It’s not often that I travel somewhere where I feel well out of my comfort zone. But that is certainly how I felt in Marrakesh, surrounded by a culture quite different from my own (and quite possibly the fewest number of Asian tourists I’ve ever seen).
One of the beauties of living in London is the visitors. Not just those who come through London, but also the ones who are happy to meet you in another city, easily reached from one of London's many airports. So when my cousin Sarah came to visit a couple of years ago (time flies and now Sarah is living in London and I'm back in Melbourne), we ventured to Marrakesh (despite her suggestion we go to Turkey... sorry Sarah, I really ballsed up that timing).
I initially started this blog because so many of my friends asked for my lists of recommendations when they visited places they knew I'd been to, and I always ask friends for recommendations when I travel. We arrived in Marrakesh armed with lists from two of my besties (thanks Lucia & Soph), both lovers of food and design, so I knew we were in for a treat.
I expected the city to be an assault for the senses and I was prepared (or so I thought) for the attention two female foreigners can attract in city such as Marrakesh. Whilst the two of us were conservatively dressed, it would seem that Marrakesh doesn't see so many Asian tourists (we literally saw just two other Asians in 4 days). Being followed by a steady stream of "China, China, Japan, Ni Hao, Konichiwa, Korea, Korea, Sayonara" was pretty intense and certainly put a dampener on the experience at the time. But looking back, I loved it - the scorching sun, the blinding light, the call to prayer, the patterns, the food (although one can tire of couscous) and even the colours.
We didn't have time to make a trek into the desert or up into the mountains, so I would love to go back to Morocco at some stage. As always, I'd love to hear about your experience of Marrakesh and Morocco, or if you have plans to visit soon. L x
If money is no object for you, then staying at La Mamounia is the ultimate luxury. Sprawling gardens, stunning architecture, it looks amazing. Unfortunately, I haven't quite made my fortune, so we settled for a beautiful suite at Riad Goloboy whose roof terrace overlooks the gardens of La Mamounia. Located just outside of the Medina, in Sidi Mimoun, Riad Goloboy is contemporary and colourful, drawing inspiration from Islamic Architecture, modern art, and the bright blue of Le Jardin Majorelle. The staff are incredibly welcoming and helpful, whilst breakfast on the roof terrace every morning was one of the highlights. The kitchen can prepare lunch or dinner for you as well, and even though we ate at some of the best restaurants in the city, our favourite meal was at Riad Goloboy.
Riad First was actually my first choice (pun not intended) after it was highly recommended by a friend. The minimal aesthetic is much more to my taste, but I loved our stay at Riad Goloboy, despite its flamboyance!
ARCHITECTURE & SIGHTS
The Medina is the heart of Marrakesh and Jemaa el-Fna is undoubtedly the heart of the Medina. Teeming with people, you will find food, fresh juice, snake charmers, henna artists, and much more in the square. This place really comes alive at night time.
Many souks run off the Jemaa el-Fna, selling everything from spices to leather to carpets. The souks are labyrinthine and it is easy to lose your way or be led astray, so if you can, use google maps.
Medersa Ben Youssef is possibly one of the most photogenic places in the city, and that door is certainly one of the most photographed doors in the world. Once a college, the restored madrasa is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Marrakesh, attracted achinerds and religious pilgrims alike.
One of the places I was most excited about visited was Le Jardin Majorelle, created by Jacques Majorelle, the garden was bought by Yves Saint Laurent so that the public could continue to enjoy the gardens as he had. The distinctive bright blue, now known as Majorelle Blue,is the perfect foil to the greenery. Just across the road from Le Jardin Majorelle is one boutique you must visit in Marrakesh, 33 Rue Majorelle stocks local artisanal jewellery, apparel, homewares and more.
Since our visit, Le Jardin Secret has opened, and its geometric water features are on my list to visit next time.
La Maison de la Photographie exhibits photos documenting the history of Morocco. The gallery is a welcome respite from the intensity of the medina and an afternoon snack and tea on the roof is particularly relaxing.
FOOD & DRINK
Tagines and mint tea are ubiquitous in Morocco, you really couldn't get away from them if you tried. I thought I loved couscous, but you really can have enough of it! Whilst I love Moroccan food, after a couple of days I felt the flavours became a bit too similar for me (though for some reason, I could eat the same pasta every day for a year without complaint).
Our favourite meal (besides our meals at our Riad) was at Nomad. Ensure you book a roof terrace table, the setting is intimate and the view over the Medina at sunset is spectacular. Plus the food is sensational, the duck tagine was incredible (though I do admittedly have a soft spot for duck).