    Lilies and Lipbalm
    xx

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