A lot of people say getting around Marrakech can be daunting, particularly for ladies. I admittedly feared this could be the case when I recently visited, but my experience was actually very pleasant. As with most things in life, it was all down to timing and planning.
So how do you survive getting out and about the heart of The Red City? How can you survive the haze and maze of the souks?
After reading horror stories from travellers, I knew I had to get a guide. The hotel recommended Mohammad, and after speaking on the phone, I knew we would get along well.
Having lived within the Medina, he knew the side streets and alleyways in the souks like the back of his hand. We went on a walking tour for the day. He showed us when and where to take photos, spoke to the local vendors on my behalf and veered off any suspicious-looking people. I felt safe and super chilled out.
We did our tour of Jemaa El F-naa and the souks on a Friday, when it was less hectic (as it was a religious day) but buzzy enough. I liked how stress-free it was and how being with your own private guide actually gets you to learn more because you can ask as much as you like.
There was something eerily beautiful about the leather auction market when it was closed. Even in its quiet state, the pungent smell of tanned hide would give you a sense of life. This is a place where people converse, create and survive. Mohammed’s stories about this area were impressive.
The ironmongers market was quite interesting as well. It just made me appreciate craftsmen more.
We also looked into some historic sites such as the Almoravid Koubba, the only remaining example of Almoravid architecture in Marrakech.
Rocked some jump shots by the Kasbah…
Paid tribute to kings at the Saadian tombs…
Observed the abundance of mosaics and art…
And explored the intricacies of the largest Islamic college in Marrakech, the Medersa Ben Youssef.
The mosaics, carvings, and design were so, so, so stunning. You really appreciate craftsmen, architects, and designers of yesteryear may have done. To think the college dates back from the 14th century, those days when you can’t just SnapChat or IG story or 3D-print anything, it’s such an achievement to create something so beautiful.
We explored the college and realised how tough it must have been back in the day. Some of the dorm rooms didn’t even have windows!
For our last stop, M took me to Riad Dar Tim Tam, a hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Medina. They also sell doors, furniture, and rugs. Some of the stuff you see here are actually exported worldwide to be sold in shops including my London favourite, Liberty.
The space where they keep all the furniture and souvenirs was fascinating. I wanted to get some more pieces but they certainly would not fit into my 23kg luggage limit. However, if you really really fell in love with a piece, they have a shipping service which costs peanuts.
The place is run by a super cool Berber chap who actually grew up in Scotland.
DID YOU KNOW – the style of these Moroccan rugs are distinctive to which Berber tribe they come from? I ended up buying a nice table runner to the tune of £60 (which they sell thrice as much in Liberty).
We finished the tour and Mohammed left me to have lunch at Nomad, which I will write about soon!
I then wandered outside of the souks to have a moment by the beautiful Koutoubia.
It was a wonderful day, and in that moment I was at peace and very happy!
And then it was back to The Pearl Hotel, where cocktails at the rooftop bar, overlooking the Atlas Mountains capped off a chilled out day out in the Medina.
Perfect type of day exploring Marrakech, I thought.
Have you been to Marrakech and have you explored the labyrinth of Jemaa el-Fnaa?