I’ll be honest, my first trip to Morocco in 2013 was a little rocky and tested my limits a time or two. However this February I spent a week in Marrakech and was pleasantly surprised, and honestly quite relieved, the second time around. It was exhilarating and energizing; perhaps it was my morning ritual of strong coffee on an empty stomach, or the thought of the next undiscovered treasure, the uncertainty that awaits around every corner and smoke-filled, cobblestone alley. I love hitting the streets of the medina with no plan. One adventure lead to a small courtyard where local women were selling gently used kaftans. After letting the women play dress-up with me and parade me around to their fellow shop keepers I settled on my favorite three; score!
Here’s a quick run-down of some of my favorite spots in the old-town medina of Marrakech:
Food: Watch street vendors unpack their wares daily from the street-side Cafe Des Epices. The espresso gets your day going right and being among the early morning bustle can’t be beat. A quick favorite for lunch or a snack is the new Henna Art Cafe; the vegetarian food is super tasty and you can get your hands henna-ed by a pro. For sunset and dinner find your way to the panoramic rooftop restaurant atop the Les Jardins de la Koutoubia hotel; it’s undoubtedly been a slightly hectic day, you deserve a glass of wine above the chaos.
Shopping: Why right in the medina of course! But wind your way back away from the main square, Jemma el-Fnaa, into the less trafficked streets and squares; you’ll find better deals and a whole lot more peace of mind. If you’re in the market for textiles, be sure to check out the handira, or Moroccan wedding blankets. These unique pieces are worn like a cape by brides; the heavy white fabric is adorned with thousands of glittering sequins and make lovely wall hangings or bed covers.
Riad: It’s hard to go too wrong here, but I enjoy staying just off the main square on the quieter walking streets. My suggestion is take your time, ask around, check out rooms and find what feels best. I look for a nice rooftop terrace for my morning yoga practice and pretty tiles...just because. There are a couple of places with pools, so if it’s summer time go for the plunge.
Inspiration: Catch a taxi to the Jardin Majorelle. If you’re a design geek, or just like pretty things and plants, the botanical garden once owned by Yves Saint Laurent is a must. The cacti and exotic plants of dreamy origin will allow any creative mind to slip away to another world entirely. Water features and bright primary colors bring this desert oasis to life. Go get lost here.
Cleanse: Get a hammam, the traditional steam bath that Moroccans take weekly to cleanse themselves. You can find cheap local hammams, but be sure to check which hours are for women or men, or you can splurge on a five-star experience; both equally cleansing and fabulous in their own ways. For the splurge check out the subterranean spa and pool at Les Jardins de la Koutoubia. And don't be shy, ask for the hammam and relax as a woman (or man) scrubs the heck out of you until you shine, seriously.