Advantages Beautiful climate, friendly + helpful locals,respectful people, great shopping,out of this world! :)
Disadvantages hassel to buy, quite dusty (not great when you've got a cold)
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Only a 3 and a half hour flight from the hustle and bustle of London to the vibrant, colourful and unique city of Marrakech.
As we flew over the city, it looked liked a patch work quilt of green and caramel brown. In some places there is a lot of lush green areas but the majority of the city is dry with a dusty caramel covering the roads and streets.
When carrying money with you, keep it close to your body especially in crowded places, though it's usually the other tourists you need to be careful of rather than the locals.They say that £20 is sufficient to survive each day for tourists. I only took £60 for the weekend away. I would have probably taken an extra £20. Money/currencies to be exchanged to MAD can ONLY be exchanged in Morocco. So if you have any money left before heading home, exchange your money before you go, unless of course you are going back soon, which in that case it's probably worth keeping hold of rather than paying more commission on it.
I along with four friends, travelled to Marrakech - three of us only staying for 2 nights (literally 48 hours!) and the other two for 3 nights.
Believe it or not, there is an abundance of things to do and places to see in such little time! From the famous Souks, Djemaa el-Fna, The Kutubiyya Mosque, and of course the delightful Atlas Mountains! And so much more!
I stepped out of the plane and my first reaction was 'WOW!' The airport itself is quite extraordinary. It is safe to say, that the Marrakech people are big on architectural detail! (You'll see what I mean when you get there).There is a bus that runs from the airport to the city centre Djemaa El Fna - Square: Jamaa Al-Fna Marrakech. It costs 20 MAD (approx. £1.30) for a one-way ticket or you can purchase a return for just 30 MAD. (£2) Though this is a good offer, if you are have an early departure and need to get to the airport very early, you may be better off getting a taxi back to the airport depending on where you are leaving from, as it will save you the stress of having to get back to the city and then take the bus and risk getting to the airport late. To my knowledge, the bus starts at 10am on Sunday's.
Taxis are VERY common in Marrakech so you'll have no problem catching a ride. If you are trying to save some pennies, try to share a taxi. During the day it can cost as little as 10 MAD (approx.65p) per person (NOT per taxi) but in the evening, after 9pm this is likely to double. Make sure that you both (you and the driver) agree on a price before you take off.WARNING! If you are a nervous passenger, I suggest that you close your eyes on your journey, as the traffic is not like London traffic, its 10 xs worse!
Though, on saying that, I felt very safe in the taxis I went in, as it is the 'norm' for them, so they know how to handle the traffic even if we don't. But a note for pedestrians is careful of motorists. In Marrakech, there aren't always clear (if any) road markings and there aren't really any road rules so motorists can come out of absolutely anywhere....LITERALLY! So just beware. Sometimes you can pick up the general direction some are going or following in. But if you are in the way, motorists know how to dodge you and/or will give you a little 'beep' with their horns to let you know they are coming.The other main way of getting around is on electric scooters and bikes; horse and carriage, but the best way I think is on the good old feet - walking.
On arriving in Marrakech, we travelled from the airport to Djemaa El Fna - Square: Jamaa Al-Fna Marrakech. It's a truly 'happening' city. Snake charmers, street performers, story tellers and market stalls with men loudly promoting their stalls, fill the area. The aroma of spice fills the air.Many of the stalls sell figs, dates, other dried fruits and also freshly squeezed juices. One stall in particular stands out in my mind.
As tourists we all love to take photos but sometimes it's wise to do this discreetly as you might be asked to pay towards taking the picture. In the square, you come across many performers dressed up in national costume, so if you want a photo, they may ask for 1 MAD (approx. only 6p)As we had quite a bit of luggage on us, we headed to the hotel to drop our bags off. We were staying at the 4 star rated Amine Hotel. I booked this hotel through Travelrepublic.co.uk. It was a bargain buy, costing only £45 per room for 2 nights! So about £22 each for the weekend, as we also received a discount from the website.
After exploring the beautiful hotel, we took a stroll around the local area to find something to eat as we were so hungry! We found a lovely Moroccan Spanish restaurant on one of the back streets. It was lovely! We had seafood paella and chicken paella with complimentary starters. The portions are very generous and only cost 60 MAD each (£4). We had a lovely waiter who kindly took some photos for us and gave us a very good service.Because Moroccan cuisine and restaurants are quite popular, it is not uncommon to find yourselves the only customers in the restaurant at any one time, especially during the daytime.
I have to warn you, that if you are dining locally, there are some restaurants/bars that do not always meet the general British hygiene standards, but you have to remember, that you aren't in the UK and therefore you need to adjust your standards (or just close your eyes again). But honestly, the food is great! And so are the people! So there isn't anything to worry about.NB: It is customary to tip, just as it is in England.
After leaving the restaurant, we had a little wonder down the back streets. I love exploring places, where the average tourist doesn't seem to go. And I tell you it was well worth it! We walked down a beautiful street. My friends were looking at a fruit in a garden but couldn't work out what it was. So the owner came out of his car and opened the gate inviting us in. He showed us his garden and explained what it was. It turned out to be oranges! And different varieties. He was SO kind and gave all 5 of us an orange each freshly plucked from the tree. It tasted amazing! It didn't leave that horrible stickiness that we get. Ah, if you go, you HAVE to get one! Oranges grow in abundance everywhere. They're as common to us as apple trees, if not, more!The man we met works at a silver jeweller shop which he owns. He's such a kind and generous man, and if you have any jewellery that needs fixing, or if you want to buy quality silver then I recommend that you visit his store. He is genuine and would not rip you off. Just like in the old times, they sell by weight - weighing it using the silver scales. Authentic or what?!
If you want to go and have a visit, his details are listed below:Name: Isfaoun Bijoux
After meandering around the local area for hours, we headed back to the hotel to explore some more and get a good night sleep ready for a full day the next. My friend had told me about a certain beauty treatment called the Hamman which I was keen to try out and fortunately, I had seen advertised in the hotel. So I went down to see what exactly it was.The Hammam treatment is basically like a steam room. They steam the room up so much and then the client goes in with just their underwear on and lies down on the floor. The steam helps breathing and also prepares your skin for the next treatment which was the Gommage. A lady (for ladies) and I suppose a man would carry out male treatments, comes with a specially designed glove and exfoliates the skin thoroughly removing all dead skin cells. I have to admit, it is a little bit strange having someone let alone a stranger come a scrub you, but at the end of the day it is a professional treatment and they do it ALL the time! Then you are given a little wash down. Ah, the feeling afterwards is bliss. Such soft skin and a smooth complexion! Amazing and highly recommended! Both treatments were 100 MAD each (about £6.50) each so a total of 200 MAD (£13) Hotels usually offer this service, but if not, there are Hammams all over the place. And I know some do offer these treatments for less.
After that, I was out like a light in bed and ready for Saturday.Saturday came by quick. Breakfast buffet in the morning and then out we went.
Though we were distracted and ended up doing a spot of shopping before actually getting to where we wanted. Our first stop was at a carpet shop. Wow wee! Absolutely amazing. And even whilst we were there, there were the ladies making the rugs using the old fashioned weaving machine. They even let my friend have a go! Carpets are very expensive there, but remember they are all hand woven and take hours upon hours to complete and are designed to last, unlike the manufactured carpets and rugs we can get for a fraction of the price at the local carpet shop.As we were walking towards our destination, we were distracted and went in to a health shop. I have to say, Marrakech knows its medicines and other potions. I was very impressed. They seem to have a remedy and cure for just about everything! And the best thing is, it's all natural! I'm a Beauty Therapist so this was one of my favourites!
As my friends were being guided through all the different things, I decided to go and find the jewellers before it was too late, as we were meeting our guide later on in the day. I had no idea where I was going, so every now and then I asked some of the locals which way I should go. The locals are very helpful and will go out of their way to help you. But they do sometimes ask for a 'present' meaning a tip for their assistance, so it might be nice to give them a little something to say thank you if you are able.After finding the place and meeting the friend I had made there, I went back to find the others and then returned with them. My ring was fixed and cost next to nothing compared to the price I would have been charged in the UK for just getting it taken in and valued! He even put a white sapphire of his own in for me!
We then made our way around, looking at the local stalls. The selection of herbs and spices is magnificent and beyond this world!As we were running short of time, we quickly looked for a restaurant to have our lunch at. It was HUGE! Yet we were the only ones there. We were given the choice as to where we wanted to eat so we chose to sit on the terrace as it was SO hot and we wanted to enjoy the good weather in December out of all months!
I was determined to have a Moroccan dish - Bastilla. This is a pie consisting of pigeon, egg and almonds. I have to say, it reached beyond my expectations. It tasted quite sweet (which I love) BUT it was the first time I had ever eaten pigeon...and it did taste like pigeon. Just odd if you know what I mean! But I do think it might have been psychological as before he had served me, the waiter had told me that it was Pastilla (the chicken version) as they didn't do pigeon. So there I was thinking it was chicken, but to my surprise he told me that it was actually pigeon, so I was a little confused. But it just goes to show that Moroccans really do go out of their way to satisfy their customers. I was really grateful as I really did want to try it!Whilst we were eating we were given a little performance by one of the staff on an instrument I think, native to Morocco. It was very pleasant and created a peaceful atmosphere.
We were then met by our tour guide, Mustapha Chouquir. We had actually been recommended him by some friends in London who had already been to Marrakech, as he would take us to places that we as tourists would probably have missed otherwise.He was an extremely kind and genuine man who spoke excellent English and knew English humour very well considering he has not been to England. So he kept us very well entertained.
To enter the Bahia palace costs 10 MAD each (approx. 65p)We really wanted to see the famous Souks so Mustapha knew exactly where to take us. He took us down a little cut through, which I don't think any tourist ever finds easily without a tourist. It was a very small entrance which took us through the nooks and crannies and lead us to shops built within the small walls. The shops were amazing! We went into another health place where we were given a full brief on popular products and were even offered a shoulder massage during the discussion (extra money of course but still only 30 MAD each £2) so relaxing!
Then we were allowed to buy whatever we wanted on a special promotion 'Buy 2 get the third free' so I bought 3 bottles of Argon Oil only 60 MAD each £4. It's quite expensive in the UK so I filled up. It's produced over there and is supposedly good for reducing scarring and helps with acne and problematic skin. I've been using it for just over a week and I do think it is a genuine product.After going into another carpet shop, we then headed to the souks. Marrakech was hosting a film festival that weekend, so the square was PACKED with performers, storytellers, snake charmers, henna artists and palm readers, as well as people watching the 'big screen.' The night life in Marrakech is very lively!
We arrived at the souks. Absolutely phenomenal! Anything and everything you could possibly want, you can get - lamps, bags, costume jewellery, scarves, sweets, olives - everything! But remember to bargain with them! I try to go half but sometimes they already know that and so deliberately start their prices at double, so maybe start a little lower, and that way you are sure to get a good deal. I bought a lovely orange hand made bag for 70 MAD (£4.50) originally 120 MAD (£8) and a chunky detailed necklace for just 40 MAD (£2.60) instead of 80 MAD (£5.40)NOTE: If you do not want to be hassled to buy something, the best thing to do is to avoid eye contact.
The details for our tour guide are listed below if you are interested. His price is very reasonable, especially considering he gives 5 hours of his own time to spend with you. It also makes you feel a bit more secure having a local with you, as you are not hassled so much and feel safe when in a new environment.
I would definitely recommend having a licensed guide to show you around, as they will know the city like the back of their hand and will therefore, show you places you might have missed and later regretted.
His name is Mustapha Chouquir (Licensed Tour Guide of Marrakech)
Tel: 00 212 (0) 62 104 099
On our last night we had a feast on the sweets and olives; catching up on the adventure we had had in Marrakech as for all of us it had been our first time there. Nothing bad to say. I would love to back sometime soon.Ryan air now flies to Marrakech from as little as £30 (return), if that! (But if paying by credit card, watch out for the surcharges they add on before completing payment) But still, it is worth every penny!
And the great thing is, is for such a tiny amount for a plane ticket to AFRICA, and a short distance in comparison, you can afford to for just the weekend away without the risk of getting jet lagged or homesick. Thought I would DEFINATELY recommend that you travel with someone, not on your own - and better still, with a group, as it can be quite daunting due to the fact it is a new place, a different country, and a different culture and is a place where you could easily get lost. So hang on to each other!I would recommend a 3 night stay in this superb city, if you want to cram in the main sights into a short weekend. My only regret is that I didn't stay an extra night to soak in the Atlas Mountains and visit the isolated villages along the way.
However, if you are wanting a more relaxing and slow paced holiday then 1-2 weeks is plenty.Weather is great in December, with heights of 21 degrees Celsius so a great getaway for a winter sun holiday without breaking the bank.
In conclusion, all I can say, well...words just cannot describe how different and unique a city it is. You have to go there to take it all in and live the 'experience.'
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