Mysterious Marrakech

May Swan-Easton on 12 May 2011
Destination: Marrakech, Morocco – May 2011

Journey: Flying time approx. 3hrs 25 minutes flight, based on a non-stop service from UK. Transfer time from airport to city centre approximately 20mins

Weather: Temperatures can reach high 30s in the summer months & much cooler in the winter months of Dec-Feb with approx temps of around 19c. May and September are the best times to visit. Although there are a few festivals during July & August you might not want to miss;-

Fantasia - horse-riding spectacle that includes hundreds of charging horsemen (and women) wearing traditional clothing. Takes places outside the city walls near Bab Jdid during the evenings. Arts Festival – takes place in July with snake charmers, fire-swallowers, dancers, fortune tellers from all over Morocco & parts of Asia & Europe. Takes place in the 16th century ruins Badi Palace & the main town square (Djemmaa el Fna).

Imilchil Marriage Feast – Takes place after harvest so August/September in Imilchil in the Atlas Mountains. A traditional Berber marriage festival where up to 40 couples get married. A great way to embrace the Berber culture & experience the music, dance & food

My accommodation: I chose to stay in a two centre, firstly a RIAD which is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden, pool or courtyard these generally have 3-8 rooms available. I stayed at the authentic RIAD AMIRIS which has a central location in the old town 3-5 mins walk from Djemma el Fna (depending on how many times you stop to look in the myriad of shops & stalls along the way!). The Riad has 6 air-conditioned guestrooms located on the ground and 1st floor and has been lovingly restored by its French owners Fabienne & Michel, after months of meticulous work done by Marrakech artisans it is now one of the nicest Riads in Marrakech. As soon as you walk through the door of this timeless place, you are welcomed to the evocative perfumed air that emits from the oil burner that transports you to a peaceful, relaxing sanctuary that holds more than a hint of mystery.

The breakfast consisted of freshly made bread rolls, cakes and Moroccan pancakes with homemade jams & marmalades, coffee/tea which was more than adequate.

Secondly a HOTEL which are larger in size to a traditional Riad and have more facilities. Choose from 3*- 5* Hotels located throughout the city and the Palmeraia area (15mins tax ride from the Medina). I stayed at the Club Med Palmeraie which was based on an All Inclusive meal basis. Predominantly French guests with a high standard of service and food in restaurants & bars, nightly entertainment and comfortable modern rooms. Excellent for families as they have a children’s club & pool.

I also visited the luxurious 5* La Mamounia situated within the Median walls, a favourite with celebrities & royals. It received a major upgrade in 2009 and offers timeless elegance and traditional decor. There are 136 rooms, 71 suites and 3 riads within the grounds. All rooms have A/C & have bathrobes, LCD satellite TV, mini-bar, in-room safe & terrace/balcony. Facilities include and indoor & a huge outdoor pool, spa, hamman, tennis, gym & 4 restaurants including 2 Michelin Star chefs, 5 bars/lounges. To sit in the tranquil gardens with its manicured lawns and aromatic rose bushes with a cocktail in my hand was divine and I didn’t want to leave.

What to do locally: Shopping in the Souks of the Medina. Hot air balloons rides. Camel rides in the Palmeraie. Quad biking in the lush green oasis of the Marrakech Palmeraie. Traditional Moroccan cooking class. Tagine cookery class in Marrakech. City tour. Tour of Marrakech Medina, Palaces & Tombs. Trekking in the Atlas Mountains.

Food: Tagines are the local popular dish, meats & spices baked/steamed in a conical dish. If you eat in the Djemaa Square you will find numerous food stalls cooking local delicacies of fish, meat & poultry cooked with Moroccan spices. We tried 6-7 dishes at a total cost of £10 each. There is seating at tables plus the menus have pictures of the dishes so you can just point and order!

My view: Great weekend destination for couples & friends looking for a culture infused destination and as a twin centre combined with a beach resort in Morocco.

Top tip: Barter for any goods you want to purchase as it’s a way of life plus it’s a lot of fun!