Last week was something out of the ordinary for me. We escaped to Marrakech, the Red city for a long weekend away, just me and my love. Marrakech is one of those places I have always wanted to visit, an artist/photographers dream destination. Vibrant, colourful, hectic, dusty and so very exciting! The whole trip was planned as a surprise birthday trip for my man, who I managed to sneak to the airport, bags already packed for a little adventure.
We arrived in Marrakech at around 6pm local time (same time as the UK) and were greeted by a warm evening and thankfully, our taxi driver. Turning out of the airport grounds we joined the throng of vehicles on the street. There were cars, trucks, bicycles, donkeys, carts, mopeds… you name it, all darting in and out, fighting for every free space that appeared. After an exciting 15 minutes we reached our Riad which was hidden behind a large door, down a maze of alleyways.
Riad O2 was a welcome retreat from the frantic city streets and its cool white washed walls, elegant shutters, ponds and large green plants, calmed and relaxed us. It has been lovingly designed with beautiful, authentic details and feels very private and quiet. Our bedroom carried on the white, elegant theme, dashed by interesting objects from Morocco and the desert. The Riad had several places for you to sit and enjoy a drink or a little quiet time, from reading corners and lounge areas to small pools to cool down in. We spent most of our time up on the roof terrace where there was a collection of places to sit, tables, loungers, lounge tents. It had a very chilled, boho vibe – perfect!
It was here that we started our days with breakfast made by the cook Rachida and what a treat they were. Different types of traditional pancakes, the most delicious jam and syrup you have ever tasted, fruit salad, Moroccan bread and coffee. Breakfast in the morning sun, honestly, nothing beats it.
We spent our days sightseeing, trying to capture as much of Marrakech as we could in 3 short days. It was every bit as fabulous, interesting, frantic and exciting as I thought it would be.
Here are our must see / do’s:
Visit the Jardin Majorelle – A stunning, colourful garden (once owned Yves Saint Laurent) home to beautiful cactuses, palms and water features. It is a breathtaking place and you can take some really fantastic photos here. It does get busy so I would aim for morning or later in the afternoon so you aren’t battling with the crowds. We stopped off at the juice bar and healthy restaurant just outside called Kaowa which was a great little find and when you’ve finished eating you can browse a little in their gorgeous shop 33 Rue Majorelle.
Visit a Hammam – We chose the Heritage Spa and it was one of the best experiences of the holiday. A couples hamman treatment (Moroccan sauna and scrub experience) followed by full body massage, heavenly. The staff were superbly trained and very friendly. I have never felt so clean and relaxed ahhhhh….
Visit the Islamic school and Palaces – We wandered the streets a lot. They are hectic, hot and dusty. There are so many wonderful things to see, local people going about their daily lives, fruit sellers, metal workers, children playing in the street. Scattered in between are a few gems that you need to visit if you can find them! We went to Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Islamic school which was a beautiful, serene place to visit with the most exquisite details. There are also a few palaces in Marrakech which we also payed a visit that have the same peaceful vibe and beautiful design work.
Dine in a traditional Moroccan restaurant – We dined one night in our Riad where they serve us traditional Chicken, lemon and herbs in a tagine accompanied by couscous. It was divine and totally authentic, we loved it. The following night we chose Dar Moha a lovely traditional Moroccan restaurant. A beautiful setting, you can choose to sit outside among the garden, the tables surrounding a green lit pool. The staff are friendly and the food delicious. I would definitely recommend.
Take a wander around the Souks – What an incredible place. A maze of tiny alleyways full of workshops and stalls selling local handicraft. Leather, silver work, woodwork, herbs and spices, you can buy it all there. It is very easy to get lost there and feel a little bit hemmed in especially when the traders start calling to you to look and inevitably buy. My tip is to just stay calm, friendly and ignore if you do not want to buy!
Visit the new part of town (Gueliz) – We took a walk into the new part of town one evening. This is a very different Marrakech to the medina, more westernised, it reminded me a little of Paris. Think busy roundabouts with lots of cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. Surprinsingly things were cheaper out here than in the medina, especially drinks in the cafes and restaurants.
Visit the desert – The Sahara desert is about 7 hours away from Marrakech but you can still venture out into the desert around Marrakech and see what life is like out there. We went out on quad bikes which was fun and very dusty! You get to ride through little villages (slowly) then fast out in the open desert, over bumps and up mountains, where there are some great views. We stopped at a little village for mint tea and pancakes, it was a great experience.
And then our short time in Marrakech was over… We said goodbye to the sun and the city but headed back to the gorgeous Littlelish who made coming home absolutely bearable :)