Five essential experiences to add to your Marrakesh trip
Written by: Julia Hammond
Marrakesh, dubbed Morocco’s Rose City, is the perfect winter city break, its mild temperatures perfect for sightseeing and its sunshine a welcome diversion from the northern hemisphere chill. If you’re planning to visit, why not let Mundana help with the arrangements. Here are five essential experiences to add to your Marrakesh trip.
Haggle in the souks
The souks of Marrakesh sprawl over its old town, a labyrinthine tangle of alleyways and dead ends. Lining them are tiny stores selling everything from leather pouffes to iron lanterns. Artisans cluster by trade, giving each section of the souk its own distinct character. Follow your nose to the tanneries, where men dip skins in large vats of dye. Skeins of wool hang in colourful heaps in the dyers’ souk. Elsewhere the sound of hammers signals the metalworkers’ souk. It’s best to abandon all hope of following a map and just dive in. Wander at will and haggle with good humour.
Revel in the colours of the Jardin Majorelle
French artist Jacques Majorelle took forty years to create a joyously vibrant garden spread over two and a half glorious acres. This labour of love was saved from demolition by fashion designers Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé and lovingly restored. Today, its bold architectural planting shines against pots in vivid shades of cobalt blue and canary yellow. In winter, the injection of colour is energising and inspiring. Come for lunch and while away an afternoon. It’s the perfect antidote to the chaos of the city beyond its walls.
Hang out in the Djemaa el Fna
By day, the Djemaa el Fna is a busy square, but it comes alive after the sun slips below the horizon. Water sellers jangle bells, their colourful outfits a draw for selfie-hungry tourists. Acrobats tumble, snake charmers tout for business and henna tattooists beckon to would-be clients. At its heart, rows of chefs man busy grills. Their faces are partially obscured by the smoke from burning fat that drifts on the breeze. It’s street theatre at its best, free to watch save for a few dirhams in tips to the performers who impress the most.
Stay in a riad
Many traditional mansions, with oversized wooden doors concealing almost palatial interiors, have been converted into boutique hotels. The accent is firmly on service and comfort. Richly coloured textiles, carved wood, fretwork screens and soft candlelight from iron lanterns combine to create a chic and uniquely Moroccan style that has graced many a glossy magazine. Many have their own private hamman. Guests can indulge and revitalise with soothing facials and restorative massages.
Take a trip out of town
It’s hard to drag yourself away from the Rose City, but there are compelling reasons to. Entire farther afield. To the south you’ll find the Atlas Mountains, their high peaks dusted with snow in winter. Nestling in the heart of the Ounila Valley, the ancient ksar of Aït Benhaddou, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was once a busy trading route on the way to the Sahara. To the west lies the Atlantic. The easygoing beach town of Essaouira delights surfers, kiteboarders and windsurfers. Brass cannons line the seafront ramparts, separating the enchanting blue and white medina from the ocean.
Mundana’s experts know Marrakesh and its surroundings well – why not let them assist with your trip planning?