Previously, I wrote about how to handle Marrakesh as a female.
Marrakesh can be an intense place to visit, especially as a woman. It’s an assault on the senses in so many ways, but visiting was such a rewarding experience and although we encountered harassment around every corner, we also were caught up in the beauty and vivacity of the red city.
Here are my absolute favourite things about Marrakesh and my top recommendations for going there:
Whenever I visit any new place, the cuisine plays such an important role for me. If the meals are good this can really make a trip, and in Marrakesh, the meals were OH SO GOOD. We ate extremely well.
I was worried that I would struggle as a vegetarian, but it was really easy to get vegetarian meals everywhere we went.
We ate lots of local cuisine such as tagines, cous cous, falafel and houmous. I had the best falafel of my entire life in a rooftop restaurant called Bazaar Cafe.
We had a healthy balance of lunches on some of the rooftops around the cities, and dinners in tucked away courtyards away from the business of the streets. What possibly made the food taste even more delicious was the ambiance of the restaurants. On our first night we ate in Dar Marjana which was right by our riad. We walked down a long alley illuminated only by candles, before getting to a small door, in which laid a gorgeous restaurant and bar. On our second night it was very similar. We ate in a highly recommended restaurant called Latitude 31. We were on a busy, bustling street filled with locals when we came across the tiny door. We walked down a maze like alley before the space opened up in to a magnificent courtyard filled with music and fairy lights. It was truly magical.
On this second night was also where I had the best tagine I had of the trip.
Despite making sure we got our fill of local cuisine, we also succumbed to some western food. In fact, on our final night we went to the very posh Pepenero ,which had both an Italian and a Moroccan menu. We decided to go for the Italian and I had, no exaggeration, the best pasta of my life.
We definitely treated ourselves when it came to the food and splashed out on fancier restaurants and avoided the food stalls. Normally I’m all for street food, but as someone who has a track record of getting sick every time I go to Africa (3/3 times before this trip) I wanted to avoid this. It was well worth it, and felt like a real treat.
Of course, one of the highlights for everyone whilst visiting Marrakesh is shopping in the souks! In all honesty, this isn’t necessarily always a pleasant or relaxing experience, but going shopping around the winding souks and haggling your way to a bargain is a must experience. Whilst here I bagged a Princess Jasmine style Kaftan Jumpsuit, a beautiful cushion case, and some cheap earrings (which he tried to sell to me for about 10x what I paid, claiming they had ‘real rubies’ in – LOL!)
When shopping in the souks, be vigilant, don’t hesitate when it comes to haggling, and stand your ground. Have direction and try to avoid ‘browsing’ in one place for too long if you have no intention to buy as you will get harassed by the shop owners.
The Mint Tea
The mint here is the freshest mint i’ve ever tasted. Mint tea is a Moroccan tradition. They make it in gorgeous ornamental silver teapots and it just tastes divine. It was so relaxing to come back to the riad after a long day exploring the city and have a mint tea by the pool.
The Saadian Tombs and the Bahia Palace
We wanted to make sure we got some culture in whilst we were in Marrakesh. Whilst we didn’t have the time or energy to visit all the museums, we did explore the palace and the tombs. The tombs were really fascinating and so beautiful. This is where people of importance are laid to rest. The higher up their tomb is, the more important they are. The tombs were like mosaics. They were very colourful and to me represented the rich Moroccan culture and a celebration of life.
The palace, again, was super beautiful. The attention to detail which lay in the architecture kept on amazing me.
Again, the medina is one of those MUSTS when you’re in Marrakesh, especially as the sun goes down. We went to the medina on our final evening. It is definitely the sort of place that you only really need to go to on one of the evenings, as it is very overwhelming. We watched the sun set from one of the rooftop bars (not as glamorous as they sound, but provide great vantage points of the medina) and witnessed the chaos below. The snake charmer music was enough to send anyone in to a trance like state. Team that with the hundreds of people, street vendors, and men carrying around snakes and monkeys – it felt truly out of this world. I’m not sure if it was out of this world in a good or a bad way however.
Whilst the medina is an experience, witnessing the cruelty to animals that took place was really horrible. Monkeys are dressed up in costumes and carried around on chains which are fastened tightly around their necks. The owners pass them around to tourists and don’t seem to have any regard for their wellbeing or how intense and traumatic the environment might be for the creatures. At one point we saw a man holding a monkey by the chain, whilst the monkey was visibly choking. It was horrible and I urge anyone who visits the medina to NOT get involved with the monkeys or the snakes. They are not treated well. They are gorgeous creatures and should not simply be used for our entertainment or for a photo opportunity.
Having said that, the medina is still a great place to visit. After the sun goes down, lots of entertainers and storytellers come out in the form of musicians, contortionists, acrobats, and magicians. It was not just a place for tourists but also attracted local families.
Getting Henna Tattoos
We really wanted henna whilst we were away, but after reading about black henna I was really cautious to not just go to anyone. After doing some research we decided to head to Henna Arts Cafe which is located near the medina. This is a cute little place with a hippy feel owned by an American artist and her Moroccan husband.
We went in, were given a book full of all their henna designs which we could peruse whilst eating lunch there on the rooftop. The food itself was delicious with lots of vegan and vegetarian options.
Then we went downstairs and got our henna done. All the henna they use here is totally natural henna, rather than the black henna which can cause really painful reactions.
I absolutely loved how our henna looked and wished it wasn’t so temporary! Going here is definitely a bit more expensive than getting henna from one of the random ladies on the medina, but definitely worth it not only for the high quality, but also to not put your health at risk.
The Jardin Majorelle is also known to many as the YSL gardens. These gardens were rectified by Yves Saint Laurent during his time living in the city. He would often use the gardens as a source of inspiration for his work, along with Marrakesh as a city itself. Now the gardens are perfectly preserved in his memory. This was 100% my highlight of the trip, and I’m tempted to do an entire post about it. The gardens were so beautiful, with the abundance of nature mingled with the yellow and blue painted house and yellow and blue details throughout. Despite the many tourists, being in the gardens was quite a calming experience, away from the busy nature of Marrakech which lay just outside its walls.
Getting a Hammam
Whilst away, we were really keen to get a massage. There are plenty of spas in Marrakesh. In the end we decided on the highly recommended Les Bains D’Orient. We decided to go for a package which included a hammam as well as a massage, so we could get a truly local experience.
We did this on our final day before flying home that evening, and it was such a wonderful way to relax and end our trip. The Hammam was quite an experience, with a woman scrubbing us and chucking water over us whilst we stood their in just our bikini bottoms! But we embraced it and felt like newborns when we walked out the spa.
The riad – Riad Ambre et Epices
Finally, I can’t not mention the place we stayed, which was not only a base but was a highlight of the trip itself.
I would definitely urge anyone who is looking to go to Marrakesh to forgo the big hotels which lie in the ‘new city’ and instead go for a more traditional riad inside the old city. There are tonnes to choose from and in the end we went for Riad Ambre et Epices as it looked amazing whilst also being in our price range.
It honestly did not disappoint. We walked through winding narrow alleys to get there, before coming to a tiny door at the end of an alley. We walked through and it was like walking in to a little wonderland tucked away.
The interior was a mixture of traditional and modern. The architecture was very typical of Morocco and what you imagine when you think of Morocco. There was a small swimming pool and a rooftop where we ate breakfast every day and could chill out to sunbathe or have a drink. It was also only a 15 minute walk to the souks. Overall however Marrakesh is a surprisingly small city and it doesn’t take long at all to walk from place to place.
So these are all the things I loved about Marrakech! I’d love to go back and experience more of what lays outside the city such as the Sahara desert and the Atlas Mountains. I hope that some of these highlights will inspire you for your own trip!