For the second stop of my grand 10-day tour of Morocco, I spent a few days in Marrakech. Heaven forbid you’re in the city for less than two days because there’s so much to see and soak in!
Click here to see my other Moroccan other travel guides.
Morning in Marrakech
Without even knowing it, I’ve been obsessed with Moroccan patterns and prints for a long time. My house and wardrobe has been ironically decorated with the Urban Outfitter, Anthropologie and Tory Burch interpretations of this colorful society. Strolling through the Moroccan medinas (or central markets), I was obsessing over the prints, tassels, and pompons that have recently risen to the height of fashion in the US! Those tassel earrings that are all the rage right now? Commonplace finds in the Morccan medina as well as part of traditional Berber dress. Designers such as YSL and Calvin Klein regularly travel to Morocco for inspiration—I can see why! The unity between people, nature, architecture and community can definitely generate a creative streak.
YSL actually loved Morocco so much that he bought a house and garden there in 1980 and never left. You can visit Le Jardin Majorelle, the garden that he refurbished, for 70 DH (dirham, Moroccan currency). Best to go early–I’m talking like 8 or 9am when they open in the morning to avoid the long lines (1 hour +) as well as swarms of tourists that will inevitably ruin your photos.
Afterwards walk a few blocks through the neighborhood to La Mamounia. It’s a straight up palace hotel with an incredible architecture and infamous spa. Take a walk around the gardens, which are equivalent in beauty as to that of Le Jardin Majorelle–and they’re free!
Afternoon in Marrakesh
Throughout our whole trip we wanted to go inside a mosque but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. Unfortunately, Ben Youssef which was a former mosque and school was closed to the public when we went so had to be content with just sneaking peeks through the majestically tiled keyhole entry ways adorned with stain glass and protected by massive wood doors. Five times a day the call to prayer would ring out and the men would slip off their shoes and enter their neighborhood mosque for prayer—seemed to be one around every corner in the medina! The calling was quite beautiful and we heard it across every town we visited from the big cities to the small desert towns. The prayer times change daily based on the sun. Many days I was woken up by the sunrise prayer call around 6:30am.
In some towns, the shops closed up around 3pm to 5pm for the Moroccan equivalent of a midday siesta. We took advantage of this time to layout by the pool at Rodamón Hostel and sunbathe on the rooftop. Although the temperature was only mid-60s, the sun shone brightly on the rooftop terrace.
All in all, we were obsessed with the Rodamón Hostel in Marrakech where we stayed three nights. It was about $15/day to stay there including breakfast. The hostel was four floors tall with gathering space on the first and top floors including a pool, multiple bars, billiards table, rooftop patio, and plenty of lounge space. The rooms and bathrooms were incredibly clean and private. Located in the center of the Medina, the Rodamón Hostel was a bit hard to find (an inherent issue with all riads) but they gave us a PDF with photos and hints, which got us there with no issue.
Evening in Marrakech
We grabbed a seat at one of the (albiet touristy) rooftop cafes around Jemaa el-Fnaa Square for dinner and watched the sunset. The menu, like just about every tourist catering restaurant in Morocco, was a pre-set menu with a Moroccan salad and bread starter (I ate so much bread on this trip), followed by tajine main course, and fresh fruit and mint tea for dessert. Hearing the call to prayer ring out across the city and watching the sky transform into night against the silhouette of the Mosque Koutoubia was well worth it.
Afterwards we strolled around the square, listened to music in the drum circles and watched people barter for the most interesting things on the streets. The night market in Marrakech gets set up after nightfall and goes until well past midnight. Locals come out and barter for Addias shoes, Nike sweat pants, underwear, socks, robes, sandals all laid out on sidewalk blankets.
Morning in Marrakech
Each day in Morocco, I ate breakfast in my riad or hostel. It consisted of several types of bread, jam, fresh orange juice–and in the case of Rodamón Hostel a poolside view and fresh strawberries!
Afterwards, we’d hit the streets and take our time soaking up the sites. Getting lost in medinas could have been my full time occupation during my Moroccan trip. They’re windy narrow streets, shadowed by leaning buildings and packed with stalls, merchants, motorbikes, and people. I’m 110% obsessed with them and literally spent hours just wandering around them.
Watch a video my love affair with the Rabat medina here.
The colors of Morocco are peach and green. The buildings are painted with coloring from the ground so all the buildings are various shades of coral accented by palm trees and emerald green tiles, stained glass, doors and metal work. The harmony of the complimentary colors is extraordinary and makes me wonder if we painted our buildings in Houston with the red clay from the Texas ground, maybe people would complain less about the color of the bayous.
I spent many hours getting mesmerized by lighting stalls, getting roped into carpet stores by pushy salesman, and even testing out Moroccan musical instruments with my friend Joe.
Afternoon in Marrakech
One of our most memorable meals was lunch at NOMAD Marrakech where they took traditional Moroccan ingredients and reimagined them in new ways–you can only eat so much touristy tajine before you need a break. We also stopped in Max & Jan, which is an elevated Moroccan lifestyle shop, nestled in the medina.
One afternoon, we spent visiting the House of Photography in Marrakech. My favorite part was seeing photos of the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square from the turn of the century–it literally hasn’t changed in a hundred years. Other than the advent of technology for a few gimmicky light up toys for children (and the swarms skin bearing tourists) the cluster of juice stands, spice stalls, drum circles, performers, and hordes of merchants remains the same.
We also found ourselves in the Musée de la Femme (Museum of Women) which had a rotating display of art, videos, media and context around the face tattoos that many Berber women get in Morocco.
Evening in Marrakech
On the recommendation of a coworker we walked a few kilometers outside the medina and dined at Azar Restaurant. The food here was definitely some of the best (and most expensive…in Moroccan $$) with multiple starter plates of hummus and salads, tajines, and wait for it…wine!! My only glass that I had on the whole trip. Alcohol is a tad hard to come by in Muslim countries. A live band played Moroccan songs (and some Western hits) throughout the evening. However, the highlight of the meal was definitely the belly dancers (not Moroccan, but very talented) that performed around 10pm.
Marrakech was an absolutely delightful city to visit–full of color, fabulous food, and adventure! Want to read more about my Moroccan adventures? Click here to see all my posts.