A few months ago, Dustin found out he would be attending a conference in Marrakesh. I had never been, so I decided to tag along with him to explore! If you’re new here, I’m an American living in London. Marrakesh is just a 3 hour flight from London, so what better time to see this new-to-me place!
We arrived early on Wednesday, October 11th; my plan was always to work on Wednesday and Thursday and 1/2 day Friday from the hotel and use the evenings to explore (plus the weekend that we added on.)
Wednesday evening, I took a taxi to Koutoubia Mosque.
None of the taxis I took had meters, I always clearly confirmed the cost before I took the ride. Cash only.
Koutoubia mosque was the meeting spot for my evening tour of the medina; I met a guide there named Oidad for a tour of the medina/souks. The “souks” are the maze of shops within the old city of Marrakesh or the “medina.”
Oiudad was amazing, I really enjoyed her as a guide and I would recommend her if you’re visiting Marrakesh. (I have her contact info if you want to get in touch.)
It was hot in Marrakesh- almost 100C/35C but I had read that women are encouraged to cover their legs and shoulders within the Medina (the old city.) But it seemed that Marrakesh was on the liberal or Westernized end of the spectrum, and many tourists were not dressed as conservatively as I was.
My guide spoke 3 languages- Arabic, French, and English. Impressive! She told me that English will soon replace French as the second language taught in schools in Morocco.
I always love having a guide as it allows me to learn about life from a local; Oidad was wonderful.
She took me to a Berber pharmacy on the tour; Berber pharmacies are popular in the souks, where you can buy things like cactus oil, argan oil, spices, salves, etc. I was convinced to buy orange blossom oil and argan oil to mix into my shampoo to treat my hair.
Oidad also took me into a rug shop, of which there are so many. I did get the ‘hard sell’ where they sat me down with mint tea and showed me all the different rugs. I was tempted, but wasn’t there to buy a rug, so I firmly declined and moved on.
At the end of the tour, Oidad took me to a vendor to have tangine (lamb) with Moroccan bread and olives.
Here is where the lamb is cooked:
She ordered lamb eyes for herself, which she said are a delicacy. She ordered me the lamb cheek, which was okay, but I much preferred the flavorful tangine.
We also had mint tea and olives with harissa. Delicious!
My other guide later in the trip day told me he never has tourists eat from the vendors in the main square as they are not clean, which made me worry that I would get sick, but it had been two days by the time he said this and I was feeling fine, so fortunately I think I was okay!
On Thursday, Dustin and I did a 10k run around the “new city” or Guilez where his hotel was located for the conference.
To be perfectly honest, I had a moment where I thought I would need an emergency bathroom (maybe it WAS the lamb from the market??) and I was worried there would be a situation where I ended up in a Moroccan jail… But fortunately there was a café where we could buy water and use the facilities…whew. Definitely a risk of running in random places! Have you ever experienced this?
I worked the rest of the day, and then in the evening I took a taxi to Les Bains de Marrakech for a traditional hammam. Dustin has been to a Turkish bath in Turkey, and this experience sounded very similar.
“Hammams are a quintessential part of Moroccan culture. The word hammam translates as “bath,” but it has nothing to do with the kind of hot tubs you might find at a hotel spa or spa resort. A traditional hammam is an experience that combines relaxation and detoxification in one relaxing space: the steam rooms, saunas, showers—and even baths—are all part of your treatment!”
- Welcome and relaxation. A tellek, the term for a staff member or therapist, welcomes guests to relax in a space called the iliklik. …
- Acclimatizing to temperature. …
- Full body scrub and cleansing. …
- Rinse and massage.
It was a neat experience- very Moroccan!
My hair was a mess after the hammam, but my skin was oh, so soft!
On Friday, Dustin and I were up early to jog to the meeting place (Cyber Parc) for our half-marathon running tour of Marrakesh! I booked this through Running in Morocco. The owner, Jonathan, is an American who has been living in Marrakesh with his wife and three kids for twelve years.
He knew the city very well and gave us a great tour with cultural and historical tidbits along the way.
I loved seeing so much via running (and bonus my long run was done before 9 am!)
After the run, I worked 1/2 day before being picked up from the hotel for a 1/2 day city tour. We started at the Jardin Majorelle, or the YSL gardens.
Next, we visited the Saadian tombs in the Jewish quarter of the Medina.
Then a visit to the Bahia Palace.
We finished with another exploratory walk through the souks.
That evening, Dustin was able to break away from the conference to join me for dinner at a restaurant called Plus61 near our hotel. It was great!
Saturday morning we started the day (which happened to also be my birthday) with another run in Marrakesh, but just 5 miles this time.
We saw some camels on the side of the road and also explored Menara gardens/pond.
Then we enjoyed the hotel breakfast before switching to a riad in the Medina. Our riad was so charming! I loved it. Riads are traditional Marrakesh houses- you wouldn’t even know they are there as from the alley/street it looks like any other building, but inside, they are gorgeous.
Dustin hadn’t explored much of Marrakesh yet since he was in meetings (other than the runs we did together), so we headed back out into the souks to wander. I even haggled for some souvenirs- a beautiful bowl and some camels carved out of cedar. You can buy almost anything in the souks, but you definitely have to be ready to negotiate. They start very high!
We stopped for lunch in the medina at a restaurant called L’Mide. Lots of hummus and mint tea.
We also went back to Bahia palace again.
We visited a secret garden within the Medina that was really peaceful and pretty.
That evening, we had a wonderful birthday meal at the restaurant within our riad.
Sunday, we were up early to enjoy the riad breakfast before making our way back to London.
Overall, I feel like I got a good introduction to Marrakesh- many “must-do” lists include the following:
- mint tea & moroccan food
- stay in a riad
- Buying goods in the souks
- see the Medina at night
- traditional hammam
- Bahia Palace/Jardin Majorelle
Running in Marrakesh: The exhaust from all the motorbikes is a bit rough- it make the London air feel very fresh and clean in comparison.
There’s also a fair number of packs of stray dogs that are not particularly friendly (similar to my experience running in Mumbai, India). There are so many stray cats and kittens everywhere, which is heartbreaking, though it did seem that the cats are a bit more taken care of than the dogs. (Our running guide mentioned that the packs of dogs were pushed out of the city center for the conference that Dustin was there for…so sad.)
We did see other runners, some locals and some tourists, though only in the morning before the crowds and heat. I’m glad I didn’t stick to the treadmill; it was really neat to explore via running!
One tip I’d share is that Marrakesh was a cash economy; no wireless tap & pay like Europe.
I am glad I had this opportunity to experience Marrakesh; I know there’s a lot more to Morocco to see and I hope to be back!
(Visited 150 time, 1 visit today)
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