This October I went to Marrakesh for 3,5 days. It was a long-awaited journey and I was so happy to be finally able to discover this famous city for myself! I have seen a ton of stunning pictures on the internet and was very eager to experience this beauty, but I have also heard and read a lot of negative comments about the country. So I was a bit of cautious in my expectations and tried not to get overly excited.
There were two options for staying in Marrakesh: either in a standard hotel with great facilities, swimming pool, restaurants (this is what local Moroccan people do when they come from other cities to enjoy a weekend in Marrakesh – a very popular option) or in a traditional hotel called “riad” somewhere in the medina (the old city). As I understood, Medina is not considered a good place for locals: it is poor, dirty, loud and not safe. The tourists, however, do like this option as it gives them a chance to be closer to the “authentic” Marrakesh. I definitely did not want to stay in yet another big hotel, and really wanted to find a charming, cozy, beautiful riad. After some research we found Dar Baraka Karam – it was a good combination of price & quality for us. You can find more simple riads and you can find more luxurious and expensive ones. All depends on your preferences and budget.
We came very late on Wednesday night. We booked a transfer from the airport for 15€ with our hotel. That was definitely overpriced, but as we were arriving very late (11 pm) and we did not want to wander around tiny winding streets of medina, we went with this safer option and it was totally fine for us. (The standard price for a taxi to the airport as of October 2019 is 70 dirham which is around 7€). Cars are not allowed inside medina (it is just too narrow for them), so any taxi can only bring you to the nearest entry point and after that you will have to walk by yourself. What was good about the transfer was that someone from the hotel picked us up from the taxi and showed us the way to the riad through this “medina maze”.
On the next morning we had our first traditional Moroccan breakfast.
After that we made a lot of pictures of our riad! It was so beautiful! Every corner of it was exquisitely decorated and I just could not stop taking photos of everything!
Then we went to explore the souks (markets) and to have our first taste of the crazy medina. It was exactly that – crazy! I read a lot, that Moroccans don’t like when tourists take pictures of their shops and can even become very aggressive about that. So I was very hesitant taking out my camera and pointing it to all the beautiful things that were presented in the shops. And oh my gosh they were beautiful! All of these colors and designs were just awesome. I wanted to buy everything! Pottery, pillowcases, carpets, lamps, bags, shoes – all of them were stunning! Now I regret that I did not take more pictures, I could have been more brave, maybe I could have just asked for a permission… But I was as well a bit scared to really stop by the shops cause the shop assistants would then attack you “Madame, look at this!”, “Madame, good price!”, “Madame, come inside!”.
We passed the souks, went to have a look at the Koutoubia mosque (you are not allowed inside if non Muslim) and then reached the famous square Jemaa el-Fnaa. This square is the epicenter of Marrakesh! The level of noise is beyond all limits, this is what my personal hell would look like… And every one is shouting again “Hey, Madame!”, “Hey, Madame!”, every one tries to sell you something and all you want is just to escape from this place as fast as possible. I knew it would be like this, I knew I would not like it but you can’t come to Marrakesh without visiting Jemaa el-Fnaa! So the best trick for me was to go to a café and to observe this madness from a safe distance from the top =)
We started our second day on the rooftop of our riad. We could choose every day where we wanted our breakfast to be served. The rooftop was perfect, but if you go for breakfast late in the morning, then it is just too hot to stay there. This time we were early enough to enjoy the views on the medina!
Then we took a taxi and went to one of the famous attractions in Marrakesh – Jardin Majorelle. We were shocked by the waiting line! It was going to be at least an hour, probably even 1,5 hours of queuing! It was around 12am, probably the peak time. I asked the guards if the line would be shorter at around 4pm, they said yes. So we decided not to stay and went to visit two palaces of Marrakesh: El Badi and Bahia.
Look at the storks living on the walls of the El Badi palace! So cute!
View from the El Badi palace on the roofs of Marrakesh:
After El Badi we went to the Bahia palace. It was beautiful but so so so crowded! Too many people around! Nevertheless we managed to take some cool pictures.
A selfie with Yasminka:
After an exhausting cultural program we needed some break and went to one of the famous cafes in medina – Café Des Épices. To be honest, nothing special, but it had a great view on the souks.
After that we had an hour till our appointment with Yasmina’s friends (who were visiting Marrakesh this weekend as well) and we decided to walk again around the markets. I was thinking of buying a bedspread and passing by some shop I decided to stop. The good thing was that the owner did not jump on us shouting “Madame, madame, look, come here!”. On the opposite he was very calm, spoke good English and just said we could have a look even without buying anything. (Haha, that was the trick! Cause we ended up buying a lot). He showed me different bedspreads and after some negotiations I decided to buy one for 450 dirhams (around 45€). It was a big bedspread 2×3 meters made of thick cotton and for me it was worth the price. It was not a bargain, but in Germany I can expect something like that to cost 70-100€.
When we were about to leave the shop Yasmina asked for the price of a carpet saying “I just want to know the price, I am not going to buy it”. The owner started showing us different carpets and guess what… we both bought a carpet! Haha xD They were 1×1.5m in size and were made of wool. The price was 400 dirham (40€). We did not know if it was a good price, but again, comparing with German prices I found the deal quite good!
The only problem was how to pack all of that in our luggage! But we made it and I am a happy owner of two Moroccan pieces at home 🙂
The next morning on Saturday we decided to have our breakfast at yet another place at our riad – by the tiny pool!
That day we went to one place that was recommended by one of Yasmina’s friends to get a massage. The massage was okay (especially for the price – 25€/1h), but not really what I wanted (it was too soft). In the afternoon at around 4pm we made our second attempt to visit Jardin Majorelle. This time the queue was only 10 mins, but the crowds inside were still too big. It is a beautiful place, no doubts, but half of its appeal is lost due to the tons of people around. I would not go there again.
On our last evening we wanted to have some drinks at a nice place with some Moroccan entertainment. Right beside our hotel there was a restaurant Dar Marjana that was offering a dinner with live music and belly dance. It is quite expensive (the cheapest option is 45€ per person), but we managed to get a discount as we asked for one menu for two. The thing was that we already had a dinner and were not hungry. They offered us to take the menu for 70€ and we shared it (35€ per person). We still could not finish it even shared, there was just too much food! The food was good and the evening was nice, it gave some nice traditional touch to our last day in Marrakesh.
We had a plan, that on the last day on Sunday we would go to a hammam (traditional bath)! But we did not know that we had to book it in advance otherwise it would be full… We tried several places in the morning, but no one had space for us. That was a bit disappointing cause we really wanted to try the hammam 😦 Don’t repeat our mistake and book your treatment in advance!
My trip to Marrakesh turned out to be much more pleasant than I expected! Even though I had one upsetting incident that I will talk about in another post. Overall I found Marrakesh much cleaner, nicer, friendlier than what I read about it. =)