I do quite a bit of travelling (those plane journeys are just great opportunities for knitting!), but it’s not normally something I record on my blog. However, for Marrakech I just had to make an exception.
I went for a long weekend (four nights) at the end of January and had the most amazing time.
Where to stay in Marrakech
I would definitely recommend staying in the Medina, you’re so close to the souks and Jemaa el-Fnaa, the central square. There are lots of riads to pick from (all located in a maze of tiny streets) and we stayed at Riad Jona which was perfect. A complete haven in the bustle of Marrakech. With a rooftop terrace, swimming pool and jacuzzi it was perfect for relaxing at the end of the day.
On a transport note we booked the hotel transfer for our arrival (as we’d read bad reviews about getting a taxi from the airport) but then on the way back just got a taxi from near the square. The recommended price is 70 dirham and though the taxi driver started off at 100 dirham it was fairly easy to get him to agree to 80 dirham (about £15).
When to visit
Marrakech is perfect for a winter break for those of us in the colder parts of Europe looking for some sun. We had glorious weather in the 20s every day with clear blue skies. In the summer I imagine the heat must be almost overwhelming.
What to do
There is lots to do in Marrakech and the surrounding areas depending on how much time you have. As our time was relatively short I was happy simply exploring (and getting lost) in the old streets. For a break one day to escape the city we visited the Ouzoud waterfalls for a day trip and it was wonderful to see the monkeys playing in the wild and explore the countryside a little. The rest of the time I spent exploring the souks, finding it even more interesting the further you go in, past the touristy souks to where people are more calmly going about their business and are less intense in their sales pitch.
Despite reviews I’d read I never felt overly hassled or bothered and found a polite non merci/no thank you was more than enough. I bought several scarves and some bowls and got to try my hand, not very successfully I’ll admit, at haggling. It was a bit hard to really go for it when you’re arguing over the difference between £2 and £5!
There are also several museums and historical sights to see in the area within the souks, though my advice would be to not stress yourself out trying to find them. The streets are windy and confusing and signs are very limited. You can pay a young boy/teenager to help you but there may be a bit of battle over how much you then have to pay them.
Unfortunately there were too many snakes and monkeys being forced to perform for me to enjoy the main square and my one visit at night time to the food stalls ended with a very unhappy stomach (even though I avoided the cutlery!) so Jemaa el-Fnaa itself was a bit of a disappointment.
I did go by the dyers souk where they have the brightly coloured wools hanging to dry, though most of these looked like they were just for show. I asked someone what the wool was used for (it looked too coarse and heavy for knitting sadly) and they said it was woven into carpets. When we stopped for a drink at a rooftop cafe I did spot leather skins drying on a rooftop and it was interesting to see a glimpse of the work and life going on behind the ‘shop fronts’ of the souks. When I looked back a second later, all the leathers were gone…
What to eat
Get ready for a lot of tagine. I had one at my hotel and it was delicious, it has been cooked for hours and the meat was really tender. From feedback from others in some of the more toursity places the tajine wasn’t as good as it sounded like they were either using poor cuts of meat or rushing it. There’s also a lot of grilled meat and cous cous on offer, and bread, all the time bread!
What to wear
I agonised over what to wear before going, reading countless TripAdvisor forums and, in fact, I needn’t have worried so much. I wore pretty much what I would have worn at home, jeans/leggings and a t-shirt. I took a scarf with me in case I needed to cover up more but I would have felt out of place wearing it in reality. That said I’m sure there are some more conservative places where it may be advisable to cover up and I did see some anglophone tourists going around on segways in hot pants and they got a lot of looks which is understandable, I mean even I stared!
What not to miss
Sadly as I was ill for a day or so I did miss out on some of the things I would have liked to do. I didn’t get to try a hammam experience, but I was told by a friend that once you embraced the slightly weird feeling of being washed by someone it was very relaxing. I also would have loved to have tried a cooking lesson at our riad but had to make do on this occasion with merely sampling the lovely food, especially the freshly made breakfasts with cakes and pastries each morning! There’s always next time though as I know I’ll be going back to this captivating city.
Goodnight from beautiful Marrakech!