Okay I’ll admit it, I’ve totally been bitten by the travel bug and it’s all Marrakech’s fault. There’s nothing that gives you a massive dose of wanderlust than falling in love with a new city, and that was exactly what happened when I chased some winter sun in Marrakech, Morocco in November last year. It’s not often I get such strong feels about a place, but I can honestly say that there was something so magical in the air, and it wasn’t just the beautiful sights and constant smell of Oud and rose water! Here are ten reasons why I’d go back to Marrakech in a heartbeat.
This was the first place I visited in Marrakech and I think one of the main reasons why I fell in love. Walking into the Majorelle Gardens, you cannot help but feel at peace. Within this little haven of cactuses and tranquillity pools lie the spirit of not just the artist Jaques Marjorelle, but also Yves Saint Laurent. After Majorelle’s death, Yves St Laurent and Pierre Berge bought the property to ensure the gardens would be safe and sound from being turned into a hotel, inviting anyone off the street to come and witness its beauty. The late fashion lengend’s ashes are even scattered in the rose garden of his private villa, where he used to create some of his most iconic designs. I could have spent the entire day just wandering around this place, the distinctive cobalt blue walls with yellow accents take your breath away, not to mention rethink all of your next interior design decisions!
2. Lunch in the Es Saadi Palace
If you have heard that Marrakech is a city that awakens the senses, it couldn’t be truer when visiting the Saadi Palace and Garden Resort. Here, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures show such decadence and beauty, you couldn’t find a more fitting name than the Saadi Palace! Located close to both the bustling, history-filled Medina and the quiet backdrop of lush gardens it is still very much a family ran business, with the owners often greeting guests from the front door! With 20-acre gardens, 1950’s style architecture and grand luxurious interiors, the Palace captivates you almost instantly. After a tour around some of their mini Villa’s, we had lunch in their beautifully manicured gardens. I devoured my Lobster Club sandwich which was hardly surprising considering it was made by Head Chef Sebastien Bontour, who was trained by the famous Michelin Star Pourcel Brothers. If staying for lunch was this special, I want to know what staying there feels like!
3. Cocktails and Sushi in the Buddha Bar
I know what you are thinking, you don’t normally come to Morrocco for sushi, but you do go for the decadence and Buddha Bar has that and then some! Conveniently located right next to our hotel, The Savoy Le Grand Hotel, Buddha Bar has become quite the hot spot in Marrakech since its opening last year. As with any Buddha Bar, it’s rich opulent interiors draw you in before taking you on a journey of the senses, can we feel a theme here? Serving up some Asian infusion with A LOT of delicious cocktails, Buddha Bar is perfect for a night out in Marrakech, and not just if you have reached peak tagine!
4. Drinks and Dancing in SO Night Lounge
Located within the stunning Sofitel Gardens, the SO Night Lounge was a true highlight of the trip. With a modern white interior, curved architecture and Avant Garde lighting, it was completely different to anything else I had seen in Marrakech. After a steak double the size of my face, I loved watching their live band take us into the early hours of the morning. I’d say that no matter what kind of music you like, or whoever you are with, you would enjoy the SO Night Lounge! Plus, their light up menu’s give the perfect selfie lighting, #justsayin.
5. Relax in the Dior Spa
Yup, you are right, I used the words Dior and Spa in the same sentence, and it was every bit as magical as you would think! Located within the Saadi Palace (now making it doubly worth visiting), the Dior Spa is the very first to open outside of its native France and honestly, you haven’t seen anything like it. With the spa’s pool built around a 100-year-old eucalyptus tree, the 3000-sqm space offers the best in health and wellness that combines a mix of traditional and the most advanced techniques. We were lucky enough to try out their Oriental Thermae experience that uses hot and cold temperatures with different natural scents to rejuvenate the even the tiredest of bodies. What’s more, guests can book into private suites for VIP service which include waterbeds, twin baths, private balconies and fireplaces! Well, you would expect no less from Dior dahhhling!
6. Get lost and go shopping in the Souks
If there was one piece of advice I could give you about shoppping in the Souks, it’s that it needs to be an all day affair. A true shoppers paradise, there are endless treasures to be found within the twists and turns off the Medina. I have to admit, I found the square quite upsetting with the street performers and chaining up poor animals, but once you were in the Souk this disappeared in exchange of beautiful colours, smells and textures. I have always got quite a rush from haggling, there’s nothing feels as good as grabbing a bargain! I loved that there were so many different takes on traditional Morrocan goods, all of which handmade! I picked up some beautiful hand made gems including crockery, a leather pouffe a silver teapot and a wicker shopping basket covered in brightly covered pom poms! Mental note: should have bought more pom poms.
7. Trek in the Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains are around a one hour drive from the glitz and glamour of Marrakech, offering a new kind of tranquility with stunning natural surroundings. We started off the trek on mules, which was a little scary but I’m always glad to conquer a fear, however small it may be! We made our way up, making some stops within the most beautiful Berber villages. After stopping for tea, we left the mules to rest and continued the trek on foot. After stopping for a traditional Berber tagine we walked all the way down enjoying the view, and what a view it was…
8. Drink all the tea
It’s Morrocan tradition to welcome guests with some traditional tea. It was so interesting to hear the process of making a good pot of the local brew. Using a silver teapot, it’s a tried and tested method of boiling the water, adding the tea and sugar then pappin it back on the heat to brew. I loved that we could be deep within the face paced busy streets, then with the turn of a corner be within a peaceful and calm environment drinking tea. There was something so comforting about it, so much so I even brought home everything I need to make it home!
9. Soak up some history and architecture
Before visiting Marrakech, one of the things that really got me excited was the architecture. I’m a sucker for good tiling and history factoids and Marrakech is full of them. In fact, most of them are only 5 minutes walk from each other! In just one afternoon, we walked around the Bahia Palace, Saadian tombs and Menara Gardens, each one as beautiful as it is interesting in their own unique ways. The Bahia Palace was built in the 19th century and was intended to be the greatest palace of all time for a former King’s favourite wife. Known for it’s intricate tile work, wooden ceilings and mirrors, this traditional shell of a palace is any tile and interior lovers dream. Once we headed back to the busy Medina we were taken for a walk around the Menara Gardens, which almost left our heads spinning with the contrast of large open space, olive trees and fish-filled waters. The oldest of our history tour was the Saadian tombs which dating back to the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur around the 15th century. The tombs were uncovered in 1917 and restored, showcasing the beauty of Islamic art and ancient tile work.
10. Talk to the locals
Moroccans have probably one of the most hospitable cultures I have came across in a country. I loved hearing stories of times gone by like different religions defending each other because they were Moroccan first, and their religion second, which was very moving. You also hear horror stories of people being harassed but luckily I didn’t experience this. Sure, there were a couple of whispers and teenage boys shouting “Lady Gaga” (I know right?!) but I found that if you were respectful to them and their culture – eg not wearing skimpy clothes etc – they would respect you. There are also undercover volunteer police who stand in the busy areas, making sure that no trouble goes down in the Medina. There is very much a mutual love for each other, and a strong sense of community. With every street be it Medina or Mountain you will always hear the words “Salam Alaykoum” as they pass each other by. Meaning “peace on you” I feel like this sums up the genuine, heartfelt bones of Morrocan culture, and I can not wait to feel it again.
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Big thanks to Faical Alaoui and everyone at the Moroccan National Tourist Office for the most beautiful winter sun adventure.
Salam Alaykoum everyone!