“It is a right of passage to get lost in the walkways of the medina…” And get lost we did, numerous times. Marrakech is a beautiful maze. The mysterious doorways, hidden walkways and endless rows of market stalls will have you wondering around for hours. But don’t let this put you off, as it is this feeling of mystery and the exotic that makes Marrakech so much fun.We arrived during Eid so the souks were abnormally quiet. This said, there was lots to see and do. The market stalls offered a variety of souvenirs, with camel skin slippers (so I was told), djellaba (the traditional dress for men and women), spices, and leather bags. This added to the other worldliness of the place and left us feeling very far from home – all this for a £50 plane ticket from Gatwick and only a four hour flight! – Marrakech I love you.
Marrakech has a yellow tinge to it. A sandy coloured hue that surrounds you from the walls to the ground. Venture into the medina and you will be confronted with a number of aromas – some you will love, others not so much. Horses can be found everywhere – the locals offer horse drawn carriage rides around the medina to tourists – yet, despite the underlying smell of horse dung, the spices, scented oils and roasting meats will be a real thrill for those who enjoy the exotic. In short, Marrakech offers tourists a delicious taste of a rich cultural heritage, one that will leave you wanting to return again and again.
Our holiday began at the airport. After booking the Meet and Greet valet parking service (from £8.21 per day) through Holiday Extras we arrived at Gatwick North, and were met by our very own chauffeur. We left him with the keys to the car, happy in the knowledge that we would be met on our return at the same place – easy peasy. Once we had checked in, and with lots of time to spare, we went over to the airport lounge. Gatwick No1 Lounge is serious luxury. It has panoramic views, a waiter service and offers complimentary dishes. There are also a number of spaces to enjoy, with interior designed relaxation areas, a business centre and travel spa. At around £20-£25 each, you can escape from the crowds and spend your time relaxing in style whilst you wait for your flight. I am no spendthrift, but I am determined to save on my next flight, just so I can splash out and grab myself a croissant and a movie in the airport lounge!
*Beware, as the drive to Gatwick can be nightmarish. We drove at night and through heavy fog (with a sat nav that seemed to be more confused than we were). Watch out for the signs and check a map before you go.
Finding a riad in Marakech is pretty easy, there are hundreds. Finding a riad that will meet your requirements is a whole other ball game. We lucked out and found ourselves one of the most stylish, yet cost effective riads in the whole of Marrakech. Riad Snan 13 is a fully renovated and lovingly reinvented riad close to the centre of the medina. An oasis of calm, Snan 13 has a soothing tranquil colour palette and decor that is both elegant and refined. The owners, Xavier and Stefan went out of their way to make sure that we were happy. They offered us mint tea and homemade cakes on arrival and even took us to Jemma El Fna Square so we could find our way there and back easily. The service, food and beauty of the riad are second to none. Being a 5 minute walk from a taxi rank, having facilities on the ground floor and with such a great team, Rian Snan 13 also scored highly on our accessibility check list. *Transfers can be arranged by Xavier and Stefan who personally escort you to and from your taxi on the days of your arrival and departure.
The food in Marrakech varies from rich to even richer. A meat eaters paradise, there is definitely less on offer for veggies. This said, the traditional vegetable tagine is both tasty and filling and can even contain prunes (delicious!) depending on where you eat. Our foody instincts lead us to the oldest restaurant in Marrakech, Le Fondouk. On arrival we were met by somewhat disorganised staff, however once seated we were treated to some of the most delicious fare of our entire stay. A vast menu included a goats cheese starter (done three ways), harira soup, and lamb and fish tagines to name but a few. We drank perfectly made whisky sours, a great bottle of red and spent a wonderful evening sat on a stunning roof terrace, surrounded by candles and a mini waterfall at our backs. In fact, our evening was only slightly spoilt by the 20 minute walk back to our riad – taxis can only drive down certain streets – it is a bit of a walk to get to Le Fondouk, but well worth it.
Ah, but then there was our evening in the medina! I am not a fan of snails but when in Rome… After handing over my 10dh, I sat in front of a bowl of garlicky snails that smelled better than they looked. I ate a few but although delicious, I was eventually put off by the size of one of the snails (once out of the shell it was about 5cm long). Some warn against buying street food, but we tried it and enjoyed it. The delicious cakes and biscuits we found were the best. All in all, there is so much to be tried and tasted in Marrakech, and there really is something for every budget. A little bit of courage could see you eating delicacies you never thought you would.
What I wore:
It was 34 degrees in the shade so make-up was out of the question. Thankfully, I had brought along a selection of Simple products which had no nauseating smell to deal with and no itchy additives to irritate my already sensitive skin. The Simple facial wipes were a godsend and saw me through both the flight and the holiday. Despite my less than fabulous bikini body, I knew that our riad would have a dipping pool and that I would be visiting a hammam. My diet a thing of the past, I decided to bring along my Miraclesuit, £142 from Simply Beach. It holds my tummy in and my boobs up, a bit of a cheat but I needed it after all of those tagines. I also brought along a one shouldered costume from Marianna.G £175 – it looks fab on tanned skin and is super flattering – and my Rosa Faia bikini in animal print, £89 from Chantilly Online. To be honest the Miraclesuit got the most wear. When it came to walking around Marrakech I had done alot of research on what was appropriate to wear when out and about, so I kept it modest. Here’s the deal, Marrakech is not like the rest of Morocco, in that as a woman you can pretty much get away with anything. We came across women in short shorts and vest tops, which is not surprising given the heat. This said, if you opt for nearly naked you will get noticed and may attract unwanted attention from the local men. My advice, keep it modest but don’t feel like you have to dress like a nun.
All in all, our time in Marrakech was a blast! If you want a real holiday experience without having to sit on a plane for 9 hours, get yourself over to Marrakech…and try the snails!