February 12, 2018
Dusky pink alleyway in Marrakech's colourful medina. Credit Richmatts @ iStock
Le Jardin Secret.
Spice souk. Credit Sylvia Kania @iStock.
Peering into the courtyard at Riad Camilla.
The dreamy roof terrace at Riad Camilla.
Ancient El Badi Palace gives an insight into medieval Moroccan life.
Snapshot of Koutoiubia. Credit Johnny Greig @iStock
Rich with contrasts and packed with surprises, Marrakech is the most intoxicating of cities; its bright colours and heady perfumes won’t fail to captivate.
There's plenty to experience from ancient palaces to tucked-away gardens, indulgent hammams to vibrant markets. But with its crowded labyrinthian streets, the city can also feel overwhelming at times; guest contributors Roberta and Vittorio aka the Travel Wanderers show how to navigate the city in style.
The charm of Marrakech's riads is wonderfully exemplified by the boutique Riad Camilia. Central but away from the most crowded streets, it’s an oasis of quiet and beauty with its courtyard of orange trees, exquisite architecture and interior decor, not to mention dreamy roof terrace. Camilia is considered the best hotel in Marrakech for good reason.
Just a few corners away from the Camilia Riad is Le Foundouk: with its sophisticated ambiance and an innovative take on traditional dishes, this made it to the top of our list of restaurants. For a stunning view of the main square, dine on the roof terrace at relaxed Café Kif Kif. And when you want a break from tagines (and you will), have lunch at La Famille – don’t be scared off by its vegan menu, the plates are tasty and filling, and the tree-shaded garden offers welcome respite. Don’t miss a belly-dancing show during the late dinner shift at Comptoir Darna; European prices, but worth it. Finally, Al Fassia is a lovely traditional restaurant training and employing mainly women.
Where to start..? Retail opportunity abounds in Marrakech – at any hour of the day, you’ll find someone trying to sell you a bargain carpet, a handmade leather pouf or the latest colour of babouches. We scouted out interesting local artisans experimenting with modern takes on traditional crafts and here are our top picks.
Talal Cuir designs beautiful handmade shoes and handbags. From brightly coloured sandals to ballet flats or leather brogues, they’ll ensure you stand out back home.
Warda La Mouche. Pretty boutique repping romantic, easy-to-wear boho-chic fashion.
You cannot leave Marrakech without some pure argan oil. While this is sold everywhere, we love Argane Aouzac, which is Ecocert organic certified and fair trade.
Marrakech is steeped in history and culture, and its best bits tucked away in the medina or behind riad walls. Le Jardin Secret was hands down our favourite discovery. Considerably less famous than Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelles (and without the associated hordes), Jardin Secret is a stunningly restored riad, replete with an ‘exotic’ and ‘Islamic’ gardens, linked by a web of water channels ending in enchanting fountains. Ingenious ancient hydraulic techniques enable the use and preservation of this vital resource; water is channelled from the Atlas Mountains, once a luxury of only mosques and wealthy houses. Ancient wisdom seems all the more relevant today: in 2017 rainfall was pitifully low.
A visit to the old palaces is a must. The C 19th Bahia Palace will delight with its rich mosaics, carvings and stuccos, creating an uplifting play of changing colours and lights. Nearby El Badi Palace ruins will give you an insight into the majestic homes of the 16th century sultans.
Riad Yima has been transformed into a gallery and cafe by artist Hassan Hajjaj; his colourful artworks, designs iconic photographs of female subjects are framed by everyday objects.
Italian couple Roberta and Vittorio have spent the last 10 years working in London's financial industry and every spare moment travelling. Passionate about nature, good food and exploring local crafts and traditions, see their adventures at @travel_wanderers
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