Advantages Weather (if not too hot!), sights, people very friendly and welcoming
Disadvantages A bit too much hassle from the men
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
In January 2010 I took a short break in Marrakech, and wow. I've been to South Korea and Russia, but Morocco has definitely provided the greatest culture shock for me. A Muslim North African country, it is opposite Spain (there is a ferry from Spain to Tangier) and next to Tenerife. The two chief languages spoken are French and Arabic (the Moroccan form), but I found that the majority of people spoke good English. The currency is the dirham: a pound is roughly 12 dirhams with £5 being about 60. You can't get dirhams before you go, but there are plenty of currency exchange desks in the airport, as well as cash machines (I used my Nationwide debit card).My friend and I decided to go because the airfare was only £16 return with Ryanair from East Midlands airport. This is incredible considering I flew to St Petersburg, which like Marrakech is about three hours from England, for over £200 just three years ago. We booked our hotel, the Moroccan House Hotel, through travelrepublic.co.uk and can thoroughly recommend it. A four-night bed-and-breakfast stay in an ensuite twin room cost £140 in total. I can't find the hotel on Dooyoo to review, but if I could I would give it 4 stars. It was a lovely hotel, with four-poster beds and breakfast on the roof terrace with wonderful views over Marrakech, and the only potential negative was that, being in the new city rather than the medina (the old city, surrounded by the city walls), it was a half-hour walk or short taxi ride to the centre.
There is no reciprocal health agreement between the UK and Morocco, and it is not part of the EU so leave your EHIC at home. Travel insurance is recommended (though I found that Morocco was classed as Europe for insurance purposes!). UK, EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens do not require visas for stays up to three months; neither do Japanese citizens (my friend is Japanese), but check if you are of another nationality.The weather in Morocco is hot, naturally, being in Africa; I thought January would be the coolest time to go, but while on the first day the temperature stayed around 20 degrees, a couple of days later it had reached 30. This was too hot for me if I'm honest (I am from the North East after all!) but it beats the summer highs of 40 degrees! Apparently January and February can bring rainfall, but there was none during our January trip.
***About Marrakech****The sights*
*Jemaa El Fna*
The famous square in the centre of Marrakech, the name means 'Place of the Dead' and was where the heads of executed criminals used to be displayed. Lovely! Nowadays it is home to water sellers, monkey trainers, henna tattooists, snake charmers, orange sellers... you name it! During the day it's a sight to behold, at night it turns into a giant food stall. It's lovely to sit on the terrace of one of the many cafes around the square and watch the action (and the sunset!).
I am a vegetarian and had no problem finding suitable food, either in the restaurants or Jemaa El Fna. There is always a vegetable tagine, some vegetable couscous or a margarita pizza.Being a Muslim country, alcohol is hard to find in Morocco, but we didn't bother looking. Some higher-end restaurants with mainly foreign customers sell it, but we tended to drink mint tea (served with lots of sugar), banana milkshakes (which were delicious), orange juice and water.
Shopping in the souks (markets) is one of the big attractions in Marrakech. Stalls and shops are teeming with scarves, kaftans, leather bags, pottery and shisha pipes (and more besides). You have to haggle - I am easily intimidated so I didn't try this, but my friend did and got a lovely scarf!
If I went back to Marrakech I would like to do some day trips: to Casablanca perhaps, or the seaside town of Essouira (the coach was full when we tried to go: the Supratours bus, from the depot round the corner of the train station), or even a trip to the desert. Despite the attention I did enjoy myself, and I think a trip to Marrakech is a good option for anyone who wants a holiday that is a bit different.
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It may be called 'The Peasant Palace', but there's certainly nothing peasantly about this hotel. An exotic Berber paradise to the south of...
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