Marrakesh is also known as the “Red City” of Africa. Contradicting to its label the city gives off more salmon/pinky hues and pigments on its walls and surrounding buildings. Marrakesh is a city packed to the brim with liveliness. Locals amuse you by throwing out comments like “ Fish and Chips” or “ Lady Gaga”. Whether they are deemed as complimentary terms in Marrakseh, we will never know.
The heart of the city is known as Jamaa el Fnaa and is the main marketplace where you could witness almost ANYTHING! Monkeys, Cobras, dancers, stalls and food vendors…you name it…it’s here!
Often such an action-packed place can leave you feeling overwhelmed and that’s almost the initial reaction to this vibrant and cultural city. Stepping out of your tranquil Riad, you will be hit with the business of the winding alleyways, masses of locals on daily errands (and few tourists) and of course a plethora of souks to buy traditional goods. Interestingly Marrakesh is home to the biggest souks in all of Morocco so they are a must experience for any visitor to the city.
Where to Stay?
I believe the best way to soak up the atmosphere and culture of a new location is to base yourself right in the heart of it all. Am I right?
In Marrakesh that would mean a stay in the Medina Quarter. The Medina is where it is all happening. You could spend days meandering the narrow streets and brushing shoulders with people, scooters,
donkeys and mule carts.
The medina has a wide range of accommodation choices with over 800 boutique style hotels and Riads.
We stayed in a Riad to achieve the real Moroccan feel and vibe. A Riad is based on the design of a traditional Moroccan home and seriously the interiors are simply outstanding. If only our homes were this bright and colourful? I reckon we would wake up a happier bunch on a daily basis!
Riad Puchka was our accommodation pick for our three days in the city and what an excellent choice it was. The entrance to the Riad is quite the deceiving one as there is such a huge contrast from the exterior to the interior. The inside is an ocean of blue hues with designs that have to be seen to be believed. The staff will help you unwind into the tranquil ambiance on arrival with the aid of some Moroccan specialty mint tea (it is not like anything you have tasted before)
The rooms here are spacious and you can even avail of a three person bedroom if you are travelling in threes. The entrance to the rooms overlook the dreamy pool and Jacuzzi and breakfast every morning (whichconsists of hot bread and lots of it) is served pool side.
While Riad Puchka is not one of the cheaper options for Marrakesh it is totally worth splashing the extra cash to wake up in complete Moroccan paradise every morning.
Prices for a triple room from €212 for three nights
Visit www.riad-marrakesh-puchka.com for more.
What to do and see?
Get lost amongst the souks and the Medina
This is a brave way to spend day one as the souks and the Medina are complete chaos. You will have endless shopping choices to immerse yourself in from Aladdin carpet souks, slipper/shoes souks, and the spices souks.
Probably the best way to approach the souks is to allow yourself to get completely and utterly lost in them. They are one hell of a place to wander and definitely not the easiest markets to navigate. Why wouldn’t you want to get lost in the colorful madness though?
If you have some extra room in your luggage, stack it high with Argan oil. Originating from Morocco the oil is an excellent remedy to use on your hair and skin. Apart from cosmetic uses the oil can be used for culinary too(so stock up).
The ceramic decorative pieces you will see dotted around the souks are also another fabulous purchase/gift idea.
The leather goods here are also to die for and in Marrakesh you will find the most amazing real leather bags and pouffs(who doesn’t need a pouf in their life?)
A handmade Moroccan lantern is the perfect souvenir to take home with you. The colorful glass panels of the lanterns are sure to make any dull facade pop.
Literally go nuts shopping wise in Morocco, you are 100% bound to find a treasure or two.
Ourika Valley and Atlas Mountains
Ourika Valley is the ideal day trip from Marrakesh. You can go via tour or with a private driver. It’s somewhat nice to escape the city heat and bask in the cooler temperatures of the valley. On the way you will stop at an Argan cooperation to see what uses the ladies here make from the Argan nut. There will also be some viewpoint stops along the way to see the surrounding mountain and garden views.
One of the other stops along this scenic drive will be at a traditional Berber home where you will get the chance to meet a local family and see the traditional homes where they reside.
Having lunch at Ourika Valley is one of the best parts of the day. Your table at the restaurant will literally be with your toes cooling off in the water. Yes the colourful tables and chairs of the restaurants in Ourika Valley sit right in the river. Could they possibly be the most perfect little riverside restaurants? Me and the girls thought so!
A guide will then take you on a medium level hike (sandals are not the ideal footwear just to give you the heads up) up to see the Setti Fatma waterfall. The waterfall is set with the most beautiful landscapes so whatever you do don’t forget your camera.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
The Ben Youssef Madrasa building was once an Islamic college. It is believed that the dormitories may have housed over 900 students. The Ben Youssef is an excellent photography opportunity giving you a real glimpse into Islamic architecture and designs. The building surrounds a marbled courtyard. It can be hard to grasp an understanding of the history here as most signs are displayed in French and Arabic.
The tile work and carved wooden doors are beyond beautiful so it is definitely worth checking out. It is possible to see the whole building in around thirty minutes but at times it can get a little over crowded.
It is 20DH for entry and you can spend as long as you like soaking up the atmosphere of the historic school.
The Jardin Majorelle is a 12 acre botanical garden. It also contains the Islamic arts museum and the memorial to Yves Saint- Laurent. Yes since the 1980’s it has been co-owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge.
My favourite thing about the gardens is the electric blue villa that is the focal point(you know i am a sucker for the coloured houses after all)
Enjoy the oasis that is Marrakesh’s most famous gardens and enjoy this piece of green heaven in the red city.
Where to eat in Marrakesh?
Dining options in Marrakesh come in all sorts of varieties. From enjoying a meal on a riad rooftop to sampling the local street stall food. The following are places I tried and tested during my time in Marrakesh and all get my seal of approval…
Pepe Nero Is the lap of luxury in Marrakesh. It’s an Italian restaurant with a serious touch of class. Diners have their meal around a very inviting pool(dont you want to just dive straight in?). The service here is also top notch. It was one of the girls birthdays the night we came here and they went above and beyond to make her feel special(and bringing her the most scrumptious chocolate cake). The whole restaurant has serious wow factor!
Café Des Epices
Café Des Epices has a great menu on offer with fresh juices, smoothies and even a western style menu if you are craving a bit of home food although I am not sure why you wouldn’t want to sample Moroccan specialties(when in Africa after all).
You will find this café boasts its own rooftop terrace right in the heart of the souk market. Apparently this café is one of the more popular hangout areas for expats and when your chilling on this rooftop hideaway it’s easy to see why it’s a sought after place to dine.
We came across this rooftop delight by complete accident as I was looking for somewhere to go to the toilet. We ended up staying there for hours enjoying hummus platters and wine. It is a super cosy café that provides 360 views of all of Marrakesh and the towering Atlas Mountains. They have a large selection of tapas on offer and a wide selection of traditional Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine.
It goes without saying that you have to sample the food from the street stalls in Marrakesh. After living in Thailand for a year I am well adjusted to street food but it can be scary dining option for first timers (just think what is the worst that could happen….a few hours on the toilet never killed anyone). I recommend trying the Moroccan tagines with some couscous. The tagines here are bursting with flavours, so so tasty. Surprisingly potatoes here are really good too(i can always hunt down a good spud). There are so many different foods you can try here from sheep’s head(for those adventurous foodies) to meat skewers.
I have seen the open air stalls get quite a bad rep online with people saying” Eat their at your own risk”. We had no problems but if you are feeling wary go to a stall that is quite busy and where there are other Moroccan locals eating. The stall owners will be shouting trying to get you to come eat at their stall, the food is more or less the same at all of them so just pick the number of the stall that appears busiest.
I hope this post has been helpful to those of you thinking of venturing to Marrakesh. It may just be one of my new favourite countries. While Marrakesh is not a destination for the faint hearted, you cant help but falling head over heels for this vibrant city that is oozing with life. If you have any questions about Marrakesh, pop them below or ask me over on any of my social media channels. Please share this article if you found it helpful/interesting..