10 things to do in Marrakech, Morocco
10 things to do in Marrakech, Morocco
Wow – I honestly don’t even know where to begin! This trip has been an extremely memorable one because of my main girl’s wedding and catching up with some of New York’s finest two boys (<3) but Marrakech was also a very interesting experience that I don’t think I was prepared for – the good, the bad and the best.
Stay at a Riad in the Medina – Okay I honestly had a really bad experience because I had booked a RIAD right in the middle of the Old Medina (this is what happens when you plan a massive press day just a day before traveling!) which was the most stupidest thing to do because we had to walk for about 10 minutes from the taxi stand to our RIAD through multiple alleys. And there was no way either of us could remember our way in or out which made me really nervous (case and point my rant on social media). Also the fact that the porter who came to pick us up ALSO lost his way back?!? BUT having said that, some of our other friends did end up staying in the RIADS and of the best ones that I would recommend on the main road (so you don’t have to worry about lugging everything) is Riad Jaaneman or if you are feeling a little generous then definitely stay at Royal Mansour (second image) – one of the most luxurious five star hotels probably in the world (not in the Old Medina but close by)
Stay in the Medina area if you want to be closer to the markets, nightlife, souqs etc, not the Old Medina as that is just chaotic but go for the New Medina.
Visit the Jema’a El Fna souq – this is the main square and market place but WARNING and watch out for the Snake charmers and the monkeys. The guys are in to make a quick buck(s) so if you are feeling a bit daring then go for it else avoid all eye contact if you are not keen. My friends popped over to have a look and the snake charmers just wrapped the snake around him and ‘demanded’ 500 Euros (!!!) to take a photo. They wouldn’t lift the snake or take it back until you paid for it – imagine haggling with a snake around your neck!! Once you make it out of the square alive, you are in for some really amazing and colorful treats in the souq. The rugs, kaftans, jewelry, small furniture and just bits and pieces that you don’t really need but feel you do are going to steal your hearts away.
One of Marrakech best kept secret are the rugs! It took me hours…dayssss to decide which ones I wanted to buy. The designs are some of the most incredible ones I have seen. You are not allowed to take any pictures when they take you to what I called it the secret ‘cave’ but basically the walls have rolls and rolls of carpets that you can only dream of! You will find lots of small shops but look out for the big ones as they will have 100s of varieties but don’t forget to HAGGLE everywhere!
You have to do a Moroccan Hammam! You can’t go to Morocco and not do a Hammam – the experience is incredible when you are experiencing the authenticity. I went to the one in my hotel itself (oh forgot to mention that I later moved to a resort in the new Medina itself called Hotel & Ryads Barriere Le Naoura!). Expect a lot of nakedness which to be honest I wasn’t mentally prepared for?! But basically you are asked to lie down on a marble slab wearing only the most ridiculous thong ever and the lady will come to you with a bucket of really warm water and actually bathe you. After the first five minutes, the awkwardness starting wearing off and I started feeling…okay maybe just a littleeee like a Moroccan princess ha! And then comes the scrubbing – WOW I was genuinely surprised! She legit scrubbed off a layer from my body – gives you a perspective on how filthy your body actually is!! I felt like I was reborn and it is followed by another shower – I was this close to asking her ‘Won’t you wash my hair for me too’!!
Coming back to Hotel & Ryads Barriere Le Naoura – one of the best resorts I have ever stayed at. Considering that we booked our stay at this hotel so last minute, every single staff was so accommodating and made our experience extremely memorable. From the massive rooms (dedicated showers and dressing area for two pax…each!) to the Olympic sized pool to the spa (I was emotional leaving!) to the fact that I can actually have my breakfast in bed if I am feeling too lazy to pop down for breakfast (at no extra cost!), I will 100% stay at the same resort when I go back. And this time I will opt for the luxury RYAD which is pretty much like having your own home with butler service that is attached to the hotel.
Buy Argan Oil – funny that I never really paid attention to this before. Apparently grown only in Marrakech, the Argan oil has about 100 million benefits for your skin, digestive system, hair, anti-ageing – I mean pretty much nature’s therapy into staying younger and healthier. Since its grown in this country, you will find it cheaper and in its rawest form without any chemicals.
Eat at the Henna Art Cafe in the souq – we literally stumbled upon it and had some of the best local food! It’s the cutest cafe and obviously you can get some really beautiful henna done after your meal!
Visit the Majorelle Gardens – These magical gardens were created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle starting in 1922. Yves Saint Laurent bought them in 1962 and extensively renovated them. Bougainvilleas, cypress, cacti, palm trees &papyrus create an amazing, lush decor. The Majorelle Gardens also host an important Berber Culture museum and is also where Yves Saint Laurent is now buried. You will easily spend up to 2 hours in here because you can’t stop taking pictures!
The NIGHTLIFE is extreme and you will not be disappointed! PARTY at:
Le THEATRO – Some really good hip hop & RNB
Le Comptoir – Expect Marrakshi hipsters and Casa playboys in an upbeat cushion strewn courtyard
Le Raspoutine – Insane house music until 5am
Le Bo&Zin – Marrakech’s Zuma
Things to know before travelling to Morocco:
- Take a direct flight preferably to Casablanca (there is no direct flight to Marrakech from Dubai) which is actually 7.5 hours (I never realized it was so far away) and then take a local taxi (you need to pre-book) to Marrakech which is another 2/2.5 hour drive rather than taking a domestic flight – it takes the same amount of time but is a lot cheaper and you don’t move around a lot
- If you are ‘blessed’ with an Indian or Lebanese or (basically any non American, Canadian, Australian or European) passport, then you need to apply for a visa which is the most complicated process ever. There is no appointment system – you need to show up at the embassy quite early with only three things: Passport, Passport copy, Salary certificate and your hotel booking (although the embassy site included a lot more documentation but this is all they took from us). The minute we rocked up at the embassy, what baffled me the most was that there was no system, no guarantees that you will get a visa – a lot of people who were waiting there had actually come down for the 4th / 5th time to apply for the visa. They were basically given back their passports without any reasoning of why they didn’t get the visa and asked to come back every 3-4 days which is absolutely insane! But we were lucky to get ours within 10 working days – I think it also helps to have a Schengen or an American visa on your passport.
- The first language is Arabic but the Moroccan dialect followed by French followed by a very poor command of English which gets quite difficult if you don’t speak the first two languages so be prepared to Google Translate your life away on the streets (we didn’t face any language barriers at the hotel, restaurants, nightlife – it is only the streets and getting around).
- Haggle! Haggle! Haggle! Everywhere – I couldn’t believe I was such an expert, by the end of it I haggled a 800 AED rug for 170 AED yaaaaas!
- Check the weather before you travel, even though we went in a cooler month (May) it can get really hot in the day.
- Money: Count roughly 12 Dirhams to 1 Pound. All major credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurant and certain shops. ATMs are widely available.
- Time Zone: Morocco is in the GMT time zone (London)
- Getting Around: Taxis are the easiest way to get around. Otherwise ask your hotel to help with car bookings.
That’s about it for now – do leave a comment if you found it useful!