If there is one thing I learned about Marrakech it’s that it’s like whiskey. It doesn’t always taste good at first but step by step you start to appreciate it at its fullest. If you’re going to Marrakech for the first time, let me give you some of my personal tips.
First of all, don’t stay long. This sounds strange, but unless you are planning on getting out of the city a few times for excursions, spending four or five days in town is enough
Secondly, pick the place to sleep that fits you the best. If you’re going to Marrakech, one thing you’ll want to try are the fantastic ‘riads’, which are big, traditional Moroccan houses with interior courtyards. Well-hidden behind heavy doors, riads are beautiful representations of the mix of Moroccan and Spanish architecture. The atmosphere is amazingly peaceful – a welcome contrast to Medina’s daily electric bustle. Riad Anayela, Riad Tarabel and Riad 5 Sens are especially noteworthy. Additionally, if your wallet is accommodating enough, then you simply must be made aware of the existence of hotel La Mamounia. Founded in the 1920s, this 5 Stars luxury hotel oozes with Moroccan design and was recently reopened in 2009 after artist Jacques Garcia redesigned it. It’s one of the most beautiful palaces in the world without a doubt.
Honestly, what I look forward to the most when I go to Marrakech is the food. There are a few really enjoyable places in the city like Dar Cherifa and Maison MK, which serve mouthwatering traditional Moroccan dishes. But my favorite is La Terrace des Epices. Situated on the roof of a three-storey market in the middle of the Medina, the restaurant offers a magical view of Marrakech and delicious food. Favor the early evening; the sunset is gorgeous from there. It’s also important to note that your riad will often serve food, so feel free to be lazy one night by staying in and have great homemade dishes that will make you feel every bit Moroccan!
When you think Marrakech you automatically think of Jemaa El Fnaa plaza and the souks, and while you’re right in thinking that they’re the city’s main attractions, there are a few things you need to know first. Firstly, in Marrakech NOTHING is free, even if the locals tell you it is. To have the best time, favor the morning for the souks and the evening for the plaza. Souks in the morning are a good choice for two reasons: the scorching weather will be more forgiving and there is a tradition between vendors that says that if the first custumer buys something the vendor will have a good day. Also, don’t forget that shopkeepers are open to negotiation, so don’t be afraid to haggle and make them yield to your price! Speaking of haggling: it is the national sport. So be prepared for tough challenges, but don’t be scared to dare – start with a ridiculously low price and work your way up. Keep in mind that even if the vendor agrees for a price you consider terribly low, it will still be very profitable for him. Oh, and please don’t be the guy who comes back from Marrakech with a new Rolex and a Louis Vuitton bag.
Meanwhile, an evening on the plaza will change you for the rest of your life. Grab food on the go (stand #1 is my go-to food-‘truck’): try the orange juice (ask to have it without ice so you don’t get sick) and the Ginseng tea and walk around. The merchants, soothsayers, performers and all the actors of Marrakech’s rich history are there!
Finally, visit what has to be visited. Places like the Jardin Majorelle (owned by Pierre Bergé) and the Ben Youssef Medersa are must-sees. Just remember one thing, you don’t just visit Marrakech, you live it!
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