My boyfriend and I decided to book a last-minute, 3 night holiday to enjoy before I came back to uni – and I’m so glad we did! The city is far from relaxing, but it was just what we needed.
Although it was nearing the end of September, Marrakech was still blissfully warm – around 30˚C. This was much more bearable than earlier in the summer, where temperatures climbed to over 40˚C. I personally love it when it’s ‘too’ hot, but when you’re walking around a city like Marrakech, I find it intolerable and become a hot, sweaty mess. As girls here are expected to cover their shoulders, midriff, and legs, this would not be ideal!
When we arrived, we were driven through the new town, Guéliz, before entering the old town where we were staying, the Medina. These two divisions are divided not only by a large wall, but by their atmospheres. Whilst Guéliz offers a more Western European vibe with expensive hotels, designer shops and palm trees lining the roads, the Medina hosts a more chaotic vibe, with a million different scents and colours to take in at once, and tiny streets packed with people trying to dodge the locals on mopeds that hurtle through every five seconds.
We stayed in a traditional Moroccan guesthouse, called a Riad. The one we chose was Riad Al Tainam and worked out at around £20 per night, which is a great price for those on a budget like us. Once we were taken here by the taxi, it felt like we had been transported to a whole other place. The moment the doors shut behind you, you are instantly soothed by the sound of trickling water from the small pool in the courtyard. The warm terracotta colours of the exterior are replaced by a clean white interior, adding to the serenity. There is also a rooftop area where you can eat breakfast, sunbathe, or just relax after a long day on your feet.
Riad Al Tainam
There is so much to see in Marrakech that we didn’t have time for it all, but we made sure to cross a few things off our list. Visiting the souks was one of them – a winding maze of markets selling an endless list of items, including handmade pots, slippers, spices and lanterns. The array of colours and aromas are breath-taking, but the amount of sellers ambushing you can be a little overwhelming so we learned not to linger for too long if we weren’t interested in buying.
If you walk through the souks for long enough, you end up at Jemaa-el-Fnaa, which is the main square. In the daytime it is full of snake charmers, henna tattooists, and monkey trainers all trying to catch your attention, and then demanding money if you give them any. However, come here at dusk and it’s another story. We sipped mint tea on the rooftop of Café de France whilst the sun set and watched as the square came alive, becoming a large open-air restaurant serving very affordable Moroccan dishes from pastilla and couscous to the less appealing, in my eyes, sheep’s head.
Jemaa el-Fnaa at Dusk
Mint tea at Café de France
We found the food in Marrakech to actually taste better at the smaller, much less expensive restaurants than bigger fancy ones. The theory is that in the smaller places the food is more alike to home-cooked meals, which is apparently where the best food is in Morocco – in the home. Our favourite restaurant was Café Kif Kif, right next to the Koutoubia mosque which was beautifully lit up in the evenings. We had a traditional Moroccan chicken tagine (like a stew) each, a dish of vegetables and couscous, and ice cream for dessert which totalled around £15 – probably less than half of what you’d pay in England.
Café Kif Kif meal
Koutoubia Mosque at night
Before we knew it we were packing to catch our flight back home – our time in Marrakech had expired and it was long before we wanted it to. There was so much to see that I’m sure we’ll be going back at some point to resume the holiday. If you like really full-on city breaks where you can live amongst the locals and explore to your hearts content, I would definitely recommend Marrakech. The beautifully cultural city takes you to another world and, as I’ve heard someone say before, is a real assault of the senses.
All images are credited to Robyn Heath.