Where to eat, how to dress and things to know about Marrakech
My perception of Marrakech before, during and after the trip has changed so drastically. Before, I was thrilled to be going to such a lush city that looked like a dream oasis. I literally imagined that it would be like Princess Jasmine’s garden – aviary, fountains and all. During the trip, if I wasn’t thinking about my next lamb tagine I was clinging onto my bag and trying not to freak out while motorbikes came zooming past me in tight, cramped alleyways. Now nearly a month after the trip, I would definitely return but it’ll be a long, long way away before I do Marrakech again. When it comes to places like London, social media can tell you a lot about the city – like where to eat, which museums to visit and where to go shopping. As for a place like Morocco, you can’t trust what you see. These are the things that social media got so, so wrong about that city:
Marrakech is the king of catfishing
Sounds like a naive statement to make but if you look at the photos on Instagram (even my own!) they show the city to be this stunning green space, filled with gardens and connected by pink walls and mysterious walkways. Like, no.
There are a few majestic gardens dotted around, the ones most worth visiting is the newer Jardin Secret in the Medina, hidden in the souks and of course, Jardin Marjorelle, designed by Yves Saint Laurent himself. However, these spaces are incredibly small and won’t take up more than an hour of your time, inclusive of your mint tea breaks.
Walking around is intoxicating to the senses but don’t entertain ideas of Eastern exoticism. It’s an open market, so there’s going to be noise, colour and the occasional savoury scent from a food stall nearby.
This is my favourite bit…
The food was incredible. Whether you end up nibbling on a vermicelli-filled pastry from the street stall for less than £1 or find yourself in a touristy rooftop cafe, it’s pretty hard to be disappointed. Although the menus can be quite repetitive, catering to tourists more than locals with the usual chicken, lamb or vegetable tagine, couscous and tabboule – there’s also amazing French cuisine to be found. I went to Cafe de la Poste in the new town, albeit expensive, there was a selection of wines (which is uncommon in Morocco), including locally made bottles.
There’s an interesting emerging cafe culture in Marrakech, where hotspots like Nomad and Cafe Des Espices stand opposite one another, looking down on a bustling market square. The first is a little more high end and the staff are much more attentive but as you may have already guessed, the food is a little more costly than its neighbour. Expect modern twists on Moroccan cuisine and trendy plates like a DIY bone marrow dish with condiments and spices. Cafe Des Espices, on the other hand, serves almost the same kind of food in a down-to-earth fashion. Portions are small but take advantage to order what you like as everything we sampled was delicious. And I hate using that word because it’s so vague and general. But it actually was. We had the sizzling hot plates of meatballs and eggs, as well as one of the best tagines I’ve had during my entire trip.
You can’t wear what you see on Instagram…
Some of you might be rolling your eyes at the obvious, some may be shocked and starting to rethink your wardrobe options. You can’t wear what you see on social media because those photos are taken almost exclusively in riads. This is a private space where conservative dress doesn’t have to apply.
Another note, thinking that it would be 25 degrees in the day time, I brought a selection of sandals and some trainers ‘just in case’. Open toed shoes in the souks and around the city is not a good idea. If you don’t believe me, try it and see what happens.
Haute tip: Go for silky maxi skirts or palazzo pants if you still want to look fashionable and put together. Always bring a shawl or a light jumper with you, it gets cold at night.
Liked my post on where to eat, how to dress and things to know about Marrakech? Read more about my trip to Vienna.