Hey everybody! It’s been too long since my last journal post. I’ve been wanting to write more, but I have simply been too busy with life and other projects, to do this in a way I found good enough to share. But now I feel fueled up on creative energy and want to write and share more with you than I've done for a long time :)
Anyway, as the title reveals, my wife and I went to explore Marrakech and I thought that was the perfect opportunity to start writing again. So here goes! Make a cup of coffee, get yourself comfortable and prepare for a few minutes of tips and photos from Marrakech.
I’ve seen pictures from Marrakech for a long time, and have from the start been amazed by the atmosphere over there. It seems like another world, compared to Scandinavia. Also, I remember my grandmother once told me about an adventure she and my grandfather was on, which took place in Marrakech and the Sahara dessert. And I would love to get the chance to walk in their footsteps :)
My wife, Siri, knew all about this, so one day she asked me what I would say, if she told me that she had bought two tickets to Marrakech - just for her and I (I am a lucky guy, I know). Of course I said thanks so much! And some weeks later we were on our way to Marrakech. Based on our experiences, this is my Marrakech guide. I'm no expert on the place, so this is purely my own thoughts about what was worth doing and what I want to do next time. And I know a lot of you who are reading this might be planning a visit too, so my hope is that you learn something from it. Feel free to write a comment below or ask if there's anything :)
Where to stay
Siri hadn't booked a place for us to stay at, since we usually do this together. So before we went, we did our research and talked to a few hotels - in Morocco known as riads. They were all super friendly and accommodating, and one of them even invited us to stay with them for the entire trip! The place is called Riad Kitula and is an old and stunningly beautiful building located in the heart of the old medina.
We got the most beautiful room, with a huge bed and the tallest ceiling ever, right next to a private pool and beautiful green area.
Most of the time it felt like we had the entire riad to ourselves, which was really nice, both because we value privacy and because the hectic city can drain you from energy which makes it extra important to have a riad you feel at home in.
The day we arrived, we were picked up in the airport by our chauffeur and escorted all the way to the room in our riad. When we arrived, we were welcomed by one of the managers, Nicole, and her husband, Rashid. The ladies in the kitchen served traditional Moroccan tea and pastries, and throughout our stay they all helped us with everything and really made a positive impact on our trip.
El Fenn is a riad in the pricy end, but with good reason. The place is so beautiful and well kept, and the staff is super professional. We didn't stay at the riad, but went there for dinner, which was the best dinner of our entire trip. It wasn't expensive (medium priced) but the food and wine was so amazing that my wife want to revisit just to have dinner there again :D
When we had finished our dinner, we decided to book a massage the day after. Unfortunately they were already fully booked, so instead we got a traditional hammam, which was also super nice.
One thing we wanted to do, but didn't get the time to, was to watch the sun set over the medina from their rooftop terrace, while having a drink. I've seen photos of the view and only heard good about it, so next time we will definitely prioritize to do that.
Lastly, they also have a boutique and small café located towards the street, where you can buy art, clothes, interior and design stuff. All carefully selected and in high quality.
So, in other words, this place has it all. And it doesn't have too many rooms, so you still feel like you're staying at a local riad where people know who you are.
Tip: if you're going to explore this place, it's a good idea to make a reservation or book a stay beforehand, as they try to keep tourist out of the places that are reserved for guests.
Where to eat
The Dar Cherifa is a fantastic place in many ways. It's one of the oldest buildings in the medina and at the same time also one of the most well restored ones. The place is owned by Marrakech Riads, who I talked to prior to our stay and defitinely want to work with next time we're visiting (they are super nice people and have so many amazing places I want to visit).
Dar Cherifa is a combined art gallery and restaurant, where they exhibit various forms of art and host people for brunch, lunch or dinner. We went there for lunch and tried some of the traditional Moroccan dishes, which was really nice. We took the desert on their rooftop terrace along with tea and coffee, and I felt like I could have stayed up there for ever :D
Tip: Note that it is open from 10am to 11pm daily, except Wednesdays
Of course there's more to Marrakech than the medina. Our stay this time was to short to experience much else, but we did spend one night going to the new city "Gueliz", which was an interesting place to see and a big contrast to the old medina, where you get the sense that time has stopped.
Grand Café De La Poste is an iconic colonial café dating back to 1925, serving traditional Moroccan and French food. Even though its one of the finer cafés, I don't find it expensive. I picked the most expensive dish (a steak with a potato gratin and sauce) and paid less than I would expect from a medium priced Danish restaurant. The steak however was one of the best I've had, and the wine was nice too. Friendly and helpful staff and amazing interior.
This café is located on the square in the souk, where there's people selling spices and rugs all over the place. And in the middle is a market, where you can buy hand-made baskets, small figures made out of wood and stuff like that. It's a nice place to experience and shop and when you need a break, there's Café Des Epices. It's not a fancy place, but a good place to take a rest and refuel on coffee and something to eat.
Tip: I had their chocolate brownie and cappuccino once, which was a lifesaver.
Nomad is a restaurant located almost next to Café Des Epices, where they serve delicious traditional Moroccan food at a reasonable price. It's a cozy place and they have a rooftop from where you can eat and enjoy the sun setting over the medina. Make sure to make a reservation if you want to sit up there. We popped in a little over 6pm and got a table inside, which was nice as well.
What to do
As you can read in the link above, the medina is on UNESCO's world heritage list - with good reason. I have travelled and seen quite a lot, but never before anything like this. The medina somehow reminded me of a middle-eastern version of Venice (Italy), with its narrow, old and charming streets. It can be difficult to find your way in the beginning, as everything looks somewhat similar and the digital maps aren't 100% updated, but we learned our way after a few trips.
A tip that I wish that I had heard before our arrival, is how hectic the medina is and how aggressive the salesmen can come across. They are not aggressive, but the way they speak and approach you combined with the fact that a lot of them are poor and therefor really eager to sell can take you by surprise (in a negative way). It did for me, so I used the first day on finding a way to cope with it, especially because I walked around with big eyecatching and expensive camera equipment, knowing that the locals weren't fond of getting their photo taken, which didn't make me feel any safer.
On day two, we approached the city as soon as the shops opened with Nicole from our riad, Kitula, which really helped understanding the people and finding a way to enjoy the hectic vibe instead of fearing it. I went home with the most positive feeling and am looking forward to come back and explore the medina again on my own :)
So, I think an important tip is to prepare for this, and if you're staying at a nice riad, chances are they will probably be able to help you exploring the place in case you want a guide or something like that. And don't follow any locals who want to show you the way - they often have a hidden agenda and take you to shops where they want you to buy stuff, etc.
The things I'll come back to do next time
There's several companies offering this experience, due to its popularity. A friend of mine (@mmleilange) recently took a trip like this over the Atlas Mountains at sunrise, which looked absolutely incredible. I want to do that at some point during my life as well.
We didn't have time to experience this ourselves, but if you have read the beginning of this post, you know I've heard my grandmother telling about this since I was a kid. I did some research on it and have found a company called Scarabeo Camp that has luxury tents located in the middle of the desert, where you can sleep and eat - definitely also added this to my must try during my lifetime list! :)
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé discovered the Jardin Majorelle in 1966, during their first stay in Marrakech.
“We quickly became very familiar with this garden, and went there every day. It was open to the public yet almost empty. We were seduced by this oasis where colours used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature. » … « And when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening. This is how we eventually became owners of the garden and of the villa. And we have brought life back to the garden through the years.”
Amazing story about an amazing place, absolutely also worth a visit.
Tip: the museum is super hyped, so if you want to experience it yourself, make sure to come early for better chances of having the place a bit more to yourself.
As described in the "Where to stay" section, this is highly recommendable. The Moroccans have a long tradition of self caring treatments like massages, spa experiences, hammams and so on. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on this gift. There's a ton of places to go and experience these things, but so far I have only tried El Fenn, which was perfect.
The last place I'll add this time, is the Maison De La Photographie, which is a privately owned photo museum exhibiting the exceptional diversity of Morocco as it was seen by those who visited it, anonymous travelers or famous photographers, since 1870 to 1960. As they call it, "an invitation to a better knowledge of Morocco". We didn't have time to make it this time, but next time for sure.
As you can imagine, I have much more I would like to share, but I guess you have to make a cut somewhere. And this is my top whatever list of things to know and do when in Marrakech.
I hope you enjoyed reading it and can use the tips in your own explorations. And if you've managed to read this far - thank you! :)