I recently had one of my most exciting and interesting trips which took me to the enchanted and mysterious city of Marrakech in Morocco. I spent an intense and memorable weekend in the city and despite my short visit, it didn’t take long for me to grasp the uniqueness of Moroccan culture. The architecture, the food, the scents, the colours, and the people all combine to make Marrakech an opulent treasure.
My trip was organized by travel partner Snap Traveller, and along with a few other international influencers, we were guest of the Riad Wow. The Riad Wow is a haven of peace situated in the Medina of Marrakech between the old town centre and the Gueliz district and it is located within walking distance of the famous Jemma El Fna Square and the Koutoubia Mosque. The Riad boasts a unique rooftop bar and solarium with unparallelled views of the snow covered High-Atlas Mountains, the Koutoubia and the Royal Mansour Hotel.
The interior design is very refined and traditional Moroccan style furniture pieces are harmonically mixed with one-off modern-pop artworks created by local artisans and artists. My room was spacious and highlighted with gold and orange colours. It offered all the comfort you can think of. I particularly loved the selection of complementary beauty products, including the cleansing milk with date extract by local cosmetic brand Les Sens De Marrakech. Perfect after long days spent out in the various markets and criss crossing down dusty streets.
The entire Riad Wow staff was attentive and ready to respond to any requests. Owner, Alain Sarraf, is the best host ever. Not only did he arrang a detailed programme to discover some of the beauties of Marrrakech but he entertained us on several occasions.
During my first evening, I was greeted with Moroccan pastries and jasmine tea. This was followed by a gorgeous belly dancer ornated with beads, embroidery and chiffon, setting just the right folkloristic mood. Finally I was served a traditional Moroccan dinner where I tasted Mechoui (lambs specialty), Moroccan salad and Pastilla.
The next morning a visit to the Old City and the Souks was waiting. I was excited to finally delve deeper into the history and culture of the city. Once you enter the fortified Old City, Medina it is a new world. The walls and the buildings are made with distinctive orange-red clay and chalk that give the city the nickname “Red City”. The first stop was the Madersa Ben Youssef, a former Islamic college once home to over 900 students. It is situated around a large courtyard with a central pool for ablutions. The buildings are abundantly covered with decorations: carved cedarwood, exquisite stuccowork, precious marble and colourful zellij tiles.
Next we visited the Marrakech Museum, a classical example of Andalusian architecture with its fountains in the centre of the courtyard, tile-work and carvings. In this museum you can find historical books, coins, pottery and accessories.
No words can describe what an experience it is to wonder in the labyrinth of the souks. The narrow and uneven alleys intersect in multiple ways and it is almost impossible to find a reference point, as all the merchant stalls look alike.
All the traffic converges here, donkeys carrying little wagons, locals riding mopeds, and everything in between. Needless to say, walking in the souks is quite an adventure. In short, a guide is highly recommended.
It is a classic emporium; overflowing with spices, olives, almond and dates. Silverware and leather stalls intersperse between chameleons in wire cages, beef tenderloins, and ostrich eggs nestled on piles of thyme and incense.
I would suggest a visit to Arome Abderrahman, one of my favorites, where you can shop and find any kind of spice, medicinal plants, natural cosmetics and essential oils. According to the owner, it is also the preferred destination of chef Jamie Oliver, who personally comes here to buy local spices.
If you’re also passionate about Berber carpets like me, then you must pay a visit to Chez Les Nomades, where you can find handmade carpets in several sizes made by different nomadic tribes. Part of the fun in shopping in the souks is to witness what great negotiators Moroccans are. They are perfect hosts, they offer you mint tea while they encourage you to purchase and they have all the patience in the world. They are looking to make sales so you can definitely find a bargain.
After some shopping, it was time to enjoy the Hammam & massage courtesy of the Riad Wow Spa. It was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect. The Hammam is an important part of Moroccan culture and lifestyle, where women and men gather separately at least once per week to cleanse their bodies. Although private hammam is very different from public hammam, it was definitely worth it. Once the spa attendant came in the steam room I was instructed to lay down flat on my back, she gently throw some warm water on my body and she exfoliated both my back and the front of my body. Once my body was scrubbed till it practically glowed, she washed my hair and finished the session with a traditional braid. The full body massage followed and I felt as pampered as ever.
Dinner that evening was at the prestigious Dar Marjana Marrakech, where we were treated to course after course which delicacies such as pigeon, lamb, kous kous, almond pastries and mint tea. Belly dancers and traditional young male dancers were the nights entertainment.
On Sunday we had a horse and carriage ride in the new part of the city and we visited the Jardin Majorelle designed in 1920 by French painter Majorelle. The garden is composed and coloured like a painting. Plants and trees of exotic origins such as banana trees, groves of bamboo, coconut palms and bougainvilleas water lilies and lotus flowers inhabit the garden. Many features of the building, fountains and channels were painted in a dark blue, called Majorelle Blue. After years of neglect, the garden was bought and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. The garden became a huge source of inspiration to the designer who loved Morocco and its culture. After his death a memorial tower was erected in the Majorelle Gardens as a tribute.
Before leaving I managed to visit the Menara gardens, built in the 12th century and located at the gates of the Atlas mountain. With its striking view and surroundings, the Menara Gardens feature a pavillon and an artificial lake designed to irrigate nearby gardens and orchards using a system of underground channels.
That was the final stop and I couldn’t think of a more suitable ending to my time in Marrakech. The Menara Gardens are both a natural and technological achievement. Much like Marrakech itself, a city that lives in a world of history while also heading toward an interesting future. I look forward to my next trip and I am sure this guide will set you on your way should you visit.