We’ve recently returned from our Moroccon holiday, and much to our surprise, we didn’t really love it. I mean, it was a good break, but it really wasn’t what we had hoped for.
Why didn’t we like it?
It wasn’t really a relaxing holiday. Everything is a hassle. Walking down the street, you’re constantly bombarded to buy tat or fags, someone’s trying to put a scabby, sick looking monkey on your shoulder, or someone is forcing you to walk with them so you can be stuck paying them because “they gave you directions.” Everywhere you go, you’re on guard because someone is going to try to pressure you into something. It was not relaxing, and it wasn’t just our experience inside the medina either. We experienced this whilst wandering around outside the walls as well and really grew tired of it.
What did we like?
Our riad was lovely. We stayed inside the Medina in a small (9 bedroom) riad that had the best service and the loveliest staff.
We were so bored of the constant monotony of being outside of the riad, that we actually spent 1 full day just at the riad, laying by the pool in the sun, eating & drinking with a few other guests.
My husband and I decided that if (and it’s a big ‘if’) we were to go back to Morocco we would either go somewhere else (i.e. Agadir) or we would stay outside the Medina in a resort and travel into the Medina for 1 day, toward the end of the trip, to do some exploring.
We decided to get out of Marrakech for the day and travelled to the coast to Essaouira. We were told by everyone that it would be a nice break from Marrakech and it’s heat and hustle & bustle. It didn’t disappoint in terms of being much more chilled out.
The beach in Essaouira was lovely. It was a nice long walk in the water, which lead up to an area with camels, horses and quads. We walked the beach for more than an hour, attempting to cool down, which was nice. It was also the only place we weren’t hassled to buy something or come look at something, with the exception of an incredibly aggressive child trying to sell tissues.
I know it sounds like I’m being spectacularly negative about our time in Morocco, but I was just so disappointed. Morroco, specifically Marrakech, was somewhere I had always wanted to go, and I had it built up in my head as this incredible place. It really wasn’t what we had thougt it would be.
The highlight of our time in Marrakech was probably going to the Yves St. Laurent Garden. The plants & flowers were gorgeous and the colours were insta-worthy. It’s a short taxi ride from the medina, and you can stay in there for as long as you want, wandering around, having lunch in the cafe, or checking out the gift shop. You also have the option for the museum (we opted out).
Now that our trip is well over, and we’re back to London planning our next getaway (Dublin in August), I’d have to say, I’d recommend the following for anyone considering Marrakech as a destination:
- Be prepared to haggle, for everything. If you’re taking a taxi, they’re going to try to charge you 5x the actual cost to get there. Tell them no and walk away. When they follow you shouting other prices, keep walking until you get it to the price you want it to be. When in doubt, ask your riad how much the taxi should be so you have a framework.
- You will be offered hash a lot. I mean, a lot. Sometimes in its straight form, other times in the form of “spice cookies.” Don’t do it. A lot of the time, the men who are trying to sell you hash are actually under cover officers who work on bribes.
- Do not get henna from the ladies who grab your hands forcibly and try to draw on you. It will be expensive and there are no quality standards of the dyes they use. If you do want henna, research in advance the places you can go that are legitimate.
- It’ll be massively hot. Pack light, loose fitting dresses and skirts. Marrakech isn’t overly conservative so you’ll be ok in shorts and exposed shoulders, but it does draw unwanted attention and cat-calling. You also cannot enter any mosques and certain public places with knees and shoulders exposed. Pack a light scarf to cover your hair for mosques.
- You will be pressured by locals who seem helpful offering directions. Don’t go with them. They will sometimes just walk beside you and then try to force you to pay them for their service once you reach your destination. No money is ever enough and they will hassle you continuously and sometimes quite loudly. Tell them to jog on straight away. To save yourself some hassle, don’t pull any maps out in the Medina or they will be on you quicker than the flies on the pastries in the Medina! Know where you’re going and walk with relative confidence.
- Make sure your riad is clean, well-kept, has a pool and a resaturant (that serves alcohol). There are loads of places in Marrakech that you can’t get alcohol, and if you fancy a cold pint at the end of a long day, it’s helpful if your riad serves booze.
- I reckon 3 days is enough for Marrakech. If you plan it properly, you can see / do a lot and not feel like you’ve missed anything.
- Always make sure the bottle of water you’ve purchased is from a sealed bottle and not one that has been resealed. I was given a bottle of Perrier that was flat, the bottle cap didn’t break open and was so warm. Clearly, this was a refilled bottle. This is common practice.
- Le Jardin: The best meal we had in Marrakech with lovely atmosphere. Make a reservation. https://lejardinmarrakech.com/
- Jardin Marjorelle: This is the Yves St. Laurent Garden. It’s lovely. Don’t be put off by the queue as it does go relatively quickly. http://jardinmajorelle.com/ang/
- Riad El Walaa: This is where we stayed. The staff are great, the menu is quite good, and they have a pool AND serve alcohol. http://www.riads-quintessences.com/riadelwalaa/
- Cheese bourekas are brilliant. Give them a try!
- Restaurant Dar Essalam for evening enterainment. They have a large menu, serve alcohol and are one of the few restaurants inside the medina that have entertainment. http://daressalam.com/src/index.php