A glimpse of Marrakech : A 3 day challenge

“3 days!? How are you gonna manage to see Marrakech in 3 days!?”. These were the words of my friend that had just heard my plans for going to Marrakech. But honestly who can blame her? Morocco is a massive country, at 446,500 km², it is over twice the size of the UK alone (which I still hadn’t seen the majority of), and here I was telling her that I would see one of the four imperial cities of Morocco in just 3 days. Had I gone mad?

Morocco lends itself to the most exquisite culture, landscapes with snow capped mountains on one side, and dry desserts on the other. The blend of middle eastern and European background, means that the languages spoken in this country vary from French, Spanish to Arabic and Berber. The enigmatic nature of this country draws people in, and I was no exception. So before I knew it, my bags were packed and I was arriving at Marrakech Menara airport, curious to find out more.

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Taxis in Marrakech

Our first step was to get to the hotel. We had been warned by many people that Morocco can be tricky when it comes to taxis. Prices vary from taxi to taxi for the same distance and as usual all of them would try and cheat us out of our money. It wasn’t long until we noticed this for ourselves.

On our way out of the airport to the taxi, there was a “standard” charge of 150 dirhams to any hotel from the airport after 8pm and 100 dirhams before. The law in Morocco is to use metered taxi, however in Marrakech all the taxi drivers were on the same terms. “No meter” would be heard several times, and with the airport having many tired post flight passengers, they do not have any reason to barter with you. You either accept their rates, or go away.

The rest of Marrakech is not much different. We had, like any good tourists, budgeted our travels, hoping that we could barter the price down, to what we had read was a reasonable price. Non-toursit prices were of course much cheaper. What would cost us 100 dirhams for any journey, would cost them 50 dirhams or less. I would highly suggest that you agree on a price before you set off. Bartering is difficult in Morocco and often they will be unwilling to go down in price unless you literally walk away, so be prepared for some dramatic acting, it will definitely help.

A trick that I came across, which may come in handy if you come into this situation, is to ask the police to help you find a taxi. The taxi drivers will most likely use their meters which will mean cheaper fares for you! I wish we had known this trick before we went!!

The taxi situation is a little different than in the UK or US, and its good to be aware of what the types of taxis there are so you know what to expect when you get there.

There are two main types of taxis across Morocco; Petite taxis and grande taxis. Within the city you will mostly find petite taxis. Petite taxis will only take a maximum of 4 people including the driver. This means that if there are more than 3 of you, you’ll have to find another taxi. Grande taxis run between cities and can carry up to 7 people. In Marrakech we found that petite taxis that carry more than 3 passengers were available during the day (these often needed to be hailed down). However, after 8pm they only carried 3 people maximum. As there were four of us, we often had to split into two cabs.

A warning however, although this did not happen to us, taxis may pick up other customers if they are not full while you are in the cab. This may happen more outside of Marrakech, but it is definitely something to be aware of.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Mogador Palace Adgal Hotel.

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The hotel was gorgeous!

What we thought: The hotel was amazing and the breakfast was yummy! I think we ate too much just about every morning we stayed there. They offered tours and money exchange at the front desk, which was more expensive than the city, but very convenient! We would definitely come again!

Check out the website for more details:

https://www.mogadorhotels.com/MH/Recherche/Show?hotel=1

Our Itinerary

Marrakech, is a beautiful city, and has been the capital of Morocco twice, with the latest one being in the 17th century. It is now the fourth largest city in Morocco, and still has

Day 1

Our first stop was this lovely bar on top of hotel Renaissance. I had researched the best views in the cities, and this was recommended over and over again.

view at the top

Sky Bar has a beautiful view at night, and I’ve heard its even more stunning during the day, when you can see the Atlas Mountains. The downside…We went in February, and unlike what we expected, it was cold. Yes, you heard that right, Africa was cold. We had of course heard that the temperatures drop during the night, what we didn’t expect was it to drop to 3ºC. So as much as we loved the view, we couldn’t stay up here very long as we were just gonna get swept away in the wind and cold.

top og marrakech
I really tried not to get swept away in the wind!!

There is a little bar at the top, and it was playing live music! So if you are interested, it’s a great place to check out. I would definitely warn you about the prices! It’s a tourist attraction, and so the prices are jacked right up to match the demand. Food isnt really served there at night, but it is a good place for a drink.

The only thing left after this was to get some food, and start enjoying the city. Check out the amazing food we ate here!

food 1

Day 2

This was our first full day in Marrakech, and as such we wanted to see as much as physically possible in this time. In this case, we decided that we could only really see three or four major aspects of Marrakech, without rushing through each aspect and not really enjoying or understanding the major aspects of Marrakech.

We decided to see:

  1. Jeema El-Fnaa
  2. Bahia Palace
  3. El Jardin Marjoelle
  4. Koutoubia

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This is quite a heavy itinerary for one day, but bear in mind that within Marrakech these are the top places to see. So to get the most of our trip, we needed to see at least these!!

Bahia Palace

This was the first place we decided to visit.

The beautiful palace is found in the centre of Marrakech Medina. Bahia Palace literally means the palace of the beautiful or brilliant. It was commissioned initially by Si Moussa, a vizor to the sultan who had once been a slave, and then later further developed by his son Ba Ahmed at the end of the 19th century. The palace itself is over 8000m2, and has the harem (an area in traditional times which was reserved for wives and mistresses of the household). It contains beautiful gardens, orange, bananas and plum trees, some of which can be seen around the ground. It has over 150 rooms, some of which are still used by the royal family today (although this part is closed off to the public).

flowers bahia

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roof bahia

fountain bahia

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The stunning architecture here is timeless, and although we couldn’t find it, somewhere in the palace written in Arabic is the name of Ba Ahmed’s favorite wife.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday 0900 to 1700

Price: 10 dirham per person

What would we have done differently? One thing that I would suggest to do if you have more time, is to go with a guided tour. Knowing the history behind the attraction brings the palace to life. There are lots of tours you can book before going, or within the city itself.

Jeema El-Fnaa

After the peace and tranquility of Bahia palace it was only right to go to Jemaa El-Fna, the most action packed square in the city.

It is one of the most cultural experiences that you can experience in Morocco , with vendors selling scarves, spices, lanterns, Cobra dancers around every corner, holding flutes which they are controlling these terrifying creatures and Storytellers and musicians around every corner. It is a blast to the sensation.

It was originally founded in the 11th century, and since then has been a hotspot for tourists and locals alike.

lanterns

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souk flowers

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It is easy to get lost within the souks, some of the vendors are lovely, and explained all the different spices of Moroccan cuisine.  This is the best place to buy souveniers, as they have the best prices, and you can haggle your way down. I’ve bought my

We weren’t able to understand the stories of the storytellers, however if you are interested getting a glimpse of them, I found the book ‘The last storytellers’, to be a good read. It has a number of stories regarding ancient culture, of which many of them are fables.

What we missed: SO much happens in the evening, when the fortune tellers, acting groups and musicians come out. We would advise to go here in the evening, so you don’t miss anything out!

El Jardin Majorelle 

The garden was created in 1923,  by Jaques Majorelle, a French artist, who made blue his colour template for this garden. It was restored in the 1980s by Yves Saint Laurent, and now houses a number of different species of plants and animals only seen in North Africa. It is a little oasis  in a hectic and what can be a hot city during the summer.

Within the complex, is a memorial to Saint Yves Laurent and a museum, which is said to be beautiful! We didn’t get a chance to see this as we got there quite late. However it is definitely something I would like to visit if we ever get a chance to come back!

jardin fountain 1

jardin bamboo 2
All the bamboo around the garden had engravings of people that had been there before!!

jardin 2

jardin 3

jardin fountain

I would advise going early to this garden as it closes very early, so if you want to get the most out of your time get there in the morning, before the crowd, and in the summer it will be one of the coolest times.

Opening times:

October 1st- April 30th: 0800-1730

May 1st- Sept 30th- 08001800

during ramadan: 0900-1700

 

Price:70 dirhams (40 for Moroccans)

Museum: 25 dirhams

 

How we finished the day

Our intention was to go see Koutoubia, however unfortunately we just ran out of time, and the sun was already starting to set, and we needed a break! So the only thing left to do was to do some Shisha!

This is not everyone’s cup of tea, however, when in an Arabic country….

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Day 3

We saw as much as we could within Marrakech itself on Day 2, so on this day we wanted to check the surrounding areas of Marrakech, so we decided to take a tour to see the Atlas Mountains and to of course try our hand at camel riding.  We were picked up from our hotel at 0800 and we were off for an hour and a half to the Atlas Mountains.

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the view out of the window on our way to the mountains

The Atlas Mountains start from Agadir and extends to the northeast of the country. The area is home to the Berber people.

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Berber women making argan products from scratch

Berbers, now called a variation of the word Imazighen (free people), are found mainly in North Africa (margib). They traditionally work in agriculture or merchants, with the lower class working in the former and the upper class working in latter. Of course, modern day culture has changed, however, the majority of berber folk are still found in rural areas.

Morocco is well known for its Argan oil production which can be used in both beauty and food. In the picture above you can see how this is made. We found some berber women singing together and encouraging each other. We were able to taste some of the finished product with bread, what would have been a traditional berber breakfast (which was yum!).

They are also well known for their pottery, jewellery and iron.

pottery

It was really interesting to see this side of Morocco. It was a huge change from the urban life of Marrakech, and a glimpse into what traditional Morocco would have been like.

richa camel

We finally got to try camel riding, which made me want a seat belt, however it was a great experience! I can imagine getting quite sore if it was done for a long period of time though!!

couple fountain

After the camel riding, we climbed part of the mountain and made it to this waterfall. This was my favourite part! The waterfall was amazing, but getting there was challenging as it was quite rocky and often icy. Not having the right footwear made that harder,  but we made it to the top, and since we were near water and ice, we thought we would do a titanic pose too.

 

The conclusion

So did I win this challenge? I think we got to see quite a lot in 3 days.  It was an amazing trip with things I’m going to remember forever, but what do you think? Comment below to let me know!!

 

 

 

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