MOROCCO – THE MAGICAL EXPLOSION OF LIFE + A SURVIVAL GUIDE!

Morrocco

As some of you may or may not know we recently spent 5 days honeymooning in magical Morocco. Since getting back to Sydney, I’ve had a few people request a little post on our adventures so that’s where this short post is taking me today.

After 2 weeks of cold, some snow and rainy weather we were ready for some sunshine! We took a direct flight from Gatwick to Marrakesh with British airways.  It is a surprisingly short flight of 3 hours for such an exotic destination like North Africa.

We had booked to stay at the most stunning hotel Les Jardins De La Koutoubia , seriously this place was like a mini palace! There were five restaurants on site, two swimming pools (one which was on the ground floor and the second one which was on the roof), a piano bar, patio with beautiful gardens and a health spa. We decided to go all out as it was our honeymoon after all!

 

On arriving in Marrakesh, we jumped straight into a cab quite unprepared (we did get up at 4.30am that morning to catch this flight just 2 days after our wedding) and ended up getting completely ripped off with our cab ride. I guess you learn from these life experiences, it was bound to happen at some stage during our holiday. I’m just happy it happened earlier rather than later as it woke us up for the rest of our trip!

I’m a  “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” kinda girl, so I decided to check if we could get a complimentary upgrade seeing as it was our honeymoon and all. Well guess what? We got an upgrade from a patio room to a beautiful suite! We arrived to the room to rose petals spread on our bed as well as some Moroccan pastry treats (a  little different but nice).

The service was impeccable and we were treated like royalty for our five days. Each morning, our bed was made up with fresh roses and petals spread out  across it and each day had a different design. We had our breakfast in the gardens each morning,  were we had sooo  many choices; eggs of any style, veggies, fruit, yoghurt, cakes of every sort (I know strange for breakfast right!), pancakes, crepes, muesli  dries fruits, cheese selection etc.

How We Spent Our Days In Pictures

**Sorry for the poor quality photos below which were taken from my iPhone.**

1. A Day Well Spent With Our Guide:

We hired a guide on day 2 (a must and well worth it) who took us through the souks, a tour of an old university school, as well as the government palace. This was pretty cheap and set us back about 30 euro for three hours. As we went through the souks, our guide took us to his good friend and owner of the finest carpet shop in town. We were given a beautiful moroccan tea to enjoy while carpet after carpet was laid out for us! Tea is a very big part of Moroccan culture, with many families serving it more than once each day. Mint Tea – atay bi na’na’ – is made by steeping green tea with fresh spearmint leaves and is particularly popular. It’s seriously delicious!

Getting back to the carpet story – who would have guessed but we came home from our Moroccan holiday with a beautiful one, which is now laying pride of place in our Sydney living room!  I love a good bargaining session, so I had got stuck right in! I managed to bargain them down from 800 Euro to 200 Euro for an amazing handmade carpet. How could one not purchase this?! Our guide said he had NEVER seen them let a carpet go for such a price, hehe. I’m so happy we did leave that lovely little shop with it, as its such a lovely souvenir and memory from our honeymoon. Incidentally the design in our beautiful Berber carpet displays a common Moroccan pattern which in their folklore is supposed to ward off what they call the evil eye and protect the family from negative forces.

Later that evening we had the most delicious Moroccan feast at Riad Kniza Restaurant (a must!) but I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much food ever! There’s pictures of people who have eaten there like Brad Pitt and Bill Gates in the lobby which the owner proudly pointed out to us as we arrived. It really was delicious!

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2. A Cooking Lesson At Faim D’epices:

This was such a fun experience and nice to be cooking and getting creative with my man for a change! Our day was spent cooking up a Moroccan feast which consisted of bread, salads, sweets (crepes), and fish tagine, in the finest homemade tradition. Also included was a really fun guess the spices workshop (we were blindfolded for this one! which I’m proud to say I did very well at!  With all the cooking I do I was bound to have an unfair advantage over my hubby!

 3. Fantasia Moroccan Dinner + Cultural Show:

This was most certainly a new experience! Presented in the heart of a Marrakech palm grove, under the shelter of exotic Berber tents, the show was a dazzling, multi-colored extravaganza, accompanied by a typical Moroccan feast served in an open-air setting. We were seated on cushions encircling the show arena, where we enjoyed a traditional Moroccan meal serenaded by a chorus of girls and boys in traditional dress, accompanied by typical Arabian music. After the gorgeous meal, the fabulous Fantasia show took place over the arena. The belly dancing, horseback skills and beautifully carved and decorated carriages and floats were unforgettable! During the show we saw a flying carpet ridden by a Sultan come out of a cloud, over our heads! Now that’s not something you see everyday is it?!

 

4. An Evening In Marrakesh Medina:

If you want to experience an explosion of life in Marrakesh, then make sure to get down to the medina’s central square “Djemaa el Fna” for dusk. It’s such a unique and jaw dropping experience. We decided to start our evening with a horse and cart trip which took us around the new and old city then dropping us at the medina’s central square just in time for dusk. There are many cafes and bars to choose from, to take a glimpse of all the action beneath you! Its an experience in itself, to take a ramble through the chaos and explosion of life listening to the sounds of Moroccan instruments while taking in snake charmers, monkeys, witchcraft, henna artists etc.  Amaze your eyes with a breathtaking view at dusk and dawn!  I loved the people watching and the random things I would see and hear, like freely wandering chickens, cats, snakes, monkey’s etc.

Every evening at around dusk, the medina’s central square “Djemaa el Fna” transforms into a marathon street-food buffet. The vendors set up their numbered cooking stations and tables, and smoke starts to waft off their grills in billowing, perfumed clouds. To prevent “tourist belly” head for the stalls that attract the locals and  that specialize in one or two signature dishes.
Make sure to try a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice from one of the juice vendors framing the square; it will be the sweetest, pulpiest glass of orange juice you’ll ever have tasted.

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5. A Champagne At “La Renaissance”:

This was our very last night in Marrakesh and we’d heard about “La Renaissance” bar having the best views of the city and the surrounding landscapes so off we went to explore and find it. Situated on the 7th floor of the hotel, the terrace, the highest in Marrakech, provides a breath-taking view of the Red City and the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains. A cab ride and a couple of blocks later we arrived at our destination. Up we went to level seven and we were very much not disappointed! Wow, the views were indeed spectacular! Again, similar to the medina’s central square the views did not disappoint and either did the champagne!

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My Tips For A Great Holiday!

  • If your hotel/riad offers you the chance to pre-book a taxi from the airport, take it. Agreeing a price can be a hassle (you may indeed get ripped off like we did) and it’s pretty likely you’ll only have big notes that the taxi driver will find ‘impossible’ to change.
  • Always carry some change to tip; the man carting your luggage from the hotel, restaurants etc. Pretty much tip for everything.
  • You have to haggle for taxi journeys, so make sure you get an idea from your hotel/riad, what a fair price is before you head out.
  • If you have trouble getting back to sleep and are close to a mosque, take a pair of ear-plugs, for the imam’s call from the mosque around 4.00 am. We slept through it and luckily didn’t hear a thing!
  • French is the second language after Arabic. It’s worth taking a French dictionary with you.
  • Be alert, but not alarmed. There’s a lot going on in Marrakesh, people everywhere and it all seems so foreign but take it all in and don’t be too worried about people approaching you. I found the locals to be super friendly.
  • Visit the souks in small doses. The heat and chaos of the area can get to you after a while, so aim to spend a couple of hours there at a time. Thankfully, Marrakech has loads of places where you can easily escape from it all – including the many rooftop cafes where you can sip on mint tea in the shade.
  • Take lots + lots of photos! You may never visit a city like Marrakech again in your life, so take it all in – especially the weird and wonderful animals and their keepers! It’s pretty mind blowing!
  • Don’t be afraid to sample the Moroccan food. I can assure you that your taste buds will also go into overdrive once you taste the beautiful Moroccan dishes. I pretty much lived on fish tagine!

 

We were pretty limited to what we could do in 5 short days.We’d actually booked and paid for a day trip to the mountains but decided to let  it go and spend the day pampering and relaxing instead. We spent the day in our hotel spa; we took a Hammam together and then a glorious 4 handed massage (WOW, I seriously have never experienced anything like it before!). Sometimes you just have to listen to your body, there’s always next time. We hope to get back to Morocco again soon to get a dessert and mountains trip in.

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What is a Hammam?

A Hammam is a steam room, similar to a Turkish bath, where Moroccans habitually go each week to cleanse themselves.

We were provided with paper pants for this one! Don’t be surprised if the person giving you your Hammam is practically naked; they do usually keep their pants on to make you feel more comfortable.  Most of the hotel Hammams will take at least two of you at once (which we opted for), but are happy to take you singularly if you do not want to share with your Mum/friend/Sister/Partner.

Our Hammam ritual involved us in first sitting in a large pool of fairly hot, incredibly soft water for 10 minutes before being covered with mud/ clay.  Once the clay comes off, the black soap goes on and is left to penetrate your skin.  That then gets washed off, and the fun really begins with the super vigorous exfoliation.  A cold shower is then followed to re-close the pores, and we were then taken to receive our full body massage (4 handed) in a warm, comfortable darkened room – absolute bliss!

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Are you travelling to Morocco soon or know of anybody travelling? Please share this post with them.

Have you been to Morocco? If so I would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

So much Love, Light, Blessings + Happiness to you,

 

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