Marrakech

Marrakech & The Ourika Valley. 

A trip to Marrakesh is a sensory overload of some of the most exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes you will ever encounter. An intoxicating, colourful city that will “wow” you at every turn. From the bustling main square of Jemaa el-Fna, to the labyrinth streets of the Medina, the mosaic-adorned riads and the  haggling souk merchants it’s a city that will memorise you and leave you with memories of a life time. Welcome to Marrakech….

 

Marrakech is Morocco’s third largest city and most famous city. It certainly is the main tourist hot-spot and if you are on a short trip like I was or just looking for the classic Morocco experience, then Marrakech it is. It gives you a reflection of the spirit, culture and history of Morocco.

Many trips combine Marrakech with sights in the nearby High Atlas region, and often a multi-day excursion to the Sahara desert. You can visit other famous cities such as Casablanca or Fesz from Marrakech as well.

 

 

With flights from just under four hours to reach Menara International airport from most UK destinations and several budget airlines competing to offer the best deals it really is a must go destination.Cheap, speedy and pretty straight forward to reach, it’s no surprise that Marrakech is such a popular choice. We opted for a direct flight which is a bit more expensive but quick and easy with the flag bearer British Airways.

 

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When to visit 

The average temperature varies from summer to winter. The best time to visit Marrakech is when temperatures have cooled from March to May with an average high of 25°C and the nights around the 10°C mark.

 

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How safe is Marrakech?

A lot of people have asked me whether Marrakech is safe? I have travelled quite extensively and could not find any reason as to why I could class this wonderful city from any angle as unsafe . The old town yes you have to be a bit careful but this is the same in any touristy city of the world. There are people trying to sell you things and make a quick $$ out of it. You always are watchful of your valuable when you are travelling and it is the same here. Once you are out of the square and old town its as good as any other city in the world and safe as ever. The people are very friendly and most welcoming I must say.

Getting Around 

Menara International Airport is a modern well connected airport and a 20 minutes taxi ride from the heart of the city. A clean modern airport opening it’s arms to the world.

 

Local taxis are cheap but be sure to set the price in advance to avoid overpaying . Check out the board next to the taxi rank that lists recommended prices to various city destinations. Costs roughly £12 to get to the city centre.

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If you’re staying near Djemaa el-Fna, the number 19 bus picks up passengers from outside the airport arrival hall every half an hour between 0615 and 2145. It stops at the main square. There are buses within the city but the taxi is the best and fastest way to get around (specially as they are very reasonable). Language is not a problem as most of the people understand a bit of English but French is spoken much more widely as a second language, so if you have any French knowledge it will certainly be beneficial.

 

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Where to stay

The area that you stay in depends on what you prefer. If you want to be in the centre and taste all the action then your best option is to be in the heart of the old town in Medina. But if you  prefer the more modern Marrakech and nightlife then stay in a hotel in Hivernage or Gueliz where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of Medina. Most of the larger resorts are a 15 minute taxi ride away in Agdal. You really just have to decide what is best for you. Most hotels in the Hivernage or Gueliz areas are 20-30minutes walk to main Jemaa El Fna Square. We decided to go with the larger resort and our host was the Kenzi Club Agdal.   Kenzi Club Medina

 

The 5-star Kenzi Club Agdal Medina has a traditional Moroccan vibe, set in beautiful landscaped gardens with olive trees and views of the dramatic Atlas Mountains that dominate the Marrakech horizon. With 4 impressive swimming pools including an outdoor and indoor heated pool you can’t ask for more.

 

 

A solarium and a water slide for adults and kids it is the perfect splash around for the whole family. It offers great spa facilities with massages and beauty salon services, a range of sporting activities including two full-sized tennis courts and an animation team hosting activities and evening entertainment shows.

 

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If you need a break from the little ones, there is also a baby and mini club! The restaurant serves international buffet cuisine and a selection of Moroccan specialities to try. The hotel bar offers a wide range of delicious drinks to keep you refreshed and entertained. Only let down was local brands but apart from this its flawless with some of the most helpful staff. Stay at the Kenzi Club Agdal Medina Marrakech if you have kids like I did and relax and refresh in this traditional yet luxury resort. We went with the all-inclusive and would recommend it. A free shuttle service to the city centre every hour is an extra bonus.

 

 

Shopping

There is no comparison to what you can find and bargain for in the old city and the souks but for shopaholic there are 2 new shopping Malls that have recently opened in Marrakech. Le Carre Eden in the heart of Gueliz, and the Menara Mall, on the Menara Avenue, with its many shops, restaurants, ice cream stores.

 

Day 1.

Jemaa el -Fnaa Square and Koutoubia Mosque.

We start our Moroccan journey with Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main pulse of Marrakech. By day, the square buzzes with all sorts of entertainers, snake charmers and henna-tattoo artists while at night there are countless food stalls boasting of Moroccan culinary delights such as sheeps head and snail soup. It makes you feel as if you have gone back in time.

 

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Tourists flock here all year round to experience the true heart of the city and to discover the intriguing things the locals have to offer in this magical square. We strolled through the narrow street and sipped on the famous orange juice. There is some serious competition amongst the stall owners as each tries to get you attention.

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The square changes from morning to evening so I would definitely recommend walking through at different times of the day. The day is a bit less busy and the square is filled with orange juice stalls, local goods vendors, snake charmers, henna artists, and men with chained Barbary apes. In the evening, you see more musicians and dancers, storytellers, acrobats, magicians, and boxers. The food stalls also come to life as the evening approaches serving all kinds of hot food so make sure you sample both the day and night scenes of this famous square.

 

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Koutoubia Mosque.
Given the importance of mosques in Islam and in Moroccan culture, the Koutoubia Mosque is a must see. The largest mosque in Marrakech, the Koutoubia is not only a spiritual centre but a point of reference for international architecture. The mosque is ornamented with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches. The mosque has a large plaza with gardens, and is floodlit at night.
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 Setting the trend for buildings in Spain and Rabat, the beautiful 12th-century minaret of the mosque is an example of ornamental expertise, with characterful arches and rigid proportions, it’s an admirable piece of architecture. Listen to the call of prayer coming from the top of the minaret five times a day and appreciate the architecture of this important building.
It is a beautiful rustic mosque with the second highest mineret ( after Casablanca mosque) in Morroco. Its gives you a sense of calm and is the most iconic building you will see in the whole of Marrakech.
After spending most of the day in the streets of the city its was time to head back to the hotel and relax by the refreshing pool.
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 Day 2.

Bahia Palace and Jardin de Majorelle 

If you are interested in visiting one of the many palaces, then I would definitely recommend the Bahia Palace. There are several museums in Marrakesh, focused on various things like art, history, handicrafts, Berber culture, Islamic art, and photography but this is by far the most beautiful palace in Marrakech. Surrounded by some of he most beautiful gardens and intricate artisan work this is in a much better state then the Badi Palace which has been more ravaged by time and neglect.

 

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The Bahia Palace is situated near the Medina. If you are interested in art and design, you will love the unique details this Palace has to offer. As you go around the palace you come across various rooms each full of colours and exquisite lavishness. You will also find small gardens scattered around the palace. It was built in the 19th century with the hope of it becoming the greatest Palace of all times and to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style.

 

 

The palace is still used by the royal family from time to time but is mainly for the tourists who wish to learn about the history of Marrakech. The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century, for the Grand Vizier of Marrakesh, a former slave who rose to power. Its is an absolutely stunning and a must visit when in Marrakech. It served as a residence where he lived with his four wives, 24 concubines, and dozens of children it must have been a very busy place!

 

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Next stop the Majorelle Garden. The garden served as the home of the landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, and was later bought and restored by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The garden is known for its large collection of cactus and exotic plants from around the world and is quite picturesque.
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The garden also contains the Berber Museum which can be visited with a separate entrance fee. The Majorelle Garden  is a bit expensive for Morocco standards (roughly 180 dirhams) but is quite a popular tourist attraction so it can get crowded here at times. Try and book tickets online as the queues can take up to over an hour.
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Day 3.

 

 

 

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