Of anywhere in the world, Marrakech was never on my list of places I wanted to visit. I don’t know what it was, maybe its bustling nature or the fact that I’d never heard a good word said about it but it was never bucket list material. Until now.
This week sees me jetting off to Morocco for the first time and with that comes oodles of research about where I’m headed. I managed to pick up a Rough Guide and of course, I’ve been searching the internet high and low for tips.
From this, I’ve made a list of places that I’d ideally like to explore whilst I’m there. Let’s face it, I have a week so why wouldn’t I make the most of it! Here’s the spots I have earmarked:
El Bahia Palace
There seems to be a fair few palaces in Marrakech, each designed in a spectacular way but this one has really taken my fancy. From all the photos I’ve seen, the Eastern architecture inside El Bahia Palace is the most fascinating. Bahia, meaning ‘palace of the beautiful’, couldn’t describe this place any better. With over 160 rooms(!?), covered in tiled floors, carved ceilings and with water features galore, I can’t wait to walk around with my new Nikon DSLR and Instagram account. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes, that’s for sure!
I’ve been told to expect noise, albeit charming, in Marrakech. With calls to prayer for the faithful at least five times a day, it makes sense to see where they are coming from. Apparently, they originate from the Koutoubia Mosque. Levelled originally and rebuilt so it’s in line with Mecca, when it was finished there were at least 100 booksellers gathered around its base. This is why it was named Koutoubia (kutubiyyin) meaning bookseller. Another staggering example of Arabian architecture, I can’t wait to see it glow its beautiful pink at sunset – I’ve read it’s rather romantic.
The Old Medina and Souks
Although I’ve always had a fear of markets, it’s something to do with feeling crowded and being shouted at randomly, I am really looking forward to exploring Marrakech’s Old Medina.
Just look at those exotic, inspiring colours. I’m very much looking forward to going with the flow and buying up a few unique pieces here to take home. Originally, they were laid out by commodity and from the looks of it, very little has changed over the years, which will hopefully make them easier to navigate… hopefully!
I’ve been told that haggling is key here and to always start off at half the price advertised and work your way up. I tried this last year in Thailand and it really didn’t go so well but I believe this is probably one of the best places in the world to test my ability again. Hoping to add to my traveller’s bracelet collection, I’ll need to look for the better deals.
Along with a few more bracelets, I’m keen to pick up some beautiful Moroccan slippers (babouches) for Summer. A bit like the ones Carrie picks up in Dubai in Sex and the City 2… yes, ashamedly, I have seen this film. I’ve been told in Souk Smata there’s also some stunning hand-made lanterns too but I think, for now, they may be a little out of my price range!
If I have time, I’ll also be bringing home some spices and dried fruits from Souk Semmarine or the Spice Square for Green Ranger’s future dishes. It’d be great to make a tagine from scratch one evening, I haven’t enjoyed one since going to a delightful Moroccan in Soho. They’re great for entertaining friends.
The Atlas Mountains
Lastly, but definitely not least, I’ll be venturing up the Atlas Mountains in a 4×4 to enjoy a glass of mint tea with a Bedouin tribe. Colleagues from work have told me this is an experience not to miss out on and I really don’t intend to, I just hope that the language barrier isn’t too bad! With view like this, you can only imagine what it’s like from the top. Definitely another Instagram or Nikon moment…
I’ve always been nervous about meeting new people, having social anxiety isn’t always the best but I’m determined to make the most of this experience. It’s not often that you get to have a taste of such fascinating and differing cultures to your own.
After all of my research and planning, I can happily say that I’ve totally changed my mind. Having never been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit, I now cannot wait. Taking in all the colours, sounds and smells of Morocco is going to be an absolute treat.
So, that’s my plan but have you been to Marrakech before? What would be your tips for visiting this vibrant city? I’m all ears!