Morocco

The Marrakech Express

I recently took a trip to Marrakech for a long weekend with some female friends and ended up completely falling in love with the crazy city that it is. I’m pretty well travelled, but this was unlike any place I’d been to before. A city of complete contrasts that assaults every one of your senses..and I highly recommend going!

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If you are looking to take a trip there, here are my top five must do’s for Marrakech:-

1. Get a Hamman.

If you like your beauty treatments, it’s definitely worth giving this one a go. A weekly tradition for the locals, it basically involves scrubbing a layer of skin off. This was the first thing I did once I’d checked into my riad to try and relax after the plane journey and queuing in Customs (be warned, this part takes forever!). If you want to go fully local, you need to head to one of the public baths, but I wasn’t quite brave enough and went to the spa around the corner that was affiliated with our riad.

Now, I’ve had my share of strange beauty treatments in the past, but this was something else. As I stood in bikini bottoms in a small, marble room with just candles for lighting, my experience went something like this…

  • Strip down to only bikini bottoms in a darkened room.
  • Lady uses shower to wash you all over.
  • Lady rubs some scented stuff over all visible skin (lots of cupping involved).
  • Lady leaves you to lie down and “relax” for ten minutes. Feels a lot longer and you start to wonder if she’s forgotten about you.
  • Lady finally comes back and proceeds to scrub harshly at all visible skin, actually removing a layer of skin.
  • Rinses the dead skin off you then randomly washes your hair.
  • Leaves you soaking your feet in a tub of water and rose petals. Get the same feeling as Stage 4 after a while.
  • Lady lets you out and you sit down in a comfy chair while drinking mint tea and someone massages your feet.
  • Go for full body massage – relatively normal experience.

But the Hamman and a full body massage ended up costing me about £30 and my skin was super-soft, so I really cannot complain about the process at all!

2. Get lost in the souks.

If you’re going to the souks, be warned that once you’re in, you have to keep going until you get out the other side. And while you’re working your way down the many allies, trying not to get lost, be prepared to get accosted by practically every shop owner on the way…or just random people in the street trying to get you to go to another part of the souk where a member of their family probably has a shop.

But it’s not half as daunting as it sounds. In fact, it’s actually quite a fun experience and you’ll probably come out the other side with a few trinkets you didn’t plan on buying. The best way to go about it is in the traditional Moroccan way – just go with the flow.

When it comes to making a purchase, shopkeepers can be, er, a little enthusiastic in trying to make a sale. Just remain polite and if you don’t want something, be prepared for them not to give up too easily, but it’s all very good natured. If you do want something, be prepared to haggle. To help me with this, I took a conversion sheet I’d thrown together myself, so I didn’t have to do any on-the-spot conversion of currencies. 100 dirham sounds like a lot but then you remember it’s only a couple of quid!

If you’re a tourist, the shopkeepers will probably start at a ridiculous price. Immediately, drop that price by at least a third and work from there. It’s not a concept we’re used to, but it is actually a lot of fun and the shopkeepers quite like getting involved with some tough haggling.

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3. Visit the Jardin de Majorelle

As you’re wandering around the Majorelle Gardens (once owned by Yves Saint Laurent) you actually forget where you are. Away from the dusty roads and frantic driving of Marrakech, the gardens are a source of tranquillity. Inside its walls, you can happily while away an hour or so just looking at the calming pools, mass of blues and yellows or the impressive nature.

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4. Take a Trip to Café Clock

Tucked down a side street and then through some rubble, Café Clock is hidden out the way but is definitely worth trying to find. The food was amazing and they always seem to have something on. Less touristy, it’s popular with the locals – it seemed to be where the Moroccan Hipsters hung out.

Check out their website to see what entertainment they have on or book one of their special experiences – http://marrakech.cafeclock.com/

I also have to recommend trying their chocolate milkshake!

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5. Go on a camel trek

Ok, so this one might not be entirely animal welfare friendly and I still have a little bit of residual guilt for enjoying it so much, but it really was a nice experience. Taken to the outskirts of the city, amongst the palm trees, we were led around on camels for over an hour. What made our trek just that little better were the baby camels that followed us the whole way round. It was officially declared that day that there was nothing more adorable than a baby camel running!

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