MARRAKECH, the most known/travelled city in MOROCCO. With well over 3000 different riads in the medina & a variety of restaurants that serve more than just traditional moroccan food – you know tourism has changed this city. There is still an element of cultural shock to MARRAKECH, however, not as large as the other cities we visited since every other person you see is a tourist.
MOROCCO is known for its Riads/Ryads. Riad in arabic means “garden” and is a traditional Moroccan house – two or more storeys centered around a courtyard that has a fountain in it.
We stayed in two different Riads in MARRAKECH. The first one was RIAD ALIA. The contemporary/minimalist interior design was trendy – all white interior, clean lines, & plants nuzzled in every corner.
This three story RIAD built its rooms around the main courtyard and finished off with a rooftop patio.
We started off our mornings slow -beginning with a traditional MOROCCAN breakfast on the rooftop patio, followed by a dip in the pool. Well, only I went in, but the others just lounged.
Coming back to the Riad after a full day trek being in a room that was open to the sky, surrounded by plants and the sounds of a fountain in the background was peaceful to say the least.
The staff at RIAD ALIA were welcoming, friendly & hospitable. They went out of there way to make our experience comfortable and remembered. For example, the night we checked in, Dan was really sick and the staff went out of there way to help me help him. Also, they were honest with us – they told us where to go in MARRAKECH and places that were just tourist traps. The staff were also the ones that helped me buy an authentic hand made Moroccan pouf vs. a machine made Moroccan pouf.
The second Riad we stayed in was RIAD MATHAM. This traditional interior design had depth to it – dark finished wood, rich color palette, elaborate detail on furnishings and their art collection.
Each Riad we stayed in encapsulated biophilia – brought outside and nature inside via the plants, natural daylight, wood and stone material.
We were welcomed with Moroccan mint tea and greeted every morning with breakfast in the courtyard. We finished off our nights watching the sunset while enjoying a glass of red wine on the rooftop patio. The rooftop patio had a lovely view of MOROCCO, you could see KOUTOUBIA MOSQUE from there.
The staff were also lovely at RIAD MATHAM, in particular, the manager went above and beyond to make our experience impeccable.
Like mentioned in my post FEZ – MOROCCO, I do not think you can go wrong with any Riad in MOROCCO. They are all uniquely designed and can only hold a small amount of guests at a given time.
If I could describe MOROCCO’S goods in two words it would be: handmade heaven.
The streets are filled with vendors squashed like sardines selling anything and everything. Some common goods sold include: rugs, pillow covers (specifically authentic MUD CLOTH), argan oil, leather goods, jewellery, wicker/straw bags, spices, metal goods, etc.
Prior to coming to MOROCCO, I thought the best shopping would be in MARRAKECH. Although the shopping was good here, I did find that prices were significantly cheaper in the other cities and merchandise was the same.
Bargain, bargain, bargain!
When you are given a price by any vendor, you should expect to leave with at least half of what the vendor initially offered. That is the rule of thumb and is considered a good deal. Even the locals have to bargain. I oddly was the one in the group that did all of the bargaining. Tip: don’t be afraid to leave, most will chase you if they want the sale and even if they don’t – you will most likely come across a similar item for a better price elsewhere.
The currency is Moroccan Dirham but they also accept euro’s and USD. 1 Moroccan Dirham = 0.14 Canadian Dollars. To give you an idea of how much we roughly spent on certain items (after BARGAINING):
Argan oil (100% pure, 50ml): 30 DHS = $4.18 CAD
Straw purse = 150 DHS = $20.90 CAD
Leather purse = 180 DHS = $25.08 CAD
Moroccan pouf = 50 Euro = $76 CAD
Crystal rock from Atlas Mountains = 120 DHS = $16.72 CAD
Some tips for argan oil, don’t buy them from the souqs. They are often not 100% pure and incorporate other oils in them. Buy argan oil from a store that just specializes in argan oil or Argan Cooperative (the source, where they make them). The label should have EcoCert on it, this is a international certification of organic products. The only ingrediant it should have is: Argania Spinosa.
I found out by one of the local vendors that they sell moroccan poufs that are made by hand OR by machine! The ones made by machine (sewn by machine) are significantly cheaper for obvious reasons. The way you can identify handmade vs machine is by looking on the inside stitching – handmade will look hand sewn. This is why I paid 50 euro for one. I did find that all leather goods were significantly cheaper in FEZ (leather capital). MARRAKECH brings in all of their leather from FEZ.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit MOROCCO was to buy an authentic MOROCCAN rug. I was planning on buying one and went home with three! Oh boy….
There are different styles of Moroccan rugs: Azilal Rugs, Beni Ourain Rugs, Boucherouite Rugs, Kilim Rugs, Boujad Rugs & Rabat Rugs. They are named after the tribe who makes them in different regions of MOROCCO. I won’t get into describing each different style moroccan rug but will touch on the ones I specifically purchased.
Beni Ourain Rug – 100% sheepskin wool rug. Mainly cream/white color with black lozenges (rhombus/diamond shapes) or berber insignia.
Azilal Rug – similar to Beni rugs but differ by incorporating different geometric shapes and use different color of wool using vegetable dyes.
Boujad Rug – very colorful rugs in purple, orange and pink.
The beauty of handmade rugs are that they are all uniquely different, you cannot get two rugs that are the same. My advise to you with rug shopping is to know what style you are looking for AND what size you need. Measure where you will put it in the house prior to coming. This makes your decision so much easier. Rug prices VARY based on size and material. Obviously, the larger the size, the more expensive. Again, same rule applies – you should leave with at least half of the price that the vendor initially offered.
We spent 1200 DHS ($167) for a 5 ft X 7 ft Boujad Rug & 2500 DHS ($348) for a 9.75 ft X 6.75 ft Beni Ourain rug. The gentleman who sold us the Beni Ourain rug threw in a 3 ft X 4 ft Azilal rug for free because I liked it so much. Sounds like a lot BUT to get an authentic moroccan rug in Canada goes for $1000-3000, depending on size -no joke.
Hammams have been rooted in Moroccan culture for many years. Locals go to public hammams once a week to bathe oneself and chat/hangout with friends. Baths are seperated by gender. Everyone is naked.
Spa Hammams add a little more luxury to it and have someone else bathing you. Let’s just say you get comfortable in your own skin…very quickly.
You can do a couple hammam, a friend hammam or by yourself! My friend and I did one together…not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.
A spa hammam is taken place in one small room, typically all marble. You are given a towel and a cloth to wrap around your bottom like a sumo wrestler. The technical term is called Fundoshi. It started off with us sitting in the steam room for 10 minutes and then the lady came in and immediately took our towels and left us in our Fundoshi. Our friendship just hit the next level LOL. She starts off with rubbing black soap all over your body, letting that sit in, then exfoliating your entire body. I had so much dead skin fluff off -it was insane and gross lol. After the rinse, she lathers 100% pure argan oil and then proceeds to wash your hair. She also puts 100% rose water on your face and then argan oil at the end. You honestly walk out feeling as soft as a babies bottom. I would do another one in a heart beat.
We went to FARNATCHI SPA MARRAKECH and had an incredible experience.
2. BAHIA PALACE
This nineteenth century palace is one of the major monuments of the country’s cultural heritage. It displays a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture and is worth seeing. We visited the Alhambra Palace in Granada Spain that had similar architecture.
It is opened to the public Monday to Sunday from 0900 to 1700, 1 euro per person. There seems to be a big line at any time of day to enter, but the line moves quick, don’t worry! You do not need to get tickets prior to your trip.
This is the largest mosque in MARRAKECH. Non-muslims are not allowed inside the mosque but it is worth seeing from the outside.
This is MARRAKECH square/market place in the medina. You will definitely come across this area when exploring. This is the place where you will find the snake charmers, story tellers, dancers and water sellers. It wasn’t my favorite area since I saw monkeys chained by the neck with very old diapers on them (looked unchanged for days). Not my cup of tea.
Ben Yousseff Madrasa was under construction and we could not visit while we were there. Another place we did not get to was Majorelle Garden which I would have loved too!
NOMAD – they serve “modern moroccan” cuisine meaning they revise traditional local dishes and add moroccan twists to international dishes. This place was hustling and bustling with people – you need to make reservations prior to coming. Like most restaurants in MOROCCO, they have two to three stories of all table, finishing off with a rooftop patio. Ask to reserve a table on the rooftop, the view is pretty. The food was delicious – we had the bone marrow which was exquisite.
LE JARDIN -probably the most known restaurant in MARRAKECH. You enter through an under whelming door to find yourself sitting in the middle of a lush garden with tables filled with people. It truly is magical oasis and is a break from the overcrowded streets of MARRAKECH. The cuisine is traditional moroccan and European. I would also make reservations here. The food was delicious but service is SLOW. Prepare to sit back, wait to be seated, wait to be served, wait to pay the bill. But when your in such a beautiful place, does that really matter?
***CAFE DES EPICES, NOMAD and LE JARDIN are all owned by the same owner. We didn’t get a chance to try the first one and preferred NOMAD when compared to LE JARDIN***
BEATS BURGER – when you are tired of tagines, head to BEATS BURGER for a burger. Owned by a french man, offers a variety of burgers from beef, chicken, vegetarian and fish. They also make some pretty killer homemade fries – double fried!
NARANJ – is Lebanese + Moroccan restaurant and had DELICIOUS food. The entire restaurant was separated into four different levels, we sat outside on the rooftop. I would make reservations for this one as well.
MARRAKECH is known for having freshly squeezed Pomegranate juice. We tried it and was delicious, so refreshing.
We got dropped off in MARRAKECH at our hotel by the company we booked our SAHARA DESERT experience with. We did not need a car while in MARRAKECH, everything is walkable distance in the medina (old city) which is were we kept too. We booked our transfer to casablanca through tangier taxi.