With the bank holiday imminent, don’t let it sneak up on you without planning in advance. If you’re aiming for a quick, cheap getaway, look no further than Marrakech. You’ll be in for a Middle Eastern treat.
By Hayley Daen. Sub Editor Danae Diz
Certain cities have a particular draw to artistic, creative types looking for inspiration and a place to decompress. When the beatniks sought refuge from the constraints of Western society, they fled to Tangiers, ready to live a life of anonymous indulgence amidst the heat and spice of the city. Today, it seems that Marrakech is the place to be.
With flights from London Gatwick starting at just £32 one-way on EasyJet, a quick weekend visit needn’t break the bank.
The city is awash in a heady mix of dust and saffron. It is a haven for young people looking to get away, as it is wildly inexpensive and quite easy to get to, but still has that sense of “otherness” that many seek when they travel. And, if you’re looking to eat well, Marrakech is your Mecca.
A quick tour through the Jeema el-Fnaa, the main souk in Marrakech, reveals a multitude of microscopic shops selling intricate silver teapots, pyramids of dried fruit, and jars filled with preserved lemons and olives. Be sure to dress conservatively, as you will get hassled by the shopkeepers. The souk brims with leather tanneries and sun-weary men hawking spices – you can pick up five grams of saffron for just 20 dirham (£1.36), an incredible deal.
The real fun in the Jeema el-Fnaa happens at night when the food stalls get into full swing. If you’re feeling adventurous, settle down at one of the stalls selling sheep’s head. You’ll be served everything from the tongue to the brains to the cheeks, often piled high onto a soft, floury roll. If you are wary of eating the entire head, a number of stalls sell calamari, brochettes, or a traditional snail stew called Mustapha.
For those who live to share your life on social media, Marrakech is a dream. It’s beautiful and exotic and looks great with a filter or two layered on top. If you’re looking for photo ops, the Jardin Majorelle is the place to go. Designed by Yves Saint Laurent, with a collection of cacti and other exotic plants, the gardens are a visual break from the terracotta-coloured landscape of the city.
After a day’s meander, you’ll be ready to unwind. A hammam is a surefire way to slough off both the stress you brought with you and all of the dirt you’ve acquired since landing in Morocco. Be prepared for a fairly intimate experience, as you will be either fully or semi-nude during the treatment. That being said, any slight discomfort is worth it for just how clean you’ll feel after.
Rest your weary head
- El Fenn– If you’re looking to splash out on a hotel, this boutique riad in the centre of the city is for you. Large bedrooms with sweeping ceilings and an eye for design, this hotel is worth the big bucks.
- Jnane Leila– This hotel is moderately priced but still has a luxurious feel. It is located slightly outside of the city centre, but cabs are easy to come by, or the hotel is happy to provide you with a driver for a small fee.
- Equity Point Hostel– Travelling on the cheap? Check out this elegant hostel in the heart of Marrakech that won’t break the budget.
Calm a rumbling stomach
- Café des Épices– This café and restaurant has a beautiful rooftop that provides vistas of the whole city. Be sure to get a spiced coffee and a tuna sandwich.
- Dar Yacout– If you want to have a lavish, indulgent Moroccan feast, Dar Yacout is the place to go. It has opulent interiors as well as a lovely rooftop for cocktails.
- Le Foundouk– Trendy, cool and candlelit. Le Foundouk is a place to see and be seen in Marrakech.
Getting out of the city
- Essaouira – A white-washed seaside town that happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s only two hours away in a car and a great way to get a feel for the Moroccan coast.
- High Atlas – Rent a car or hire a guide to see the Atlas Mountains and its Berber villages. The Roseraie Hotel, in Ourigane, has a lovely rose garden and makes a great pit stop for lunch and a drink.
Find our Six of the Best Moroccan street foods here