An amorous couple on the plane asked me where to go when we touch down in Marrakech, her hot pants confirming she hadn’t done much destination homework. Marrakech is no longer the best-kept secret of the bohemian glitterati, Ryan Air and easyJet cleared that right up. If you’re after hot, sunny and cheap you’ll get it but this is a city that ticks so many more boxes.
For many, North Africa can definitely be a large lunge out of the comfort zone but that is what makes it such a thrill to visit. All the differences have to be embraced to enjoy it. The encounters in this city can show you humanity at its most diverse, leaving you with that warm fuzzy feeling we all get from a truly connecting experience with the world.
A heady mix of medina nights and poolside days are what is needed to enjoy this ancient city. H&H have complied a go-to list for tagine heaven, hammam sparkle, yoga, rose gardens and poolside mint tea all in the presence of the dramatic snow dusted Atlas Mountains.
The vibrant colours in Marrakech will get you Insta snappy but #nofilter necessary. Brush up on that GCSE French and pack your white floaty travelling essentials because boho is back, for whatever time you go to Marrakech there will always be someone more hippy than you bartering for baskets in the medina.
Djemaa El Fnaa is the famous square in between the medina and the Koutoubia Mosque, which the new city is designed around. Walking towards the square at night provides an assault on your sense like walking into a battlefield; smoke rising from the tagine pots and drumbeats pounding, the throngs of people huddle around the evening’s entertainment. Ancient Berber storytellers pass on their fables, whilst young men shout out M&S ad slogans to get you to eat at their food stall. Even the Tesco plastic bags provided to carry your authentic purchases, don’t manage to dampen the feeling of mystery and awe that surrounds the souk.
Numerous branches lead out from the expansive DJemaa El Fnaa into the heart of the old city. Twisting and turning routes offer gateways to different quarters from the pungent leather tannery to the multi-coloured pottery and olive souks. If this is your first time, it’s recommended to hire an authorized guide to show you around. The winding alleyways can spin even the strongest sense of direction off course.
Make sure to stop by Marrakshi Life. New York fashion photographer turned designer Randall Backner fell in love with the city and with the artisans. His collection of hand-woven clothing keeps true to the bohemian essence of the city with an authentic and clean twist. Housed in the same renovated riad are other gallery shops that designers have taken over to add their take on the colour, creativity and chaos of Marrakech.
Zen And The City
If your trip is all about detox and body work, there is only one yogi to call. Due to her celebrated yoga classes and blissful massages, Aisha Barzaghi is in popular demand. Originally from New Zealand and with over a decade living in Morocco, she is now a fully fledged Marrakshi. Her yoga style is powerful and Astanga based, all levels welcome. Make sure to contact her before you go to ensure she can accommodate you. In between organizing retreats, private sessions at all the luxury hotels and private villas, she makes it work. Find out more here.
If you like the sweat and scrub of a hard work out, you’ll probably want to book a hammam. Your experience will range depending on how local you go. Larger hotels normally have a spa that offers a traditional hammam package, tending to go a little easier on the unsuspecting tourist. A more local vibe will douse you with a bucket, slap you on a hot slab and brush you with a mitt that gets crevice happy. A pleasant mix is the Les Bains des Marrakech, situated just inside the gates to the medina. A narrow entrance which opens out into a well organized series of hot rooms and a beautiful riad space to relax in after you emerge shiny and new.
Food For The Soul.
The Amal training centre for women is one of those wonderful ventures that feeds both your body and your soul. Founded in 2012 by an American woman born and raised in Morocco. The centre has become a popular restaurant and cookery school destination for locals and tourists, whilst housing, training and empowering disadvantaged women. As you sip your citron pressé in the vibrant city garden, the centre is providing long term security for women who, at the end of their time at the Amal centre, will have a reinforced skill set and job placement. Your money could not go to a more direct and worthy initiative, plus the menu is also delicious! Serving two traditional Moroccan and two international dishes every lunchtime. French fries should always come with a side of charity. To support the Amal Centre and find out more click here.
The farms and fields that surround the centre of the city are as diverse as the medina medley. H&H favourite havens outside of the city are up high in the Atlas and down in the valleys.
The track up to Kasbah Bab Ourika is an adventure in itself, but past the donkey jams, piste pecking chickens and crumbling hillsides – the most wondrous views of the Atlas mountains and the Ourika valley await you. So far removed from the buzz, you disconnect from the noise of the city and reconnect to the huge skies and snow capped mountains surrounding you.
Down the mountain, with an easy drive to the airport is the Beldi Country Club. Sitting in 14 hectares of rustic gardens and endless rows of mutli-coloured roses, one can either visit for the day exploring the gardens, enjoy a delicious poolside lunch and follow the sun around the variety of pools, or you can stay in the newly built hotel which features 28 suites all with a beldi (country) feel.
By Kristina Ducker