Impressions of Marrakech

Hi, After some days spent being concerned with a variety of health issues, I finally had a break in Morocco to recharge my batteries and escape the London rain.

Our trip started with our transfer to the airport: I had the brilliant idea to book our trip with the so-called “low cost” shuttle easybus (especially as there was no trains going to Gatwick this day) : this service should be reported as a SCAM! I rarely complain about services, but in this case there is an obvious rip-off: the website offers to book a shuttle at 11:00, 11:05 (the one we had booked) – so every 5 minutes: which means a different bus is supposed to come every 5 minutes, right? We arrived at bit earlier at the bus stop: two buses arrived at 11:00. Of course, as it was not “ours”, we were not allowed to get in a bus 5 minutes earlier in one of those two buses.However, the bus we were supposed to take didn’t show up. In hope to take the next bus we waited at the bus stop… it showed up at 11:15. The driver rejected us as he thought we were just late, and we almost got in a fight with him as he was starting to threaten other people. We finally called a cab at the last minute and found a nice Portuguese couple (who couldn’t get in a bus either) to share the ride. Eventually we spent much more money than expected ~ so, avoid Easybus at all costs if you have to commute from/to London airports! (oh and I forgot, if you want to call them to complain, the telephone number mentioned on your ticket is just not working…the customer service is just non existing!)

Hopefully, the rest of the trip was much more pleasant… We landed in Marrakech around 8pm (our flight was delayed, but after all the hassle of the morning, waiting in the aircraft for take-off was totally fine with us). Marrakech Menara Airport We stayed in a lovely riad (which is a traditional Moroccan house with an inner courtyard) in the medina (the old town). If you stay in Marrakech you have mainly two different options for accomodation: luxury hotels in the new town (which can be quite nice in the summer as they have swimming pools) or riads (which are most of the time B&B) in the medina. For our first time in Morocco we wanted to be close to the main square Jamaa-El-Fna – which is the most exciting and lively part of the city. Inside our riad I loved the fact that we had a rooftop (with a jacuzzi!) where we could sunbathe.We had a very warm welcome from the staff who was very kind to answer our questions and give us some tips. This riad is located at the end of a very narrow street, it feels a bit like walking in labyrinth… If you want to know more about this place: here.

And last but not least – the breakfasts were awesome! We enjoyed freshly baked buns every morning, with Moroccan pancakes and mint teas ~ I already miss it!! Delicious Moroccan breakfast As we took a walk in the evening after our arrival on the square Jamaa-El-Fna, we felt quite overwhelmed by all the smells, all the people…so much life on this place! It can be a bit intimidating, especially as a lot of people approached us to sell us food, henna tattoo, orange juices…we declined all the offers as we were already so tired of our day, but it was great to get all this energy of the city!

If you go to Morocco (and in Marrakech in particular), be ready: A LOT of people will try to sell you stuff –  lots of people try to make money from tourism (and keep in mind the average salary in Morocco is around €300/month). If you are not tempted, just say nicely “non merci” and that’s it! To be honest, I was expecting anything to happen as I had heard lots of stories of people being ripped-off (or robbed) in Marrakech…but it’s just like anywhere else: just be polite, smile, don’t start bargaining for something you don’t really want to buy and you’ll be totally fine.

The funniest attitude we noticed: as my boyfriend is Oriental, people were spotting us quite quickly in the streets (especially as you will very few Asians travelling independently). Among some of the things we heard: “Hey Psy! Oppla Gangnam style!!!”“Konichiwa! Taxi?”“Hey Bruce Lee!”“Hey Jacky Chan!”“Hey Jet Li!”“Ni hao! Aligato! Japanese? Chinese? Korean?”

Jet Li - the  nickname of my boyfriend in Morocco
Jet Li – the nickname of my boyfriend in Morocco

Of course, none of us got offended – as people were always friendly and started laughing as my boyfriend started to imitate some ninja to play their game 🙂 Overall people are very nice.

Marrakech is a city that will overwhelm you – and does not “show” its mysteries at first sight. I found it quite hard to find my way in the souks for instance (I am probably too used to the very structured and organised London). I couldn’t get any orientation especially as lots of small shops look very similar (and I always try to get some visual spots when I visit a place). It took me time to get used the way the souks are “organised” and truly appreciate everything in front of my eyes.

It is not difficult to hire a guide to visit the city…however, although we did not feel too confident we decided to find our way ourselves and not listen to all the people telling us “oh don’t go there, it’s closed because of the celebration…you should go to this shop instead” Well…we are not the best customers for shops, but it would be easy to spend days ONLY bargaining and shopping in the souks. We only brought a few things from our trip – only a bottle of argan oil (unmissable in Morocco!), some “Berber Nutella” (which is a spread made of almond, argan oil and honey) and some postcards to send.

The good thing is, if you are not a shopping fan, you will find very good places to make a break. We loved walking in the Jardin Majorelle – very soothing after all the noise of the city. The visit of the palaces (Palais Bahia & El Badii) is also great to relax, but do not expect to find too many detailed explanations during the visit – if you want to get all the historical details you better make some research beforehand or hire one a guide for the visit (I was amazed to hear all the different guides speaking in flawless German, Italian, English…even Japanese!). Again, we decided to walk our own way and admire those beautiful places.

If you are a food lover, you will be very happy in Morocco. We were delighted to try so many versions of tajine – which is THE unmissable Moroccan dish. It consists mainly of some meat (or fish or vegetables) that has simmered in a bit of oil, some spices (mostly cumin) herbs (coriander), and sometimes tomato sauce. You can basically order this dish anywhere, but the reference to keep in mind is that you should not pay more than 50 dirhams (approximately €5) for a tajine. After we had tried different versions, we found that the best value (at least for us) was the small snack inside the Ensemble Artisanal. For 80 dirhams, we had food for two. (2 tajines served with bread + 2 drinks – which kept us full for a long time). You can find of course cheaper places, but we found this tajine had the nicest flavour with tender meat really soaked in the sauce.

We drunk mint tea everyday – which is most of the times very sweet (too sweet for my boyfriend, but I personally love it that way!). Morocco is also the country of oranges, so buying a freshly pressed orange juice is the cheapest treat (€0.5 on the main square).

Also, at the end of our trip we indulged ourselves with some nice alcoholic drinks (despite the fact that we seldom drink at home). We went to a piano-bar which has a very selection of wines and long drinks, and enjoyed some nice live jazzy music. I was nicely surprised by a Moroccan wine (more precisely “La Ferme rouge” – if you want to try). What a great way to spend our last evening in the city!

Moroccan wine & long drink
Moroccan wine & long drink
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