Situated just south of Spain (around a cushty three-hour flight from the UK, just enough time for a panini and a Coke Zero, thank you easyJet Holidays), Marrakech has become an ‘it’ spot for the Ibiza-obsessives seeking a little more from their trips than just lazing around the pool.
Morocco itself falls just behind Egypt in the popularity rankings, welcoming 10.9 million tourists back in 2022. And there’s little wonder: It’s affordable, has great weather, incredible hospitality, and has photo opportunities that rival destinations far further away.
When it comes to packing essentials there should arguably only be one thing on your list: Linen. While there are no laws surrounding modesty (99 per cent of the population practice Islam), it’s seen as respectful, and with heat in August reaching over 40 degrees almost every day, you’ll need to get creative in how to stay cool.
El Fenn restaurant, MarrakechEl Fenn
After many days of grappling and experimenting with what worked and what didn’t, I’ve deemed the ultimate combination to be linen trousers, a light cotton shirt, a hat (very important), and sandals. Modest, classy, and about as heat-repelling as you can get in temperature figures never seen by the UK. Reference Jennifer Coolidge in The White Lotus for inspiration.
If you’re not a fan of the heat, however, I am delighted to inform you that no, it’s really not that bad. Yes, seeing the number ‘43’ pop up on my weather app in the run-up to the trip instilled another level of fear, but in reality there’s no humidity, making it far more bearable. That being said, spring and autumn are the best times to go if catching a tan isn’t top of your agenda.
Jardin Majorelle, former home of Yves Saint Laurent
One thing that surprised me about Marrakech was the amount of French influence. French street signs, French additions to menus, and everyone I met spoke the language. It turns out your GCSE does come in somewhat handy. In fact, it’s the second-highest taught language in Morocco (following its independence from France in 1956), with Arabic being first, and English sitting at a comfortable fourth in the queue. Despite being so close to Spain, this is usually the third language taught in schools, not least, perhaps, to distance itself from its turbulent history with the country.
That being said, while I enjoy being a culture vulture during the daytime, I am, admittedly, painfully British. There’s really nothing quite like hours of sightseeing and mingling with the locals, to then return to the comfort of your luxury hotel room to watch TV, enjoy a cocktail, and crank up the air conditioning.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the true Moroccan lifestyle, riad guest houses are usually the way to go, but fear not, if you’re a beginner like me, there are also plenty of resort-style options. I opted to go with easyJet holidays as you can book your accommodation and excursions all in one place, which means you can also budget easier.
Kenzi Rose Garden
The five-star Kenzi Rose Garden, around a five minute drive outside the centre of Marrakech was the perfect option for me, and a good blend of both cultures. It had familiar-looking modern, chic rooms, and several pools to choose from during downtime, but equally, you were able to enjoy a taste of Morocco from within its architecture, at their Hammam spa, or in the food, with plenty of traditional offerings. I’d highly recommend tucking into some msemen, a thicker, crisper version of a pancake for breakfast.
When you venture out, there really is no shortage of things to do at every turn around Marrakech. A short walk from the hotel you’ll be in the midst of designer boutiques, upmarket bars, and nightclubs (yes, alcohol is more widely available than you’d think, although some restaurants opt not to serve it for religious reasons).
Arguably the biggest talking point of Marrakech is its Medina (old town). It’s a bustling hub of culture with markets, incredible architecture, and a maze of souks showcasing the best local produce from homeware to spices, and clothing.
It’s very dark in there, but bring your bargaining skills, and you can snap up some seriously chic handmade goods for less than £10. I was so thankful for our guide because frankly, I’d still be lost in there now.
@independent Situated just south of Spain (around a cushty three-hour flight from the UK, just enough time for a panini and a Coke Zero), Marrakech has become an ‘it’ spot for the Ibiza-obsessives seeking a little more from their trips than just lazing around the pool. Morocco itself falls just behind Egypt in the popularity rankings, welcoming 10.9 million tourists back in 2022. And there’s little wonder: It’s affordable, has great weather, incredible hospitality, and has photo opportunities that rival destinations far further away. Click on link in bio to read the full travel guide to Marrakech on Indy100 🔗
♬ original sound - The Independent
However, what ended up being one of my favourite parts about Morocco was actually the very thing I was most apprehensive about: A desert trip. Hundreds of hectares of rocky land make up the Agafay desert, around 45 minutes outside of Marrakech - and you couldn’t be further away from the comfort of Deliveroo if you tried.
But upon arrival, there was something rather soothing about the silence. If you’re a city-dweller like me, there are very few times in your life when you’ll experience true serenity. Aside from the odd quad bike excursion or camel ride in the distance, there was no life, and no nature. Just the Atlas Mountains towering somewhere in the background.
We spent well over an hour trekking up and down the sandy mounds (stopping every five minutes for an Instagram photo opp, obviously), before reaching a tiny collection of basic homes - no more than 10 - known as a Berber village.
The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to Northwest Africa, speaking their own language, and living almost entirely nomadically out in the desert. It’s thought around 40 per cent of Moroccans have some connection with being Berber (or the ‘free people’ as they call themselves) and will have grown up in similar environments. Once a week, they host a market where they get all of the basics they need and spend the rest of their time caring for animals and their families. I was fascinated.
One man kindly took us into his home, where we sat in a large room covered in fancy cushions and clear plastic sheets, which is allegedly reserved only for guests. He poured us mint tea with plenty of sugar (a staple in Morocco) and brought out fresh breads that his wife had made that day. Flatbread-like snacks seem to be customary for every meal and are often served with homemade almond butter and Argan oil for dipping.
As the sun set, we were escorted to one of a few luxury camps dotted around the desert. The marquee was packed with tourists keen to see the clear night sky in all its glory (no pollution makes the stars pop), a delectable three-course dinner of traditional Moroccan dishes was served, and we danced the night away with local performers.
There’s also the option to stay over in one of the camp’s glamping tents, and get the full nomad experience. Being miles from anything and still having one of the most fun evenings I can remember was truly special.
Having spent just four days in this magical country, it definitely deserves a spot on more people’s ‘where shall we go?’ lists when booking a trip and has made me appreciate so much more than just sunbeds and swimming pools.
Marrakech, at a glance:
For views: Nomad, a rooftop restaurant nestled in Marrakech's Medina
For Instagram: Le Jardin Restaurant, a leafy oasis tucked away in the souks
For a city escape: Salut Maroc, a laid-back rooftop in Essouira with sea views
For luxury: El Fenn, hotel and restaurant dubbed the 'Soho House' of Marrakech
Best activities (All bookable via Musement)
Guided Agafay desert trip
Day trip to seaside town of Essaouira
Historical monuments guided tour round Marrakech
Jardin Majorelle, the former home of Yves Saint Laurent
EasyJet holidays offers seven nights at the 5*Kenzi Rose Garden on a Bed & Breakfast basis for £778 per person, including 23kg of luggage per person, transfers, and flights from London Gatwick on 3 April 2024.
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