Is it just me or does it seem that e.v.e.r.y.b.o.d.y with an Instagram account has been to Marrakesh recently? I can hardly blame them though – you know a holiday was a successful one when you’re looking at every photograph with a sinking feeling in your chest, thinking take.me.back. That’s the lasting impression that Marrakesh left on my heart. From the hustle and bustle of the medina, the enchanting call to prayer sounding out from the mosques across the terracotta tone cityscape, the winding jungle of treasures in the souks, and watching Jemaa el-Fna square come alive as the sun sets – I can honestly say I feel as though I left a piece of me in that city. So it’s time for a travel instalment on Fashion Slave with the Stylish Travel Guide To Marrakesh.
The thing is, Marrakesh is full of surprises. You’ll find yourself down a street that feels busy, dusty, lacking any glamour, but take a step in a low wooden door and find yourself transported to an enchanting oasis of palms and nature. You never know what’s behind each door, or every turn. It could be a dead end or it could be something amazing. It’s a city full of treasures waiting to be unlocked and explored, a city where you make stories.
1) Dress appropriately – men can dress how they like, but women ideally need to dress more conservatively. Keep your shorts and vests for in the resort!
2) Be wary of people offering you help – there’s a lot of children about who’ll offer directions and say they will take you places, then demand money for doing so after.
3) Nothing is ever free – you may get a lady offer you ‘free’ henna. It won’t be free! As before, they’ll try charge you after.
4) You’ll get approached a lot – learn to say no and wear sunnies to avoid too much eye contact that can encourage them. It’s just a part of culture over there to try and get you in to make some money from you. I was told it’s best to just ignore people rather than say no outright, but then even this caused some issues (a woman said “you are not a good girl! So rude! Just say no!” when I ignored her henna advances…)
5) All female groups can often attract more attention
6) Avoid going during Muslim holy days – it can be hard to find places to eat during Ramadan
7) Brush up on your French – the locals speak a mixture of Arabic and French mostly, so put your GCSE language skills to the test and it’ll be much easier! Times like this I really regret doing German…
8) Animals – there’s a tonne of stray cats that seem relatively looked after. But you’ll find monkeys in the square on chains that you can sadly pay to have photographs with – that was particularly hard to take in.
“You are the best piece of ass in Marrakesh!” – er, thanks, dude in the hat in the medinas. Notttt. You already know my feelings on things such as catcalling, so I thought I’d find going to a country where foreign women can get a lot of unwanted attention would be slightly troublesome. Before going, and on arrival at the riad, I was repeatedly told I would get harassed. I actually found it okay and I wasn’t particularly hassled much – not enough to be bothered anyway – despite the fact that so many people warned me it would happen. Perhaps it’s the fact I was with my 6 foot 3 muscle man of a boyfriend that scared them off a bit? Either way, it helped. It sounds ridiculous, but I found it a lot easier to brush off than he did, and I can’t help but think it’s because men aren’t as used to having to ignore people’s advances in the streets as us women are!
The easiest starting point for your trip (after booking flights! Ours were only £130 each, return) is of course where to stay! So for a four night trip, I’d highly recommend staying two nights in a riad in the centre, then moving on to a resort a little bit further out. Originally this plan was made because I like holidays where I get to explore, and Simon likes to chill, so we were just making the compromise, but it’s actually the perfect choice because the centre is a lot to take in. It’s busy, it’s loud at night (not that you can tell when you’re tucked away in your riad!) but it does feel nice to escape the hustle and bustle and r e l a x in a resort. Our riad was in Mellah, the Jewish district – which we were only told on the last day by a taxi driver is the ‘dodgy’ area. Oops. That said, our riad was beautiful. The Riad Spa Dar 73 – a little boutique building with 6 suites decked in contemporary mixed with traditional Moroccan design. You enter through a small wooden door in an alleyway (how very Marrakesh!) and find yourself transported into a tranquil oasis of chic and calm. Dreamy!
After two nights there, we head out to Sirayane Boutique Hotel & Spa, and I can’t tell you how this place took my breath away with the stunning architecture, thoughtful decor and beautiful touches. They run a free shuttle service to and from the centre throughout the day so you don’t feel entirely cut off from all of the excitement. If staying here or at a similar resort out of the centre, I’d suggest taking the shuttles in for either lunches or dinners to save yourself some money as the food here is expensive.
Where to Eat & Drink (rated with £’s depending on how pricey!)
Le Jardin – ££
Escape the labyrinth of the medina and grab some lunch in the breathtaking Le Jardin. It’s bursting with wildlife (oh my god a tortoise!) and it was one of the best places I ate during my trip.
La Famille – ££
Grande Cafe de la Poste – £££
Now, this is where you go if you’re feeling a bit fancy. The 1920’s build, checkerboard floor, wicker furniture and potted palm trees scream colonial Morocco. The food is more French, and lies on the pricier side. I’d recommend you come here for drinks on the terrace on an evening, or brunch at the weekend. It’s frequented by plenty of famous people so keep your cool, even in the Marrakesh heat.
Cafe Kif Kif – £
Aicha (No.1 Jemaa el-Fnaa) – £
The square comes alive at night, as do all of the street food vendors. Honestly, don’t pass on the humble street food markets for all of the swanky places as you will miss out – Aicha is stall number 1 in the food market (number 1 by place, number 1 in nature!) and is well worth a visit for cheap eats. You really get to soak up the vibe of the square sitting on the benches, watching your food be freshly grilled. Soak up the sights and the smells!
And finally… I can honestly said I fell in love with city, but that said, it wouldn’t be entirely fair to share my opinion without sharing that of my travel buddy, Simon’s. Whilst I would go back there in a heartbeat, he said he wouldn’t go back, simply because he didn’t like being constantly approached and hassled by people. That, and the monkeys! Which is a fair point. It all depends on what kind of holidays you are really into. But if you both prefer slightly different things on holiday, there’s no saying you can’t do both in Marrakesh – our split of riad/ resort and culture/ chill worked perfectly.
And there’s my stylish travel guide to Marrakesh! If you find that piece of my heart that I’m missing, don’t bring it back x
Photographs by either me or Simon White.