Travel to Marrakech
If you’re super-organized (like me) to the point where your closet is color-coded and lined up in size order—Marrakech may seem overwhelming. It’s a labyrinth of twisty alleyways that appear impossible to navigate. There’s an array of snake charmers, fortune tellers and spice sellers that are ready to give you a “deal” on every corner. The key to an amazing vacation in Marrakech is simply your state-of-mind. Leave your structured daily routine behind and let the ebb and flow of this colorful city draw you into its wonderful chaos.
Marrakech is just a 4-hour flight from Europe, but a totally different world. It’s full of life, effortlessly combining the ancient and the new. Erin and her family spent two nights there and took full advantage of the food, culture and camels! She even had the opportunity to recreate a photo she loved of a woman standing in between the beautiful tiled columns of La Mamounia hotel. So, before you book your own Arabian Nights holiday, here’s everything you need to know about Erin’s fabulous weekend getaway in Marrakech.
You can read all about the exciting Busbee family excursions here.
What to Do
Separated from the Sahara Desert by the Atlas Mountains, Marrakech was built in 1070 as the capital of the Almoravid Empire. Red mud buildings formed from its native earth earned it the nickname The Red City. Five hundred years after its inception, wealthy sultans added to the architecture with stunning palaces and ornate tombs. This combination provides a myriad of captivating things to do in Marrakech.
For many visitors, the Medina Souks (or markets) in the labyrinthine old city, is the star attraction of Marrakech. The kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and sounds will be the highlight of your trip. Simply getting lost amid the bustling maze, makes for countless, memorable shopping opportunities.
Next, you’ll want to experience Jemaa el Fnaa after dark. This large square at the entry to the medina (the walled, old part of town) is the center of Marrakesh life. It’s a vibrant hub of musicians, acrobats and storytellers that springs into life daily with entertainment from late afternoon through midnight. At sunset, the northern section of the square fills with stalls serving inexpensive meals and snacks.
Additional daytime must-see destinations begin with the Koutoubia Mosque. It’s Marrakesh’s most famous landmark with its 70-meter-tall minaret visible for miles in every direction. A stroll around the blue walls of Majorelle Gardens also makes the list. These lush tropical gardens full of cacti, palms, and ferns, are the work of painter Jacques Majorelle. After Majorelle’s death in 1962, designer Yves Saint Laurent bought the property. You can enjoy a museum dedicated to his life and fashion legacy right next door.
One of Morocco’s most beautiful buildings, and another star attraction, is the opulently decorated Medersa Ben Youssef. Completed in 1565, the main internal courtyard is the highlight here. It showcases fine zellige tiles, stalactite ceilings, cedar-wood detailing, and Kufic inscriptions.
For more beautiful architecture, the next stop is Bahia Palace, built as the home of the sultan Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed. The interior décor is a dazzling display of zellige tiles, painted ceilings, and ornate wrought-iron features. The massive marble grand courtyard and striking harem area are the two main attractions.
Where to Stay
Marrakesh’s riad hotels are an experience in themselves. For many travelers, a visit here is as much about the hotel as it is about the city. Riads are a traditional Moroccan mansion centered around a beautiful courtyard. Over the past few decades, many have been restored and reopened as luxury and mid-range boutique hotels. Modern amenities such as plunge pools and on-site hammams (Turkish baths) are common in the larger riads. Many also provide evening meals on request.
Erin and her family stayed at the Amanjena resort and absolutely loved it! It’s on the pricier side, but if you’re looking for a special experience, this is it. Most of the suites have a private garden, private pool, or both. Other memorable options include the Royal Mansour, an imperial palace; The Oberoi Marrakech, carved from marble; and the Four Seasons Marrakech.
Where to Dine
Marrakech is all about flavors. Eating well and eating often is part of the culture. The restaurants are so compelling, you can argue that they are among the finest attractions in the city.
The Busbee family’s favorite restaurant in Marrakech is Café Arabe. This three-story restaurant in the heart of the medina is a happening place by day and by night. You can look forward to both Moroccan and Italian cuisine with some great vegan options. After your meal, head up to the terrace for decadent cocktails and even more decadent views.
The menu at Le Trou au Mur is where you can sample traditional specialties. The menu offers berkoukesh (handmade pasta with an herb and tomato sauce), tride (shredded pancakes with lentils, chicken and saffron) and tihane (offal stuffed with spiced kefta, olives and lemons).
The medina’s buzziest dining venue is Nomad’s towering rooftop. Reserve ahead if you want a seat at sunset because this place is in high demand. The décor is playful and stylish, with colorful wool cushions and carpets. It’s a nod to the building’s previous life as a carpet shop.
The best home-cooked, traditional meal you’ll eat in Marrakech is at Amal Centre. Prices are low with a happy mix of locals and savvy travelers. You’ll feel good about supporting this restaurant since it trains and empowers disadvantaged women.
Is Marrakech on your travel bucket list? Please share if you’ve already visited and any recommendations you may have in the comments below.
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