Guest post by Online Conversion Manager, David Haynes
In short I loved Marrakech, and until my honeymoon it was the best trip abroad I’d ever had, and let’s face it, any destination was going to lose out to my honeymoon, particularly as my wife reads my posts!
First off though, I’m a full-on history nerd and I wrote my dissertation on the Crusades, so I’ve always been in love with North Africa and Anatolia and as such I’ve holidayed there quite a bit; however Marrakech is the real stand-out place as it’s a perfect mix of centuries old tradition and history, juxtaposed with modern fashions, trends and even a ‘superclub’. The food is also brilliant (I bet that got your attention!).
Really broadly speaking, Marrakech is a perfect example of a cosmopolitan city and has a wonderful fusion of old and new. In the old town, you still have the medieval architecture, markets and traditional shows, but in the new town there are elaborate fountains, Yves Saint Laurent’s custom built gardens and more designer shops than you can count. This has led to a very relaxed culture, which makes it so popular with Western tourists.
We went on a couple of excursions to get as much out of the city as possible. The first being an evening of Moroccan culture, which was set in a former palace (pictured) and consisted of a lot of horse shows by Berber tribesmen, plus local music and dancers. There was also a lot of food, including meat and vegetable tagines and half a minted lamb. This should have been for 8 people, but there was only me and Laura on our table, so try as we might even we couldn’t finish it despite how incredible it was. The second activity was a guided tour around the old town markets, souks and a trip to an apothecary; a great way to orientate yourself around the key parts of the city.
This is amazing. So with Morocco being a Muslim country, Marrakech isn’t exactly like wandering down Soho on a Friday night, but there are some really nice places to go and have a drink if you know where to go. They are mainly upper end hotels, but do your research beforehand. For a relaxed beer (with free popcorn), head straight for the Chesterfield pub. Otherwise, if you fancy a big night out, then throw some massive shapes at the Marrakech Pacha. The music is just as good as the Ibizan original, and really the Ibizan Pacha’s décor is just trying to replicate that of Marrakech – given how the Marrakech Pacha is actually held in a building which is part of the Medina walls. Try not to sit in the VIP mistake like we did though, and take plenty of money as those drinks are not cheap! If you do enjoy a drink on your holiday though, I’d recommend picking some up at the airport for the sake of convenience. Otherwise every other building is a coffee shop, complete with the flavoured tobacco hookah pipes if that’s your thing… and the mint tea is also very nice.
Other things to see and do
Visiting the centre of the Medina in the evening is a must, and if you can, go at sunset at it looks fantastic just as the fire shows are starting up, then once you’ve finished there are a wealth of great restaurants to eat in. I’d recommend going in the daytime first though just to plot out your route as it’s fairly easy to get lost, or else taxi’s are cheap enough. There are also great examples of middle age castles and forts within the old town itself that you can visit during the daytime. Otherwise the aforementioned Jarden Majorelle built by Yves Saint Laurent are lovely and a great way to escape the heat of the day. Finally, if you have time then excursions to either the Sahara desert to ride camels and meet Berber families or jeep rides up to the mountains are really good value. We did this is Tunisia rather than Morocco, but it’s the same difference.
General hints and tips
– Always agree a price with a taxi driver first.
– Do your walking in the morning (we went in May and it was 35C by the afternoon).
– If you do a tour of the Medina, do it at the start of your break (and you shouldn’t get as lost as we did!).
– If you’re a dab hand in the kitchen then buy your spices from within the Medina as they’re such good quality and cheaper than the UK.
– Don’t feed the cats, they only pester you more!
– Don’t take travellers cheques – you can only exchange them at the central bank, which is a massive pain (true of a most places now).
– Haggle. It’s fun and you’ll really overpay otherwise, but it’s what the culture revolves around. Learn the correct Arabic greeting and response too to give yourself a good head-start.
– You don’t have to cover up (applies to both men and women), but still be sensitive to their expectations and there is a strict dress code when visiting the Mosques. They are beautiful though, so well worth a visit.
– North African wine is awful.
I hope this has inspired you to go to Morocco, and Marrakech in particular as it truly is a remarkable place with something for just about every holiday-maker!