It has been one of my dreams to visit Marrakech for such a long time. So, my Birthday seemed to be the perfect excuse, to escape and fly away for a little Birthday getaway.
Easily one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Morocco, – Marrakech. This 1ooo year old city is home to a thriving Medina, amazing landscape, great food, a unique culture and the most gorgeous architecture you will find in the world.
Marrakech also known as the” red city”, or “ocher city” (in reference to the red color of a large part of its buildings and its houses.) is located in the middle of Morocco. And geographically part of Africa.
No matter where you look or what corners you come across, Marrakech is a place with endless inspiration….
Vibrant colors, palm tress, spice markets, stunningly beautiful architecture, and it almost feels like that behind every door lies a hidden treasure. It’s safe to say that I’ve been falling in love with Marrakech’s amazing buildings, the sights & the people in a quick second.
Amazed, impressed, and lucky that I got to spent 5 days in one of the most beautiful cities that I ever visited. Marrakech is all about exploring and not about arriving. About getting lost to eventually be surprised by something that you would’ve never expected. Truly magical!
It was my birthday morning, my first morning waking up in Marrakech and it felt like I’ve been waking up in a fairy tale. Started out with a wonderful breakfast in our amazingly beautiful riad, paired with the most perfect sunshine + my friends from Serbia, – who surprised me with a super sweet birthday cake. Finished off the day with a horse buggy ride to dinner, followed by a traditional Moroccan dinner and a Hammam spa. I mean… WOW! What A DAY. Definitely one to remember and one I’m very grateful for! I’d say everyday we spend in Marrakech had something special. The most intense impressions and sunsets to die for. Quite overwhelming, is this city truly something else. I’ve never been to any city that has been so overpowering, yet magnificent at the same time. Everyone that has been to Marrakech before probably knows exactly what I am talking about, everyone who hasn’t been yet… Time to go, and experience a thousand and one nights for yourself.
Languages, traditions, behaviors, believes, clothes…
There are many different manners. When visiting Muslim countries, I feel that it is important to respect the local culture and religion. I always try to pack accordingly and find a look that feels summery without showing too much skin.
In local riads/ hotels it is def ok to show a bit skin, you don’t have to cover up completely, they are used to tourism. Although, to explore the city, I suggest wearing a long dress, skirt or trousers, people will treat you more respectfully. I would usually bring a Kimono or a scarf with me, it’s a good accessory to cover shoulders and chest.
Marrakech Travel Guide
Riad vs. Hotel
Whenever I travel, I love to experience whatever city I travel to in the traditional way. I try to avoid tourism as much as possible and rather dig into hidden sights, native food and the local culture. So when I planned my trip to Marrakech, I wanted to get the most authentic experience. And what would that be rather than a hotel?! Exactly a riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or place with a most likely amazing interior garden or courtyard. Hidden behind stunningly beautiful doors in the middle of Marrakech, most riads only offer 10-15 apartments/suits which makes it to a very private and unique atmosphere.
We stayed at riad Marisa Elisa, right in the middle of everything. Walking distance to the Souks & to the Medina. With an amazing traditional breakfast and a very good, strong traditional coffee in the morning + dinner and a super relaxing hamman spa at night. Most riads only have breakfast included, but it never seemed to be a problem to order something extra at the restaurant at night. Most friendly staff, at affordable prices. Absolutely perfect!
So if you would ask me, riad or hotel? I would choose a riad over and over again. Such a unique experience!
Moroccan mint tea is a quintessential part of the local dining customs. A sign of hospitality as well as a popular sweet drink, there’s no time that isn’t a good time for a pot of mint tea in Morocco. Available in restaurants, cafes, carpet shops, riads, bars, and other places, and prepared daily in homes all around the country.
While coffee shops are omnipresent, and most places super crowded… I loved to go to special riads for tea. Even if you’re staying at a different riad or even a hotel, all riads offer their amazing courtyard to the public, to enjoy your afternoon tea. At first, we expected it to be crowded as all other public places, until we got surprised by a super calm atmosphere… Now imagine the sweetest, very tasteful mint tea paired with amazing interior and soothing Moroccan sounds. Pure relaxation!
The Medina of Marrakesh is an old Islamic capital originating from the 11th century. It is enclosed by 10 miles of ramparts and gates located right in the middle of Marrakech.
Inside of the Medina, in the old city, you can find the heartbeat of Marrakech, the SOUKS – undoubtedly the souks (markets) are a MUST – SEE !!! From the silk-spinners to the spice sellers; from the carpets to the crystals; from drying dyes to the men melting metals. Each little street has its own identity and its own unique selling point. As far as the eye can reach, there are handcrafted goods to be found at every turn.
Even if you’re not into shopping, they’re still a spectacle well worth experience. But also all kinds of crazy. Prepare for all of your senses to be overwhelmed at once – there’s the smell of spices and motorbikes fumes, the feel of the heat, the shouts of the stallholders and the bright colors of stalls piled high with pottery and leather bags and other handmade treasures.
Definitely one of the most fascinating, yet super overwhelming experiences I ever had. It’s an endurance test for sure. On top of that, the souks are the ultimate navigational challenge – a labyrinth of narrow alleyways that twist and turn their way north of the main square, the Jemma el Fna. Even after a few days in the comparatively serene atmosphere, be prepared to get lost…
Jemaa el Fna
Stepping into Jemaa el Fna for the first time is a total assault to the senses’ kind of like the souks, it can be a shock to the system! The iconic and chaotic square is the hub of the Marrakesh Medina. By day the busy market place is filled with spice traders, orange juice stalls, snake charmers, medicine men and performing monkeys. By night, it undergoes a complete transformation with the night food stalls selling, among other things, the Moroccan stable tagine while groups of locals host sing songs and tell stories while crowds gather around. Embrace it! We drank the orange juice, joined the locals eating tagine at the food stalls and broke our hearts for the monkeys and snakes who were part of the show. Jemaa el-Fnaa is an integral part of Marrakesh and is not to be missed!
Le Jardin Majorelle
The garden and memoriel of Yves Saint Laurent! Read everything about it in one of my previous posts. (here)
And lastly, the food! It is extraordinary. I’m such a sucker for good food, and Moroccan cuisine is another level. Typically, a mix of Arabic, Andalusian, Berber & Mediterranean flavors. The typical Moroccan breakfast is usually served sweet. While you can expect a traditional tagine, a mix of stewed meat, vegetables, fruits and spices and/or couscous for lunch and dinner…
But as you know food is my all time favorite topic so, it deserves an entire very detailed post about it … I’ll be sharing my 3 fav restaurants and what I liked and didn’t like in the next few days.
What else to expect in Marrakech
Language: In Marrakech, you’ll hear a vary of languages including French, Spanish, Arabic Berber. English is common anywhere touristy, but it’s definitely handy to know a few words of French.
- Currency: Morocco uses Dirhams, and one US dollar will get you about 11 of them. When it comes to spending money, carry cash and expect to haggle in the markets.
- Climate: Marrakech is warm all year. Average temps are around 55 in the coldest months and 85 in the summer. It can get super hot (100+) on summer afternoons so plan for some steamy days.
- Culture: Morocco is a Muslim country and so you’ll quickly notice some cultural differences. For starters, I’d recommend packing lightweight, loose fitting clothing that covers your shoulders and knees (think maxi skirts and scarves).
- Photography: Don’t photograph people or stalls in Jemaa el Fnaa unless you’re prepared to pay for it and the same goes for Marrakesh in general! Whether it’s a stall owner, a snake charmer or the traditional singers expect an angry local to come running after you if you snap a pic without contributing. Be warned, they can be quite persistent so if you do want to take some photos have some change ready!
Ready to SOUK it all in and be lost in Marrakech?!