After an excellent, short flight of 3 hours and 15 mins I arrived in Marrakech. We caught our private transfer. I strongly recommended booking a prearranged transfer. Hassle free. Our driver took us to our resort of Zone Touristque, Agdal a 25 mins transfer, 15mins outside the medina. A lovely 24 degrees in November!
The following day, we arranged to do a half day doing a personal, private, historical Marrakech tour. It was superb. I would definitely recommend this.
The Berbers from the High Atlas Mountains arrived in Marrakech in 1062 and never left. We saw the Bahia palace, Saadims tombs. We had a talk with a genuine Moroccan herbalist, who has remedies for every ailment! We passed through the Jewish quarter. The whole experience was just awesome. The sheer vibe, the narrows streets of the medina, the characters of the sellers, the aromas and Souks. I felt I had been catapulted to another world. A world of intrigue and mystery!
I stayed in Zone Touristque Agdal. It is a new purpose built resort outside the medina, away from the hustle and bustle. Still under construction in most areas. It is lined with 4 /5 star hotels, most of the area is pedestrianized. This area has the Alamzar shopping mall (even has TGI Friday’s!), couple of banks and a massive Carrefour supermarket. If you wanted a more authentic experience stay in hotel or Riad, some are in the Medina. Riads are small to medium family run properties with a few rooms or smaller. Full of character and charm. Riads are beautiful oasis's of peace and tranquillity, with a courtyard in the centre which is the vocal point and generally a roof top terrace. Bliss. A welcomed haven of peace when outside is in organised chaos!
I must mention the traffic. It is nothing short of insane. You'll see on a busy roundabout, a donkey pulling a cart, families hanging off a small scooter, horse and carriage. Anything goes! But, hey it works just fine. Everyone knows what they're doing ...even If you don’t!
Alcohol: please remember, if you wish to buy alcohol it is freely available in the hotels. You can also buy it supermarkets, but you have to ask for it, as it is discreetly hidden away!
If you have not tried it, you must try a Traditional Hamman. What can I say! Those of you that don't know what a Traditional Hamman is, it is a deep cleansing, full body wash, scrub and exfoliation. Followed by a full body, deep massage with Moroccan Argan oil. The whole experience, including a pedicure, lasted 4 hours. Wow wee! My skin felt so soft and cleansed. An experience not to be missed!
Once again, we found ourselves back at the Medina. I can't explain it, the Medina has this peculiar draw. You just want to apart of it. The Medina is basically the area inside The Ramparts (the city walls) which date back to 10th Century. Outside The Ramparts is 20th century and the New Marrakech, with modern shopping malls, café's, bars, restaurants. There are no beaches in Marrakech.
I went for fabulous lunch and tour of the Hotel La Maison l'Arabe. A beautiful 5 Star, Riad elegant in design. 1920's /1930's with its unique Moroccan /Art Deco influence. The attention to detail from the rooms to the service is exquisite. I felt I was an extra in an episode of Poriot!
This 5 star accommodation was a favourite of Winston Churchill. It also housed the first restaurant in Marrakech. La Maison l' Arabe is famous for its cooking courses which you can book either a morning or afternoon class. The hotel has a characteristic atmospheric, 1920's jazz bar for both guests and outside guests. A perfect way to unwind after a busy day in the Medina.
Time to hit Jemma El Fna Square! The heart and soul of Marrakech. The best time to experience the true feel of Jemma El Fna is from 4.30pm to 6.30 pm. It's cooler and the square becomes a hub of activity. Everyone descends to absorb the atmosphere after work.
Believe me you don't know where to look first! The square has everything there from mobile phone sellers to snakes charmers. The smells, sights and sounds, herbs and spices, henna tattoos and arts and crafts ... it truly excites the senses!
To make it really special go to Cafe Glacier on the square. This restaurant bar, has a roof top terrace and if you buy a drink, you can watch the antics going on the Medina/square and savour the amazing sunset all at the same time. It's a photographers dream!
Marrakech is not for the faint hearted. But, please don't be put off by the intensity. It is what makes Marrakech.
My advice ...Just go with the flow and prepare for a sensual overload!