(Excuse the Instagram photos. Proper camera uploads coming soon)
To kick off January and as a cheeky joint birthday present to each other, my boyfriend and I decided to head to Marrakech for the week and escape the vile British weather. We only got back a couple of days ago and miss it SO much. It was so lovely to spend the week focusing purely on each other, doing stuff we’ve never done before, eating food we’ve never eaten before and generally having a jolly old time. We both agreed it was the best holiday we’ve ever been on and we’re itching to book up our next adventure.
The first day in Marrakech is a little overwhelming. The roads are an absolute mess with donkeys, cars, buses and bikes racing around roundabouts in what looked to be a totally random ‘just go’ system. I loved watching the hustle and bustle on the big roads but I wouldn’t even consider hiring a car unless you were very experienced and a bit gutsy/mad. The ‘just go’ system also works for pedestrians when crossing the road. At first it’s a bit scary but you’ll soon get worryingly confident stepping out in front of oncoming traffic. The first day we walked to the Koutoubia mosque which is the centre point of the life of Marrakech via the Cyber Gardens which is a peaceful park off the main road with wifi and computer screens. The mosque stands tall in the old town next to the souks and is a great landmark if (when) you get a little lost. We had a lunch of tagine and water (alcohol can’t be sold or drank in sight of a mosque) and then headed into the markets.
This was when the only negative event of the week occurred. THE HENNA LADIES. I think we were just unfortunate with this particular group but one lady ran over to me knocking chairs over in the process and grabbed my hand and started drawing away. I politely tried dragging my hand away but she was seemingly stronger than me and managed to coax me to the seating area while another one grabbed my leg and boyfriend and started drawing away on them. To cut a long story short we ended up overpaying them as at the time we hadn’t got to grips with the currency stupidly, and felt a little pissed off. They were the only people we came across that were unpleasant in the game of bartering though and for the rest of the holiday I gave a super firm ‘No Merci’ to all Henna ladies who shouted Hello at me. It wasn’t even a nice henna tattoo!
From then on everything was on the up. The next day we visited the beautiful Saadian Tombs which date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). They really were beautiful and a must see if you’re visiting. They were followed by strawberry milkshakes on a café terrace overlooking the souks and we also met this little guy in the photo below.
Although it’s probably MUCH easier to hop in a taxi we then walked for about 45 minutes to the Agdal Gardens through the palace grounds which have stunning views of the Atlas mountains and a lake filled with huge carp. There were quite a few locals there but it was very peaceful and impressive.
After that we headed back to the souks for dinner and settled in a Terrace restaurant which was utterly gorgeous. (I’ll find the exact name of it and add it in!) We had a delicious three course meal for £7.50 each and kick started our love for mint tea. Eating out in Marrakech is so cheap! We ate like Kings and paid like peasants, if you go don’t bother with self-catering.
The next day we devoted our time to the Souks. I had no idea just how big they are but once you’re in there and see the little winding alleways that seemingly go on for ages it’s easy to get lost. Tom thankfully is a total map nerd so I just happily followed him around. I wasn’t looking for anything except a gift for my Mum but Tom needed a new belt so we headed to the leather part where they dye, cut and create glorious leather bags, shoes and belts. Within 20 minutes Tom had a pretty fly black belt tailored to fit his skinny hips perfectly for about £9. We could have probably got it even cheaper but Tom had bartered them down a bit and thought it was a fair price anyway. After we had had our first bite of proper bartering I was raring to go again! It’s funny and challenging and the sellers are usually witty and friendly back.
I ended up buying 3 bottles of pure Argan oil in all it’s nutty glory for about £20 and a decorative plate for Mumma T. Tom bought a mint tea set for us both and a berber silver bracelet for his little sister. We had so much fun that day. Don’t feel nervous about it. People will shout at you trying to get you in their shop but if you’re not interested keep on walking with a polite ‘No’ in arabic or french and they’ll let you carry on your merry way. On the other hand if you see something you do like don’t shy away. Always, always haggle down to about a third of what they originally offer you and be confident at walking away. Chances are you’ll find a very similar piece around the corner.
The souks are incredible though and I will always remember them! They sold doors, potions, rugs and more and the apothecaries sold every spice, herb and mineral to cure every ailment under the sun. There’s also nice little cafes and terraces hidden away in the mix that are perfect for picking up some lunch.
The next post promises mountains, berbers and mouthwatering food.