Flying with Ryanair from East Midlands direct to Menara Airport (following a two hour delay!) we arrived in the early evening and were immediately taken aback by the heat of the country. There were cashpoints immediately located in the airport, making it easy to withdraw our cash in the first instance. As we left the airport, we were greeted by a line of taxis, each bartering for our business. When we found one that seemed more familiar with our destination – Riad la Maison Rouge – we loaded our baggage and headed off into the night of Marrakech.
We arrived at the riad within around 30 minutes darkness was taking a full hold of the night. After settling into the riad, we decided to make the most of what remained fof the evening. The riad manager provided the directions and we set off for the main square, Djemaa el Fna.
After around a 20-minute stroll, taking in the people, sights and smells of the city, we arrived at the square which was undeniably the place that we had been looking for.
As we were so hungry we immediately hunted for the best stall to serve us some food. With so many to choose from you are more than spoilt for choice, however we were in luck. Our first Moroccan dish consisted of lamb, chicken and cous cous served with the amazingly sweet yet freshly squeezed orange juice: we soon learnt that this drink would happily serve us though most of our break offering something tasty yet refreshing at the same time!
After browsing around the rest of the square and seeing anything from souks selling fresh oranges to fabrics and ornaments / tagines to snake charmers, we decided to give in to the weary feeling and head back to the riad. The food has left us full and eager to rest well in preparation for the days to follow. The square is certainly a sensory overload but is a fantastic introduction to the country and it’s people. The culture is a complete contrast to the UK, yet I think it is important to travel with an open mind and appreciate the hardship that is being encountered. Whilst it can be an intense experience, I certainly wouldn’t have changed it.
During the next three days in the country, we crammed in a range of activities which included:
- Cooking class with Lalla Nezha – click to read the separate post about this.
- Marrakech Fantasia Chez Ali – A fair way to describe this would be as a ‘Moroccan Disneyland’ which I think is pretty fair. The buildings are beautiful and the surroundings create an atmospheric environment. Unfortunately, this was as much as we enjoyed about the evening. The food was good and well prepared, however the actual shows lacked explanation for tourists as to the cultural references. It seemed fairly overpriced and the performers actually seemed quite desolate to be there. We did try to make our own entertainment by joining in with the dancing during the show, however it is fair to say that we didn’t feel that it offered good value for money – however it was an experience that we remember all the same.
- Nikki Beach (without a beach – as featured is Sex and the City 2) – the sophisticated and gated resort is a small paradise which features white lounger double beds dotted around the spacious pool which is the focal point of the resort. With an on site highly rated restaurant and pool bar. we had to treat ourselves to a delicious lunch of lobster bolognese and roasted lamb with mash – which tasted incredible! The resort is slightly outside of Marrakech and will involve a taxi ride. During the evenings, they hold live music events so you may want to time your trip to this. But, don’t be fooled by the name – there is no beach and entry is chargeable.
- Trip to the Atlas Mountains inc. Camel ride and visiting a Berber house
- Jardin Majorelle: a twelve-acre botanical garden housing a library and small art gallery as well as a range of beautiful flowers and plants. It is quite a calming and peaceful place and a contrast to the busy city beyond its walls. This is also the place the place where Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes have been scattered after he lovingly supportive the restoration of the gardens that he loved so much. With anything from cacti to bamboo and samples of artwork, it is easy to understand why he felt such a passion for this area.
- Les Bains de l’Alhambra – On the final day of the trip, we then spent time spa (of which there are many around Djemna el Fna). Whilst this particular spa was recommended by our taxi driver, it certainly didn’t disappoint and provided a perfect blend of relaxation and a chance to reflect upon our time in Marrakech during a couples’ treatment. With professional staff and the perfect ambience created during a combination of a steam room and exfoliation, rose petal bath and full body massage, it was easy to lose track of time and very nearly miss our flight. It is certainly a good way to round off the break and relax prior to returning to the UK – just try not to cut it as close as we did!
During the course of the three days that we spent in Morocco, we felt that we were both able to learn so much about the lifestyle and climate as well as more about the Muslim religion that is heavily practised in the country. The culture and people all offer so much to any traveller with a desire to learn and benefit from the trip.We didn’t have any negative experiences in the country although we are particularly open to adaptation which I think is particularly important in a country such as this. Respecting the tradition is vital but there is a great deal to be learnt from here… I already hope to visit again but for a much longer duration this time!