Perhaps the foreign city I think most often of, Marrakesh has been on my bucket list for many years until I finally managed to go and I would still return there anytime. This Recommendation list reminded me of so many beautiful memories, tastes, colors and sounds that my heart was already feeling like it was there again.
As always, I want to be fair and transparent with you, so the places marked with an asterix (*) are places I have not had yet the pleasure to pay a visit, but they are still highly recommended amongst the well-traveled circle.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are no direct flights between Bucharest and Marrakesh, however, you may opt for one of the plenty trips with one stopover in Europe. Be prepared for a minimum six-hour flight, layover included.
WHAT TO DO
Walk through the Medina, the old neighbourhood which surrounds the Jemaa el-Fna square. Do that during the day for bargaining in the souq area, buying trinkets and drinking many fresh fruit juices. During the night the Jemaa el-Fna square turns into a melting pot of snake charmers, food from all corners of the world and henna-tattoo artists, whose dexterity into creating intricate designs is absolutely incredible. Also, don’t miss out on a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent museum, inaugurated in October 2017 in the vicinity of the Majorelle Garden, the famous property YSL bought together with Pierre Bergé.
For some relaxation moments, choose the spa of the La Mamounia hotel, a property of almost seven hectares nearby the famous Koutoubia mosque or savour a mint tea in the shadows of Le Jardin Secret, a central botanical garden which has been recently restored and whose origins date back to the 17th century.
Other two places you should definitely see are:
One of the most beautiful examples of architecture and Moroccan style in the city, the Bahia Palace brings together the first stained glass windows of the entire Maghreb, multiple inner courtyards surrounded by citruses, dozens of rooms decorated with zelij -geometric mosaics, sculpted fireplace mantles, floors in the most precious shades of yellow, green and blue, and many other treasures which will leave you stunned. Having visited this palace twice in four days, it’s no wonder it is my favourite place in the entire city.
Ben Youssef Madrasa
In 1570 this building was the biggest Islamic college in Maghreb which had over 900 students. Today it is a museum where you may admire large zelij decorated corners and moorish architectural elements.
WHERE TO GO
As Friday is considered a sacred day, it is the only day in the week in which people serve traditional couscous with eggplant, zucchini and other steaming vegetables, together with chickpeas, raisins, chicken, pork or veal and many spices. Other Moroccan delicacies include the tajine, a sort of stew served under a clay cloche which hides anything from chicken with candied orange or lemon up to lamb with prune sauce. Another classic Moroccan dish is the pastilla – chicken or dove in sweet pastry covered with nuts, honey and cinnamon. As a piece of advice, do get out of the comfort zone of European gastronomy and try out the small traditional restaurants of the Medina. I have loved the famous Café des Épices and Nomad and I have heard great things about I Limoni, but these may be a bit too touristy nowadays.
WHERE TO STAY
Royal Mansour Marrakech*
Already a renowned hotel, Royal Mansour Marrakech has 53 private villas which are completed by pools, restaurants, bars, a library, an art gallery and excellent spa and hammam spaces. Here, privacy, serenity and relaxation are the order of the day.
Villa des Orangers*
Only few minutes away from the historical city centre, Villa des Orangers benefits from a heated pool in one of its courtyards, private terraces for sun tanning and reading sessions, an elegant decor, a welcoming atmosphere and unique dining experiences.
You can also try out some Riads, traditional Moroccan houses with inner gardens, like Riad Yasmine, Riad Be or Riad Jardin Secret. Mind you, despite the fact that these are quaint oases in the middle of the city’s hustle and bustle, their Instagram-fame might take out a bit of their serene charm.
No matter where you stay, I am sure Marrakesh will surprise, delight and charm you, making you feel like going back there every time you can.
WHEN TO GO
Morocco is lovely from September until early May, when it gets way too hot to stroll from one place to another. Also, you may want to avoid the Ramadan, as many restaurants, stores, museums and facilities close during the day. In 2018, Ramadan begins on the 15th of May and ends on the 14th of June.
If you would like to read more about this city and my experience there while solo travelling, here is another article I wrote about Marrakesh.
This article was originally published in ELLE Romania, February 2018 Issue, number 243