Two weeks ago the boyfriend and I grabbed our suitcases and took off to Marrakech! I have already told you that Morocco was high on my travel wishlist for 2015, and since we had been talking about it for about a year now, we decided it was finally time to discover this mysterious piece of North Africa. Before I give you my overall opinion on Marrakech as a travel destionation, let me guide you through our sleeping places, some city impressions, our activities and lots of delicious looking food pictures. Ready, set, go!
Since I received a few Bongo vouchers as birthday and Christmas presents this year, I decided to combine and exchange them for a more expensive city trip voucher. This way we were already settled for 2 nights in Marrakech, after which we booked an extra two nights at this very riad, Riad Anjar.
We started off our trip at this place since it was a little cheaper than the other one and we expected it to be pretty basic. Such a mistake! This tiny riad is beautifully accommodated with luxuriously looking rooms and guest lounges. The small but cozy roof terrace is the ideal getaway after a tiring day in the city, being very private and quiet. This surprised us, for the riad is located in the very heart of the Medina at only two minutes walking from the main square. We were welcomed by some very lovely ladies who helped us around with the city maps and everything, and had some excellent home-made breakfasts (included in the price) and three-course dinners (for a very reasonable €20 per person). Also: the riad is located very close to Café Arabe and Terrasse des Epices, two restaurants we very much enjoyed. Definitely a winner!
The one disadvantage we experienced was that, despite the cold nights, we were not allowed to use the massive and very inviting bath tub “for ecological reasons”. Read: the entire riad would fall short of hot water if someone would take a bath. Pretty inconvenient when the showerhead cannot be attached to the wall.
Riad Dar Sbihi
After two nights we moved to riad number two, which is located in the north of the Medina. It’s not very easy to find this little gem by foot, so you might want to grab a taxi to get there. Riad Dar Sbihi is a beautifully renovated getaway, opened by a Belgian lady together with her Moroccan husband. There are 10 large rooms in this spacious building with relaxing patio garden, and the enormous roof terrace is an absolute dream. Our host turned out to be an excellent cook and served us some finger licking three-course meals for about €30 per person. The little appetizers and salads were our favourites! What my boyfriend and I really appreciated as well were the great guided tour and day trip suggestions we received. Through the riad we booked two really fun trips guided by a local, but more on that later!
This riad is a fantastic secret haven for relaxing, but there were a few downsides as well, to be fair. Then we afterwards compared our two stays, we unfortunately thought the price was a bit too high for what you get here. The rooms were quite more basic than the first riad and the location is definitely less convenient for tourists. I think the main square is about 20-30 minutes away by foot, and we basically did everything by cab the last two days. The fact that there is a mosque on about 5 meters from the building did not really appeal to us either. Only for deep sleepers!
Overall we have definitely been pampered by our lovely hosts, but it was just a tad too expensive for us young peeps.
This is going to be a tough one. Did I enjoy the city of Marrakech? To be honest? No, not really. Let me explain.
First of all I need to mention that my boyfriend and I aimed for a relaxed week of winter sun with a touch of culture. Our initial plans consisted of sipping mint tea, tanning, visiting a monument or two, stroll around the city, do some shopping and spend an afternoon at the spa. Both of us needed to zone out after the last two months being pretty heavy.
Unfortunately the weather seriously let us down from the first day on, being only a mere 13 degrees outside. The weeks before and after temperatures went up to 20 or even 24 degrees, so we were just very unlucky. The nights were extremely cold (2 degrees, seriously) and even with five blankets and a hot water bottle we were still shivering in our pajamas. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to be doing on a relaxing holiday, heh. Luckily we had LOADS of sunshine during the day, so we tried not to be disturbed and to continue to enjoy our few days off.
Evidently, our tanning plans had to be replaced by a lot more culture stuff and strolling through the city. And this is where it mainly went wrong. Absolutely; the colours, the views, the scents, the details, the palmtrees, the monuments, the crafts, the palaces, the little stalls and the prints were all extremely impressive and captivating! But unfortunately the entire atmosphere did not at all appeal to me.
I knew the city was going to be hysterical, loud and ‘cozily’ crowded but I did not at all expect it to be totally nerve-racking and intimidating. I hope you guys don’t see me as some kind of horrible philistine, but apparently I just couldn’t handle it! It might be my nature, but having people to constantly stare at you, yell at you, trying to get money from you, trying to guide you around, trying to sell you something, trying to trick you into something on EVERY second of the day was too much for me. I’m almost embarrassed to write it down, but after the first day I sort of wanted to stay inside for the remaining 4 days. In the evening the boyfriend and I had a long talk, gathered up and decided to really plan some activities that would let us discover a whole other side of Marrakech that we would like. Read on!
So, this was definitely a side of Marrakech that we did enjoy. Going to a traditional hammam wasn’t an option since we would have to go separated. Because it was going to be cloudy on the second day anyway we decided to book an entire afternoon at the pretty luxurious Mythic Oriental Spa! It was quite a burden to find (we ended up paying some dude to get us there) but oh my, what a fantastic environment we discovered! After being welcomed with yet another sweet mint tea with pastries, we picked the Mythic Lovers treatment, which included a private hammam, Moroccan black soap exfoliation, oriental baths with marine salts and a 1 hour massage of choice. For about €78 per person we thought this 2 hour luxury treatment was quite a steal. Totally losing track of time we spent 3,5 hours at the spa!
All around Marrakech
Something I was very keen on was discovering the new (trendy) part of the city and to wander around some of the beautiful gardens Marrakech has to offer. Since we really wanted to do some extra activities outside of the Medina, our second riad offered us some guided tour possibilities. I’m not talking about getting on a huge bus full of sweating American tourists, but going on a private road trip with a very friendly and reliable local taxi driver! Our driver Hassan was a friend of the house and picked us up at the doorstep for an afternoon of sightseeing outside the city.
On our customized program were Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle (tiny but gorgeous), the Menara Gardens(picnicking with the locals between the olive trees!) and the Koutoubia Mosque and its gardens (modern, spacious and refined). We also visited the buzzy Gueliz neighbourhood (brand new restaurants, clubs and shopping malls), the Palmeraie (Dubai-style deserted area with thousands of palmtrees and some high-end hotels) and a few beautiful non-touristic Moroccan quarters. Our driver explained us all about the history of the places we visited and gave us all the time we needed to stroll around and have a drink. Such a great experience!
Roadtrip to the Atlas mountains
On our penultimate day we booked yet another trip with our driver Hassan, since the previous one has been really great. This time he drove us to the Ourika valley to discover some magnificent views and a beautiful Berber village. He got to know us a little bit on the first day so he did not stop at the “obligatory” tourist shops (argan oil, carpets, blablabla) along the road, which was pretty awesome. For about €13 he arranged us a local guide with whom we climbed up to 2000 metres. Our outfits weren’t exactly fit for the walking tour, but we managed to get all the way up to the waterfalls. Since I have so many gorgeous photos from this tour, I’ll do a seperate post about it soon!
And oh yes… On our last day temperatures FINALLY raised up to 18 degrees! Note that this feels a lot warmer in the African sun: I even got out my bikini for an hour or two. We were extremely grateful that we could still at least for one day enjoy some summer temperatures and just read a book. We even cancelled our cultural trip to the beautiful palaces to finally lay back and relax. Oops.
The overall feel
Woah, that was quite the report! I know that it might sound like I had a horrible vacation, but in fact we actively made it work out after a first disappointed experience and we still had an amazing time together. The Medina is just not at all my cup of tea, but I absolutely enjoyed every other aspect of our trip. I’d say YES, visit the beautiful country of Morocco and maybe squeeze in one quick visit to Marrakech while you’re there 🙂 I hope you enjoyed my photo diary!
How did you experience Marrakech? Could you relate to it? I hope I didn’t put you off too much?