Meandering in Marrakech

IMG_1335In February, I booked a weekend in Marrakech Morocco. Located in northern Africa, it was only a 3 hour flight from London. I admit going there was out of my comfort zone but it’s a place I continue to talk about and dream about going back too. I was only there from a Saturday to Monday but it was enough to get a glimpse of the culture and local customs.  Listed below are some insights on where to stay and what to see if you have a limited time.

 

Where to stay

Marrakech offers a variety of places to stay from hostels to top of the line luxury hotels.  I stayed in a Riad, a traditional guest house located in the walled city.  Riads  typically have 8-10 rooms maximum with a roof deck for views of the city.  I stayed in Le Rihani  and loved it.  Breakfast was included and I chose to have dinner at the hotel after meandering through the city.

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Upon arrival, I was served tea and Moroccan pastries while I filled out the hotel paperwork and was provided a map with directions of the city. As Marrakech is a maze, the map was really helpful. The staff at Le Rihani are lovely…So welcoming and kind.  It’s such a beautiful calm environment after the craziness that is Marrakech!

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What to See

I booked two tours for this trip from different websites.  Viator for a botanical garden tour and urban adventures for a guided tour of the Souks.  There were many other options but with my limited time, I was able to see what interested me most.

Majorelle Gardens

The Majorelle Gardens are located outside of the walled city and was an artist studio which fell into disrepair until bought by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.  People visit the gardens as the buildings and grounds are painted the most amazing color of blue. The pictures really don’t give it justice to seeing it in person  but I want everything to be this color.

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After exploring the Majorelle gardens the tour went to a public park full of olive trees and places for locals to relax outside.  From the public park, I took a horse and carriage ride around the city.  It was amazing to see the contrasts of the old and new cities. It was a lovely day…

Exploring the souks

The souks are the shopping markets and without a tour guide, there is no way to avoid getting lost.  The Souks are made up of individual stalls of vendors selling their wares.  Everything is sold there….from jewelry to pottery, shoes and leather goods.  Also fruits and vegetables and a variety of food vendors.  I recommend the orange juice…sooo many orange trees around Marrakech so it’s very fresh.

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I ended up on a private tour of the souks and loved every minute of it.  Not only for the shopping but to understand the local culture as well. Marrakech is a community based society as evidenced by the fact there are community ovens where locals bring their bake daily.  The tour guide mentioned that if someone was especially busy, their neighbor will bring the bread to the oven for them.

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The souks are overwhelming as it covers such a big area.  Also, be ready to haggle as you never accept the first price offered.  This was a challenge to me but the Moroccans are very kind.  Generally always offer a very low offer and expect to pay 1/3 of the price quoted by the vendor.  The rugs and lanterns are amazing but unfortunately I didn’t have enough luggage to bring them home. I did manage to bring back some beautiful silver jewelry and silk scarves.  I remember Marrakech every time I wear them.

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Travel Tips

Marrakech was an amazing place and I would love to go back but here’s some tips to think about.

  1. Solo Travel- I tend to travel alone quite a bit and am used to it.  I would not recommend females travel alone as you are at greater risk for being followed or hassled.  Overall it’s a safe place to travel but it can be unsettling if its your first time visiting.
  2. It’s overwhelming- The old city is overwhelming between the snake charmers, monkeys and vendors it’s hard to know where to look or start.  Take a deep breath and get your bearings.  I recommend taking a break in a café to soak it all in.
  3. Exchanging Money- Morocco has their own currency that cannot be obtained outside of the country.  Euros or Pounds can be exchanged easily at the airport.  Although most stores will accept credit cards, have cash on hand for tipping and some restaurants.

Marrakech was amazing…Have you ever been? What are your favorite sites? Please feel free to leave a comment below.


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