A lot of travellers we met in Morocco had very distinct opinions about Marrakech. Some fell in love straight away while others worked their way down from Tangier and struggled with the city that is Morocco on steroids. For me, Marrakech will always be one of my most memorable destinations.
Morocco’s biggest tourist destination, Marrakech is set up for foreigners. Every kind of riad or hotel imaginable, the perfect combination of culture and indulgence via the spas and souks, plus a range of food options from the street to some of the best restaurants you’ll find in the country – and on par with those around the world, frequented by famous foreign chefs (and with an equivalent bill to boot), Marrakech is whatever you want to make of it. We tried to take in a little bit of everything – super cheap streetside cafes like Roti D’Or (or any of the many nocturnal food stalls in Jamaa el Fnaa) where a meal cost less than $5, to some of the best restaurants in the city like Nomad and Le Jardin – it was a great way to sample a mix of everything and avoid anything becoming too much.
We could stroll through the souks until the Moroccan sales calls, ‘its free to look’ and ‘you buy later’ became too much, before diving into one of the beautiful palaces, madrassas or parks for an education on the city’s fascinating past and a much-needed dose of peace. We visited many amazing places dotted around the city, from Ben Youssef Madrasa north of the Medina to Bahia Palace – both featuring stunning mosaic patterns and intricate carvings that offered up endless photo opportunities. Le Jardin Majorelle, or Yves Saint Laurent’s garden was the perfect antidote to Marrakech’s busy streets and we spent a whole afternoon enjoying its calming blues.
Most of our favourite moments happened purely by chance – stumbling upon wool dyers starting with beige strands and ending with every colour imaginable, watching a Bollywood scene being filmed while we enjoyed lunch on one of the many rooftop terraces – even running into a friend from university and her husband on their honeymoon! There’s so much to the city and it can change significantly from one street or area to the next – the souks are their own brand of craziness, but step outside into the Kasbah and its almost suburban, as kids play on the streets and cats lounge on ever corner.
We ended up spending more than a week in Marrakech, simply because it was the easiest meeting point for all of the places we wanted to go. North to Fes and Chefchaoen, long drives east to reach the deserts of Merzouga and Erg Chebbi and west for a few lazy days by the coast in Essaouira. Each time we arrived back into Marrakech, we got to see the city with a new perspective and experience more of what Marrakech has to offer. Whether a Marrakech lover or not a fan of this crazy city after the first visit, the beauty of the city is that you could still fall for its charms on second look.