Before going to Marrakech, I found myself dreaming about this city with Giulia, looking at the instagram profiles of other travel bloggers, and often wondering: “Are those places really that beautiful? “…”Is all Marrakech beautiful like the Riads portrayed in the photos? “… with today’s post I will be happy to clarify the doubts I had, giving you some extra advice for a peaceful stay in Marrakech.
Marrakech is the most important and historic city of Morocco, more also than the capital Rabat and the northern cities, Casablanca and Fès. Marrakech is a city where the sun shines all year long, temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees and it reaches 28 degrees in July and August; at worst, the temperature can exceed 45 degrees. From October to April it rains, generally not heavily; during summer, the long sunny periods are interrupted by rare storms. You can go to Marrakech all year around but the best months to visit the city are March-April and October-November, with warm but not too high temperatures.
Once in Morocco, I felt disoriented … I had only few days to discover the city and in the end this trip turned out to be a surprise in every way! The first impact was not so positive, Marrakech is not an easy city for a tourist, especially if you don’t know its culture, its citizen’s habits and their loud ways to ask for money to foreigners.
I’ve passed by luxurious places and poor districts, and at the end I found myself in a fairy tale that only the Medina can make you live. To reach the Riad where I was staying, I crossed a chaotic market, full of nauseating perfumes and smells, I passed by a narrow street of destroyed tiles and then finally I arrived at the Riad Noir d’Ivoire’s door. What an Incredible and drastic change… a second before I was walking a humble path and immediately after, on the other side of the the Riad’s front door… a wonderful dream!
The whole northern part of Medina is very poor and not well maintained, but for some strange reason the most beautiful and typical Riads of Marrakech are located here. A Riad that I particularly liked is the Riad Yasmine where I had the opportunity to have lunch; the food is really good and the location is absolutely impressive.
FIRST ADVICE: Book your stay on one of these typical Moroccan building, you will feel enveloped by a magical atmosphere and the staff of the Riad will make you feel at home. In the south of Medina there are the most luxurious resorts in the city, such as La Mamounia or the Royal Mansour which are definitely at a higher level, but not comparable in terms of the attentions that a Riad reserves you.
The first day I left to discover Medina. I explored the inside of the walls, crossing the souk, the Secret Jardin, the Mosque of Ibn Yusuf, the small square Rahba Lakdima and then arriving at the Koutoubia Mosque and the famous Jamaa el Fna square. Here I was literally assaulted by snake charmers, by people with monkeys on a leash and by traders of all kinds who tried in every way to sell me something. You will notice that I did not take any pictures in the huge square; do you want to know why?? Well, I read that taking pictures in this place is charged some Dirham due to the scene captured! Many insistent kids tried to be tourist guides just to receive some money, sometimes even giving the wrong directions; they were disrespectful, and they did not bother to be intrusive! I felt scared and uncomfortable, but only once I came back home, I understood their true intent … they were not acting badly, they were just trying to receive something… Morocco is Africa, after all!
SECOND ADVICE: Book a real Moroccan tourist guide to bring you inside the Medina, in this way those insistent people, by seeing you with one of them by your side, will not dare to ask you anything! The guide will take you to discover the most hidden and fascinating places, you will try their traditional experiences and most importantly, if you want to buy something, they will recommend the right place! There are many Moroccan guys who speak Italian very well; If, instead, you do not care to book a guide, do not stare at the local people in the eyes otherwise they will think that you need help; and if they still ask you something, just tell them that you know where you’re going!!
The heart of the Medina is a real labyrinth. History, culture, tradition, craftsmanship, all gathered in the millenary walls of the old city. Here, if you try to get yourself a path to follow, you will get lost for sure! There are a thousand streets that look identical, covered with stalls of fabrics, silverware, slippers (like those of Aladdin!), Ceramics … and to make things even worse, there are mopeds, bikes and carts with donkeys coming and going to bring supplies.
THIRD ADVICE: Have fun wandering through the narrow streets of Medina without having a precise destination, but pay attention to scooters while you walk, because it happens that they speed fast among the people and they accidentally hang on the tourists’ handlebars and you’ll find yourself falling on the ground.
I could not miss to visit the Yves Saint Lauren museum and the Jardin Majorelle in my Marrakech itinerary, so I walked quickly from the north of the Medina, this way outside the walls, but I risked my life several times because of the unbridled driving of the locals. Arrived in front of the garden, I thought the queue to get the ticket was for both visits, so I lined up (it was really long) but after 10 min I discovered that the queue was to enter only the Jardin Majorelle, while the museum was a little further. Unexpectedly, at the entrance of the museum, I waited only a minute and I had the chance to get both tickets (museum and garden), without having to redo the queue later. Here, in addition to the museum and the garden that are really worth seeing, I enjoyed the few designer shops like 33 Rue Majorelle and Anitan Rugs.
FOURTH ADVICE: Even if you are not passionate about fashion, do not miss the opportunity to visit this wonderful museum, even just to see the neighbourhood, which is very different from the one inside the walls. I thought the garden was bigger but it is still worth it. So ultimately, do not forget to go all the way down to get both tickets.
The hidden terraces of Marrakech are magical at sunset. One evening around 18.00 I reach the terrace of El Fenn for the aperitif. In addition to some drinks, they offered us to sit in a big sofa! We ordered two delicious centrifuges of various fruits and some snacks; I even took off my shoes and enjoyed a newspaper while the sun went down, and the sky turned red.
FIFTH ADVICE: spend a couple of hours or even an entire afternoon to rest on one of the many terraces that the city offers, enjoying the sunset and the peace that these places hide. Once you find yourself in the chaos of the city, you will really need for a quiet moment. A reservation is recommended, even on the same day! I leave you the names of some terraces that I found: El Fenn, Riad Ksar, NOMAD.
During my stay at Riad Noir D’Ivoire, I had the pleasure to enjoy a massage from a fantastic Moroccan Lady. After a full day in Marrakech, a relaxing treat was exactly what I needed! Almost all the Riads have a SPA with a pool area.
SIXTH ADVICE: Try a Moroccan massage. When you will look at the brochure with all the massage proposals it will be surely difficult to choose. I tried two different kind of massage and they were both fabulous, so let yourself be guided by your instincts and choose the one that inspires you. You will not be disappointed!
I spent part of my third day in a beautiful place surrounded by nature, just outside the chaotic centre of Marrakech: The Beldi Country Club. Here I felt in another era, everyone was very relaxed, the endless fields of roses in the surrounding gave me calm and the people who were staying there were serene and carefree … quite another atmosphere compared to the hectic Medina. Each room was furnished with the same elegant taste and always full of details. you would not tell but this place offers actually many things to do, like sunbathing on the relaxing area next to the outdoor pool, booking a treatment inside the SPA, taking part in a course to learn the techniques to shape the clay, eating at the open air in one of the 2-3 restaurants-bars, and most importantly spending your holidays in one of their beautiful rooms, all different from each other. The Beldi Country Club is so big that I think I have not even managed to see it entirely, even though I’ve tried to look around everywhere; I really liked staying there.
SEVENTH ADVICE: Even if you are not guest at the Beldi Country Club, you can still spend an afternoon in this corner of peace, you’ll feel regenerated! You can do as I did: book a table for lunch and you will be offered a “LUNCH + POOL” package for 390 Dh (about 35 €). If you are traveling to Marrakech and you want to spend few hours surrounded by nature, this is the right place!
While I was at home trying to organize my tour, I could not fail to include a visit to the huge Resort La Mamounia. A reservation is needed to enter must be shown upon arrival. I sent several emails to book a dinner, a lunch, to get the famous Moroccan tea, but there was nothing to do… it was always full. At the end I found a place for an aperitif at Le Marocain. A beautiful bar on the upper floors overlooking the resort’s huge garden.
EIGHTH ADVICE: Resort La Mamounia is absolutely worth the visit, just to admire the beauty of the place and only inside the walls of the Resort you will realize how big it is. Reservation and elegant clothes are required, otherwise they will not let you in.
I spent the last afternoon of my holiday in the beautiful SPA of Es Saadi Resort, outside Medina. I relaxed a bit in the pool and rested on one of the water mattresses in the relaxation room. Probably I would have spent less than an afternoon in this SPA, but it was good anyway.
NINTH ADVISE: Outside and inside the walls of Marrakech there are many Riads or Resorts where you can spend some hours or a whole day in the wellness area. While organizing your tour, book an entry to one of the many SPAs of this city. I had an alternative to the Es Saadi Resort that was La Sultana Riad, but unfortunately it was all busy.
Giving tips is common in Marrakech and Moroccans ask them at any occasion. I agree to give the right reward if a person really deserves it. However, I got help from a gentleman to bring my suitcase to the Riad where I was staying (I didn’t request his help), and in the end he asked me € 20. I was arrived in Marrakech from just an hour and I did not know how it worked … you have to negotiate!
TENTH ADVICE: What I’m trying to say is to be careful regarding the tips that Moroccans require, because they always ask for a high price. So, keep aside € 2-3 in your pocket, unless you are willing to reward € 20 each person who tries to help you!!
Every day the staff of my Riad suggested me to go for a trip with camels. They probably needed to sponsor it! But the truth was that coming out of the walls by taxi, I discovered that the excursion was inside a fenced desert, full of palm trees, just outside the Medina. There, they take you on a camel ride and they try to make you feel like you’re in a real desert in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, I did not listen to those who recommended it to me, it really looked like something fake!
LAST ADVICE: I did not have enough time to spend 2 days on a real desert excursion but, having already tried the excursion in the Dubai’s desert, I would have loved to try also this. So, if you have time, plan an exit on the desert with the camels but take 2 days and visit the real Sahara Desert. It will be more challenging, because day tours on the desert don’t exist, but sleeping in a tent and seeing the huge sand dunes will thrill you!