Do you like the Disney move “Aladdin”? I have always loved it and Marrakech is the real life Agrabah!
I have seen so many beautiful pictures of Morocco and Marrakech in particular, that this place soon was added to my bucket list and this june I got to cross it off and then later add “going to Morocco – again”. A good friend of mine took a week riding bikes and hiking in the Atlas mountains and his stories amazed me. I, on the other hand, was craving some beach and sun so my trip ended up slighty different, but I still wanted to experience the culture, the food and the sights of Morocco and Marrakech. (Now I have an excuse to go back for the mountains – clever huh?).
How do I get there?
Norwegian has direct flights from Scandinavia at very reasonable prices. Usually I find flights using Momondo as I found them having the best ones at the best prices. They also have a flight alert mode so you can track tickets to a certain destination to see if the prices go up or down.
Have an arrival plan
Once you arrive in the airport you need to have a plan, because it will be chaotic to say the least. Figure out beforehand how far away from the airport your accommodation is, so you have a foundation to bargain on, if you want to take a cab. Note that the cabs might not be able to take you all the way to the place you are staying as a lot of the streets in Marrakech is really narrow. Many hotels arrange pick ups at the airport to make your arrival a little less hassel free. It is also worth considering what you wear, especially if you are a woman. Morocco is a muslim country and most of the women here are dressed conservatively and with headscarves. I preferred wearing loose fitted clothes as it is the most comfortable in warm weather, covering my knees, shoulders and chest. Of course this depends on who you are as a person and how much attention you want to attract.
Where should you stay in Marrakech?
There are tons of riads, hotels and hostels i Marrakech – for every budget. We wanted to stay in a riad to try and make our stay as authentic as we could and chose Riad 72. This was actually one of the best parts of our weekend in Marrakech. It is a small boutique hotel with just seven rooms that’s individually decorated. Online it was described as “a tranquil eden of peace” and my my.. how right are they! It is beautiful, neat, peaceful and quite located in an ally, where all the noise from the busy buzzing streets of Marrakech is totally eliminated. They have an absolutely beautiful rooftop terrace where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner if you like. They serve a simple, but very good breakfast and their lamb tangine is exquisite. Other than that, you get a mobilephone to carry with you when outside of the riad, in that way you always have a lifeline if you get lost or need help. The staff at the Riad 72 is the best, they are friendly, welcoming and very serviceminded – you will feel very taken care of here.
72 Arset Awzel, Bab Doukkala, Marrakech, Tel: +212 524 38 76 29. See more pictures here.
What to see & do:
Created by french painter Jacques Majorelle with a 40 years long continuing development of the garden, Jacques found plants from all five continents of the world and planted them in this Garden. In the 1980’s Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé bought the garden. At first I was a little disappointed as I thought it would be more garden like with flowers and grass (I don’t really know what I was thinking since Marrakech is placed on desert like ground). I could also have something to do with the fact that it was around 40C and we got lost on the way there, twice. But anyway, the garden is filled with large cactuses in all shapes and sizes with colourful fountains and fences. I later realized that some of the best pictures I got on our trip was from this place.
Djemaa el Fnaa
One word. Crazy. You will simply have to go here to experience the crazy, wild, buzzing vibe of this place, if only just for a moment. It has foodstalls, locals hanging out, tourists with multiple bags coming out of the souks, horse carriages, street performers, cobras coming out of baskets to flute music and many many other things, all in one place. Have a walk around to experience it. Preferably after sundown, where the places really folds out.
Derb Chtouka, 40008 Marrakesh, open 24 hours.
Take some deep breathes and get ready to step into the souks as you will be blown away in every way. The amount of quality carpets, leather goods, lamps, stones, spices whatever you can imagine will be here and you are going to want to buy everything and transform your flat into a Moroccan riad. Prepare for people to block your way and try to sell you everything in their shops. Usually they take no for an answer, sometimes not. If you are claustrophobic, find someone to hold your hand as the passages in the soucks are narrow and there is a lot of people in here. You will have to go with the flow and trust you inner compas (if you have one) as it is impossible to know where you are once you are in, it is like being in a maze of shops – it really is a lot of fun. If you get lost, just find your way to the Djemaa El Fnaa for an airhole to figure out where you want to go next.
Marrakech is filled with them and they are perfect for a break from all the beautiful chaos going on, on the streets. Have your drink, dinner, lunch, breakfast at places with rooftops. It is a little breezy which is nice during hot hours of the day and great views of the city.
Locals, often young men, trying to be polite and wanting to show you the way to whatever you are looking for (as a map-looking tourist you are the prey). They will show you the way and once you arrive, they expect you to pay to their service even if you did not ask for it OR if they did not tell you, you would have to pay. They will get very angry if you do not want to pay them afterwards, so best just to politely decline the help. (We jumped right into that one – noobie move.)
Added to bucket list
1. A trip to the Atlas Mountain and a Berber village
2. Overnight stay in the desert
3. Take a trip to Essaouira
You can also read my “Surf & Yoga: Taghazout” post, as part of my morrocan adventure.