The Morocco Diaries, Part 8 of 10: 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech

November 02, 2018
My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

Things to Do with
 24 Hours in Marrakech

THE MOROCCO DIARIES, PART 8 of 10: MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

At last, I had arrived in Marrakech. The iconic city that I had mistaken to be the capital of Morocco. A colourful, cacophonic, chaotic cauldron of sights, sounds, scents; and of course, souks. Rabat may be regal, Casablanca may be cosmopolitan; but Marrakech is the city that endures in the imagination of those yet to visit Morocco  mine included. Alas, I had only a day to soak up the best of what this famous city had to offer. Although I daresay my attempt proved to be fruitful - from shopping in the souk to languishing in one of the most luxurious hotels in Marrakech. Should you, too, find yourself in Marrakech for the first time with just a day to spare, this guide is for you. These are my 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech.


MUCH MOROCCO

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco
8:00 AM
JARDIN MAJORELLE

Jardin Majorelle is an otherworldy oasis: a vast garden of flora from 5 continents against the striking blue backdrop of the villa. The vision of artist Jacques Majorelle was rescued and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, now in the care of the Saint Laurent foundation to ensure its perpetuity as Marrakech’s most-loved and most-visited destinations. Be the first to arrive to enjoy Jardin Majorelle at its most serene, then when the crowds arrive move on to the cafe for a snack and to the galleries for air-conditioned inspiration.




My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

11:00 AM
2
SOUK OF THE DAY - 
FROM JEMAA EL FNA AND BEYOND

Even if you’ve just come from Fez, the so-called capital of crafts, a visit to the souks in Marrakech is a must. It’s the quintessential portrait of this city’s street life; where witch doctors, snake charmers, and minstrels jostle side-by-side in glorious sound and colour (the best time to witness this is by night at Jemaa el Fna - Central Square); where locals and visitors alike come to buy sundries and souvenirs. The fun lies in getting lost in the labyrinth, uncovering treasures as you go along. The best items to shop for include traditional Berber rugs and woven baskets (the likes of which are oh-so trendy yet oh-so-cost-inflated in the Western world of decor and fashion), porcelain dishes, and lanterns (although, beware of aluminium lanterns - these will fold and get crushed in your luggage).


To learn more about medinas, how to haggle in souks, and Moroccan crafts in general,
read my full story on Fez.

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco



1:00 PM

CAFE DES ESPICES

Rise above it all at Cafe des Espices
This charming cafe is the best vantage point to survey the outdoor area of the souk. From the roof terrace, sip an ice-cold beverage (or blazing hot mint tea) while looking down on the action below. Bonus: if you’re in the market for an embroidered woven basket but are overwhelemed by the vast selection, from the roof of Cafe des Espices you get a fantastic angle to window shop. Another plus point - there’s decent wifi there, so you can immediately update your social media with the stunning scene of the souk below.




My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

3:00 PM
3
PALAIS BAHIA


Should you find yourself besotted by Moroccan interiors and want to bring home the riad fantasy, look no further than Palais Bahia. Palais Bahia (Palace of the Beautiful/Brilliant) was built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time. The master of the castle, Si Moussa, grand vizier of the sultan had Morocco’s top artisans at his service for 14 years, and the result is the best of Islamic and Moroccan style and craftsmanship. Intricate marquetry and zouak (painted wood) ceilings adorn the salons of both the petit riad and grand riad (because why have one riad when you can have two?). A vast grand courtyard of marble (left) trimmed in yellow and blue gleams in all its sparkling clean glory. The 2-acre garden (above) of the harem leads to rooms opening onto courtyards. The harem itself serves up yet more dazzling interiors; with original woven-silk panels, stained glass windows (below) and rose-bouquet painted ceilings. If your decorating budget doesn’t quite stretch to living like a king, Palais Bahia will at least show you how to live like a sultan’s vizier.


My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco


My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

6:00 PM
4
LA MAMOUNIA HOTEL

Last but not least; that other Marrakech hotel that you always see on Instagram. Now, I’m not saying that everyone should splash out hundreds of £s a night just for the ‘gram - that would be irresponsible of me. Certainly, a lot of people would simply sneak into the salon (above) to take a photo with these now-iconic columns, although I’m told that La Mamounia have now closed it off to hotel guests. If La Mamounia is not in your budget, fear not - I’ll explain to you how to enjoy this iconic hotel for less.

First of all, why you should stay here - La Mamounia has been voted the #1 Hotel in Africa in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Award 2018La Mamounia is steeped in history: for nearly a century, the hotel has been the beloved destination for the discerning international travelers such as the likes of Churchill. No wonder - despite its prime location, La Mamounia is an oasis of peace from the bustle of Marrakech, hidden behind 12-century ramparts and tucked within sprawling gardens heaving with citrus trees, fragrant rose bushes, and ancient olive groves. 


My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco


Likewise, the service is as exemplary as you’d expect, with attentive staff well-heeled in Moroccan hospitality completing the regal experience. A stay in La Mamounia is an intoxicating experience of an oriental palace meets Moorish fantasy meets One Thousand and One Nights.

If you budget doesn’t quite extend to a full stay, get a day pass for Spa La Mamounia. Indulge in a traditional Moroccan treatment, then languish afterward on what is perhaps one of the most Insta-famous pool beds (left). Gourmands will swoon for the hotel's three signature restaurants: Le Français, Le Marocain, and L'Italien. My personal favourite was L’Italien (well, I had been in Morocco for 2 weeks and was craving pasta), for its authentic and exquisite Italian dishes with ingredients sourced from the hotel’s vast gardens.

Rooms at La Mamounia start at €600 or a standard (below) and up to €8000 a night in a riad.


My 4½ Things to Do with 24 Hours in Marrakech, Morocco

What are your must-dos when in Marrakech?

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