Monday, 25 June 2012


view from the plane window of the southern spanish coastline

With the summer weather (slowly) arriving I am seriously getting in the mood for a holiday. My last proper break was a week away in Marrakech - one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco. I've always wanted to go. There was something that simply called to me. Whenever I saw pictures of it, even as a child, I was fascinated. We finally boarded a flight destined for Marrakech last September.

I prefer going away after the school holidays have finished. I'm not one for little hooligans at the best of times when I'm at home so the thought of having to endure them whilst trying to relax was horrifying. Dave and I booked through Thomson and got a week's all-inclusive for around £1,400. I know that looks expensive but for what we got it was actually pretty cheap!

marrakech airport
Marrakech Airport is pretty basic but also very beautiful. It was actually the airport used in the Sex and The City 2 film. I became ridiculously excited when I realised and when I told Dave a few other women overheard and got excited too. There ended up being about ten of us girls stood taking photos whilst the men groaned and the Reps rolled their eyes.



dave sunning himself and drinking cocktails
The hotel we stayed in was the Riu Tikida Palmarie. The Palmarie was developed a small 10 minute drive from the Medina of Marrakech and the very famous Jemaa El Fna square, in an area called 'The Palms'. It screams new luxury as soon as you enter the doors. You're greeted by an indoor fountain and one of the biggest crystal chandeliers that I have personally ever seen. I would have preferred to have stayed in a more traditional Riad in the city centre but Dave wanted a hotel with a pool.

The staff are the most pleasant I have ever encountered. Nothing is too much trouble and they enjoy talking about the differences between England and Morocco. The cocktails are free (being an all-inclusive) and are highly refreshing. The weather for September was extremely hot when we visited. We were warned it would be up to 35C which was something I fretted over being very fair skinned. In reality it was 47C on average all week. Needless to say I frazzled but more on that later!


koutoubia mosque

medina wall

encounter with the henna ladies (please excuse my nails - they were bitten off in terror!)

Marrakech is a city of two halves. There is the modern half which is centered around the 'western' shopping experience - including the usual suspect shops that can be found on any old English high street as well as a few designer boutiques. That is not what I wanted to experience. I wanted the old Marrakech and the feeling of shopping with the locals.

The hotel offers a free shuttle bus service from the hotel reception to Jemaa El Fna square entrance and back again. I was reluctant to take car-taxis as some of the locals try to bully extra money from tourists by taking them to on longer routes or using threatening behaviour. 

The first building that takes your attention, indeed the tallest building in Marrakech, is the Koutoubia Mosque. When the call-to-prayer goes out it emits a haunting call that sent goose bumps up my spine. It's beautiful but tourists are not permitted to enter and women most certainly are frowned upon for getting too close. There are, however, so lush gardens literally next to the mosque which provide a wonderful break from the unrelenting sun. Another thing to remember is that all of the satellites in Marrakech point to the Koutoubia so if you become lost simply follow the satellites and the way they are pointing back to the tallest building in the city!

I would advise women planning a trip to Marrakech to approach the medina fully covered from head-to-toe. I'm not suggesting a burka by any means - rather  trousers, a long sleeved top and a scarf to keep shoulders and your head covered. I would suggest ballet flats rather than flip-flops (muslims find it an offence to bare the soles of your feet to them - as I discovered whilst drunkenly doing the conga barefoot around the hotel reception one night!!)

There are no pictures of the souks we explored, purely because if a shop assistant sees a tourist taking photos of their stall they invariably ask for money for your 'audacity'. There are a lot of ways for the locals to try to squeeze money from tourists and pretending to be a guide is another way. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you accept a guide you haven't pre-booked at the hotel. Street guides will you lead you deep into the souks and get you lost before presenting you with one of their friends or families shops and making you buy from there. 

I would also suggest staying away from the henna ladies. These are the girls that sit in the middle of Jemaa El Fna square under parasols and draw designs on your skin. The one I had is beautiful but I didn't ask for it, merely enquired after the price of it. The middle flower was drawn on faster than I could blink. Dave was furious as they continued against my protests and demanded that we pay 350dihram for it (the equivalent of £30). In the end I had to barter with them. They had the last of our cash that we had bought out with us, as well as my purse (thank goodness it was Primark!) and my sunglasses (also Primark). So if you visit and want to approach - keep your hands away from these girls so that they don't get you like they got me!!


a cool haven away from the bustling streets

i'm not unhappy because of the holiday but because of the heat

the lily pool framed by the famous majorelle blue

yves saint laurent memorial

one of the explanation boards from an exhibit

These are the famous YSL gardens. It was so hot when we arrived by a horse-drawn taxi (a frightening experience when you consider that there were five marked lanes for traffic and seven lanes of actual traffic) that the ground outside of the entrance was sizzling so much I could have probably have fried an egg. Inside, however, it was a calm and cool garden of palms and running water where the sounds of the busy city were drowned out with the rustle of the foliage in the light breeze. It was simply heaven on Earth. No wonder the famous designer spent so much of his time here.

By this point I was suffering with burns from the heat that I had had to endure on Jemaa El Fna square earlier and so I didn't look immensely happy in the photo that Dave took. I was also suffering a little bit with a 'dehli-belly' of sorts - I was bloated and in pain from drinking in some bad water by accident in the shower.

That being said if you visit anywhere in Marrakech this is a must. It really is gorgeous. It's eye-opening and really brings insight into the inspiration behind the designer's iconic collections. It's hard not to be inspired in an environment like this. 


for my auntie sarah

This is the tea-set that I picked up in Jemaa El Fna square from an old one-eyed man. I asked my Step-Mother if there was anything I should bring back from my travels. She told me that my Auntie Sarah had always wanted an authentic Moroccan tea-set to go with her Moroccan themed dinner parties. So voila! Isn't it beautiful? I picked it up for 250dihram (around £20ish). The silver is actual silver too which makes this present ridiculously cheap for what it is. I was sorely tempted to keep it but after receiving the most appreciative and lovely email from Sarah as a thank-you I think it was worth giving it away!

now hanging on my wall so the cats can't get their claws into it

hand embroidered and simply beautiful

This is the handmade and hand embroidered throw that we bought back from the souks. We bartered very hard for this. We reduced it from 1000dihram (roughly £90) to 420dihram (roughly £37) which is obviously fantastic. Every time I look at it I find another panel to look at. We hung it on the wall to keep the cats from scratching it to shreds with their claws but if we didn't have pets I would leave it on my bed or on the corner chair in a casual way. I wanted it from the moment I laid eyes on it and I have never regretted buying it for one second.

the best after-sun in the entire world

Within the first couple of days in the Marrakech sun I was suffering from second degree burns. If you don't know what second degree burns look like then I suggest you check you have a strong stomach before you Google it. I still have the scars - let me put it that way. Anyway I went on the hunt for a remedy in the Souks in the hopes that a local herbalist might be able to help me. A lovely man in a small souk pharmacy picked this out for me. 

It f***ing hurt when it was first applied but after a minute I stopped feeling like I was burning to death and managed to fall asleep in peace. It is amazing. I use it so sparingly so that it won't run out any time soon and keep it in the fridge at all times. It also smells very strongly of roses so as well as being the most hydrating moisturiser it is also smells the most intensely beautiful too.

souk lipstick pot

souk lipstick swatch

During my visit to that souk pharmacy the gentleman that served me asked me to take a moment of my time to teach him the English names for all of his herbs. He would point at specific items, for example - cinnamon sticks and I would teach him the word 'cinnamon'. This took roughly 15 minutes and as we left he ran after us with this little pot. Dave automatically assumed he was trying to hawk us more of his stock so waved him away but he stood his ground and in very broken English explained that it was a gift for me for my help. How sweet! After nearly of week of having to wave away things we didn't want to buy here was a gift!

The pot is actually clay with a dried saffron paste on the top that when wet produces a stain - as you can see from the swatch! I didn't actually try it until I returned to the hotel and asked one of the receptionists what it was. She seemed thrilled that I'd been presented with and told me that I must be very appreciated! The stain lasts a good 8 hours before it starts to fade and although it bleeds a little if you apply too much to your lips it produces a lovely coral orange shade. Very on-trend for this season. It looks fantastic under a clear gloss.

So that was my trip to Marrakech. Well, part of it. I have loved reminiscing and I would write a helluva lot more than I have. There is just so much to see and do and explore. I wish I could describe everything but I don't want to bore you and send you to sleep!

It really is magical. It's colourful, hectic, an assault on the senses in all ways whilst at the same time being the most interesting and unusual place I have ever visited. 

Have you ever been to Marrakech? What did you think of it?
Do you think you would want to visit? 

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