Let me start by saying, we didn’t really enjoy Marrakech. So I want to put a little disclaimer out here: this post will contain some negativity about this city/culture and by this I don’t mean any bad or disrespect to anyone and definitely am not of the racist kind. This is just my personal opinion about our visit and I would love to keep things real here on this blog. So if you’re not able to accept any differences in opinion, I would advice to close this post and hope to welcome you back later on a more positive note!
In this post I will talk you guys through our stay and our experiences, the good and the bad. It’s true we are somewhat skeptical people, but most of the time we are very open minded and positive. However, this trip was a real culture shock to me and did leave its marks.
We went to Marrakech for four days. We arrived quite early morning on Sunday and left early morning on Thursday, leaving us with four days to visit this city. As always we travelled with our Time To Momo city guide and app. We love these city guides because they consist of several walks through the city, showing you all the highlights. This particular guide had three walks in the book and one extra walk in the app, which was perfect for the four days we had in front of us.
After our arrival on Sunday we immediately went into the city and started the North Medina walk, which was about 5 km. Leading us from Place Djemaa el Fna through the souks and leading us to Medersa Ben Youssef, which was closed for renovation. Such a shame, because we really looked forward to seeing this old Koran school. On this walk we did see some amazing highlights like the fountain Chrob ou Chouf which was built in the 16th century and is listed on UNESCO. We did have a very rainy day but didn’t really mind since we were well prepared. The city did lose some of its charm because of the bad weather, but most of the time the rain passes quite quickly. On the other hand, due to the rain there were less people on the square.
On Monday we had much better weather! It wasn’t super hot, around 20°C, but that was perfect for us. As long as the sun is shining, we are happy peeps. So this second day was ideal for visiting the New City which is located outside the old Medina walls. The New City is much more modern and locates a lot of shops and office buildings. We went around visiting Le Jardin Majorelle and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Afterwards we went to the Railstation of Marrakech, which is a very modern and beautiful building. Across of the station there is the Royal Theatre, but it was actually a shame they put this big advertising thing in the front, kind of looking like a big pita-bar. The new city may be more spacious, but it surely isn’t less crowded or busy. So to find some peace and quiet in this city is very hard.
On Tuesday we went to see the South of the Medina, harboring a lot of culture. We visited two of the palaces, El Bahia and El Badi. They both show the wealth of the past sultans and was actually really pretty to see. We enjoyed this part of the city the most because it was a little less crowded and had a lot of cultural things to see. This walk also lead us to Jardin Le Mamounia and Hotel La Mamounia. At first we were a bit anxious to get in this hotel since we weren’t staying there, but there is actually no problem in visiting because they also have a lot of shops inside the hotel. Oh yeah, this is where they hide the real luxury stuff with a Saint Laurent Boutique, a Dior Boutique and other luxury stores. Great wealth and luxury is found in this amazing hotel and if you have the chance to stay here, I would highly recommend it.
After spending a lot of time in the city we went back to our Riad and booked ourselves a Hammam treatment. This was a real special experience and if you have the chance to book this, you should definitely. First they washed us with black soap and gave us a good scrub in a hammam-room (which was heated luckily), afterwards we got a very good massage heating us up for the colder night to come.
Our last day was spent with the last walk in the app, combining all three of the previous walks. We got to see a bit of all parts again and took some time to relax and try to enjoy the city – finally. We almost succeeded after our visit to Terrace des Epices, but were quickly overwhelmed by this busy city again. More about what we ate and our final opinion further in this post.
Things you must do
Personally I enjoyed our visit to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and Le Jardin Majorelle the most. I am a luxury lover and have great interest in YSL creations, so to me this was truly amazing. But you don’t have to be a luxury love to enjoy this museum. The building alone is a real gem and inside you find such peace and calm in this otherwise busy city. You can expect to see Yves Saint Laurent’s creations and a lot of pictures in a really luxurious setting. There is also a film about his career which is definitely worth checking out. Now, having lunch in a museum isn’t always the best idea, but this wasn’t the case in Le Studio. This is the café at the museum and we ate such great tajine here and had such a great experience. Yes, it was a little more expensive, but the serenity surrounding you was worth the extra money.
Visiting Le Jardin Majorelle and the YSL museum can be combined. Now, when you come to visit both these attractions, you are most likely to enter via Rue Yves Saint Laurent, where a big line of people will await you – don’t be fooled by this like we were. It’s best to go and check the YSL museum first, because the lines over there can be A LOT shorter than at Le Jardin Majorelle and it’s only 100 meters away. We took a combined ticket giving us entrance to the YSL museum, Le Jardin and the Berber museum which is located inside Le Jardin Majorelle. The Berber museum wasn’t that spectacular, but it was fun to check out the local heritage. Le Jardin Majorelle was also really fun to do, but don’t expect to get a lot of Pinterest-worthy pictures here because it was so crowded with tourists and to get the ‘famous’ pictures of the house just isn’t possible as a visitor because a lot of the garden is restricted. Expect to see a lot of cactuses and other plants – and of course, a lot of visitors.
Other things that were worth our time and money:
- Palais El Bahia
- Palais El Badi
- Place Rahba Kedima
- Jardin La Mamounia and Hotel La Mamounia
One big tourist trap
As you read this, you might think Why did you not enjoy this city? Well, to us this whole trip was one big tourist trap. We heard a lot of people saying about how amazing it is to get lost in the souks and enjoy the beautiful culture and friendly people… we were fooled big time in our opinion. As I said, my opinion my vary from others, but this is how we personally experienced this city.
Yes, the souks show some amazing colours and items. You have the leather goods, with belts, bags, travel bags and so on. Then you have the babouche makers with these cute little shoes made out of leather. You also find a lot of spices in these souks and metal goods, like beautiful lamps and teapots. And I see how many people find these all authentic and cute, great souvenirs from a trip abroad…. but hasn’t it occurred to anyone that ALL these souks sell the exact same items? How can they be handmade in that particular souk if 1km ahead you find the exact same babouche? I wasn’t easily fooled by this, so ended up buying nothing.
Next to all these ‘authentic’ pieces you find a lot of luxury goods in these souks… Oh yeah, you’ll find the newest Chonel bag, the Gucky Dionysus and a lot of Louise Vuitton. The counterfeiting is real, very real in this city and in no other country have I seen so many fake bags being sold and worn. It broke my heart. As always I was traveling with my (real) Gucci bag and so many people were constantly checking out my bag so I didn’t always feel as safe to be honest. If you are tempted to buy any of these fake luxury bags, make sure to first watch this Ted Talk about how fake handbags fund terrorism. And with this I am in no way implying that the people in Marrakech are tangled up in terrorism.
It can be very much true that the people in Marrakech can be warm, kind and friendly, but this isn’t how we experienced the vibe in the city. We were fooled the first 5 minutes we got out of our Riad on our own. We were at a corner street and were looking at where we had to go and someone kindly showed us the way – as in, we didn’t have much choice but to follow him because he was so importunate. At the end he asked us for money, but we didn’t have any on us yet (we just arrived!!!). So he was kind of mad to us and we were immediately uneasy in this city. First experiences are so important… I spent the whole day thinking he would find us back and wouldn’t be easy on us. And my predictions were true. At the end of the day this exact same guy was waiting in the street of our Riad for us and said we owed him money. We gave him 10 dirham (which is roughly 1 euro) and he wasn’t settled. He said he needed paper money, on which we got mad and just ran away. Everything was settled with the 10 dirham, but this was just such a bad experience.
And if you think this was a one-time-thing, you are wrong. During all our walks we saw almost EVERY tourist getting pushed by people, guiding them (the wrong) way and asking for money. When it’s raining they walk with you with an umbrella – even if you don’t want it – and ask for money. It was like ‘money’ was the one word that was constantly said and know by everyone in this city.
On our last night we had an even worse experience. We went to eat at Le Jardin and arrived an hour late at our reservation because the time on iPhone wasn’t set right – the Moroccan government forgot to change the hour, so we didn’t even now what time it was. After our dinner it was around 21u30 local time and the souks were all closing up. We went back to our Riad the way we best knew, through the souks and after us entering, they closed up the gate and trapped us inside an empty labyrinth of souks. We were completely lost – google maps doesn’t work around there – and yes, were kind of panicking. Until a boy came up to us to show us the way. We friendly thanked him and said we were fine, and he came all close up to us, following us and asking for money. We were very uneasy and our main reaction was of course disgust on which he reacted. This could have escalated quickly, but luckily we got out and found our way back after almost 30 minutes of being lost.
I was so shocked by how rude these people are that when we came back to our riad, I spent a couple of minutes crying to be honest. To me, this trip was a serious eyeopener on how the world works.
Another thing that really bothered me was the carbon emissions. In Marrakech they haven’t heard of global warming and the effects of bad air quality. In these small souk streets (even inside) they ride their scooters into the crowd. After two days our throats hurt like hell from all the carbon emissions. We also saw A LOT of tourists with broken feet and crutches because of the scooters that ran over their feet – or donkeys with a chariot. EVERYTHING has to go through these sooks, little cars, scooters, buggy’s and donkeys with a chariot.
Next to this – eco-minded as I am – I saw there were no litter bins anywhere at the streets. Everyone just dropped their garbage at the street, leaving plastic and waste everywhere. Luckily the street cats and dogs got some food out of this…
Treating of animals
There are a lot of animals in Marrakech. You have the donkeys working hard, than you have the horses who are also a main transportation method with their chariots. For entertainment you have monkeys and snakes and as street animals you mainly see cats and dogs.
They are all looked mistreated. The donkeys didn’t really look healthy, neither did the horses with spots of whips all over their behind. A lot of the owners used sticks instead of whips. The monkeys and snakes at the big square are used for entertainment – money – and if you look up some information about snake charmers, you won’t be pleased on what you read. But the worst were the street cats and dogs. We saw so many cats without eyes or eyes full of pus. It was poignant.
In Marrakech you can choose from different kinds of accommodations. We chose to stay at a Riad in the centre of Old Medina. A Riad is actually a typical moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. We were very pleased by our stay at Riad Miski, which was actually a truly little palace when it comes to architecture. Not only was this such an amazing building, the staff was also really friendly! We really liked our host Jamal, because he was always so friendly and helpful. Any question we had, he made sure to help us and make our stay really pleasant. We were dealt with some very bad weather during our stay, but the staff did everything so we could eat inside in our room and didn’t have cold.
Places to eat
Mostly we ate at our Riad at night, because it was much safer and more relaxed to stay in after dark. But there are a lot of great food options. I prefer to eat as little meat as I can, and there are a lot of vegetable dishes available in every restaurant. I did once eat some sheep tajine and it was very good to be honest! The cooking was amazing everywhere, but we were a little disappointed in the variety of food. Everywhere we went, there was the exact same menu: couscous or tajine, but nothing special. But no complaining here, we did enjoy everything we ate.
Our best experience was at Terrace des Epices, since they serve alcohol! Believe it or not, but alcohol is very rare in Marrakech and cannot be served unless the owner of the restaurant is foreign I believe. At Terrace des Epices you only find tourists, but it was such a luxurious and nice setting and the food and cocktails were great! As was the staff over there, I we could, we would’ve stayed all day at this rooftop.
Next great experience to eat was at Le Jardin. The girl at the reception wasn’t the friendliest, but this was all forgotten when we entered into the garden. It was kind of like a fairytale place from Aladdin. At night there was an amazing dinner by candlelight! Other great restaurants were Nomad, Café des Epices, Beats Burger (if you are homesick and want a good burger to eat) and Kasbah Café.
Ways to travel
We travelled by plane with Brussels Airlines. After a roughly 4 hour flight we were in Marrakech airport – which is a really nice building I must say. On our flight back we had to stop in Agadir, which wasn’t arranged in the best way. We had to get of the plane to refuel and had to be in transit, that meaning we had to empty all of our bags again only to board again after 10 minutes in transit. A lot of people weren’t as pleased with this arrangement to be honest. After that is was about a 5 hour flight back home – and this time the crying babies didn’t bother me because of my amazing Beats headphones (never leaving without those again).
Once arrived in Marrakech I would discourage driving on your own. We took a taxi arranged by our riad – which was the best way to do it in our opinion. We also didn’t take any public transportation because those busses are crowded as hell. We mainly walked everywhere and didn’t found this to be difficult – unless we got lost in the souks or got harassed by the people. Some city guides offer a bike tour, but I wouldn’t do this in fear of my life… haha. You can also take a horse and carriage but we decided not to do this so we wouldn’t support the animal abuse.
After all, I trust my feet the most – just make sure to keep them with you when walking down the busy souks. Oh and I wouldn’t wear open shoes because of all the dirt on the street… just a tip.
Where would you like to travel to next and have you ever had any country that wasn’t really your thing?