MY HOME AWAY FROM HOME: A weekend in Marrakech

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I always want to travel everywhere, but if anyone asks where I would choose to go at any given time, I’d probably say Marrakech. So our last trip of 2016 was my fifth time in this magical city.

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SECRET GARDEN:

I had heard that Le Jardin Secret was a good place to visit, so we decided to check it out. There are actually two connected gardens and also a tower with views of the medina and the Atlas Mountains.

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The gardens look great, and there are interesting videos – one explaining how the water flows across the site, the other about the recent renovation (it was only open to the public this year). A guide takes you up the tower and explains some aspects of the building and points out the different highlights of the medina.

Tickets cost 50 dirhams for the gardens plus 30 dirhams for the tower (both are worth it). This is a great place for a chilled break in the medina, and there’s also a cafe inside for a meal al fresco.

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FOOD:

It was getting late, but we got to Le Jardin just in time to get a yummy dinner. We had vegetable tagine and a selection of Moroccan salads, and both were delicious. This is an expensive place for Marrakech standards (dinner for two including tip for 220 dirhams), but it’s beautiful, and great for food or just for drinks.

We also visited the Earth Cafe, an old favourite which serves delicious veggie food. It uses local flavours and ingredients, but the dishes are not your usual offer of tagine and couscous. Dinner for two including a soft drink and tip for 200 dirhams.

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We wandered off Djemaa el-fna and stopped for lunch at Bakchich, one of the many nice cafes around rue des Banques. A yummy lunch of veggie couscous and tagine plus juice for two including tip for 120 dirhams. There are lots of other places in the same area which also looked good.

Another good thing to do in Marrakech is stocking up on local food: the dates are cheap (40 dirhams for a kilo) and delicious; the orange juice from the stalls at Djemaa el-fna is always great (4 dirhams per glass); the massive pomegranates from carts around the medina are always juicy (around 10 dirhams for one); and the olive selections from the olive souk (just off Les Terrasses De L’Alhambra at Djemaa el-fna) always make it impossible to choose (20 dirhams for kilo).

We also discovered a Carrefour not far from the medina, and that’s a good place to stock up on basic supplies. They also sell alcohol.

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A TRIP TO THE HAMMAM:

I decided to visit a hammam for the first time. We chose a more touristy experience (in the authentic version men and women attend different ones) at Rosa Bonheur, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor.

I had the 45min hammam which included different scrubs and a black soap mask – it was intense! They take layers and layers of gunk from your skin and you’re splashed with lots of water. Still, weirdly relaxing. This cost 30€. You can also get massages (from 30€ for 1 hour) and combos including various treatments and a meal. It’s definitely good value and an energising experience.

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CYBER PARK:

We walked around Cyber Park, which is a nice park just outside the walls of the medina. This is a lovely area for a break and good to rest for a bit on a sunny day.

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SHOPPING:

Haggling in the souks is always great fun, but sometimes it’s good to have an idea about prices. Following on the same road from the Saadian Tombs, there’s a big fixed-price shop (you’ll know it by the big marble statues at the entrance).

This is a massive shop covering two floors selling pretty much everything you’ll find in the souks. It’s more expensive, but it’s good if you want to browse with time and get an idea of what to buy and a ballpark figure of what to pay.

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Another good place for fixed-price shopping is the Ensemble Artisanal, where you can buy handicraft directly from those who make it. The opening hours are quite confusing, so it was lucky that it was open when we visited.

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STAY:

There are loads and loads of riads in Marrakech, and my experience has always been good. This time we stayed at Riad Adika, which was close to Mouassine (my favourite area in the medina) and had good reviews at TripAdvisor. It was quite difficult to find (you can arrange for them to pick you up at the airport for ease), but it was a lovely place. We paid 138€ for two people for two nights.

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This was another lovely trip to one of my favourite places. Because I’ve visited Marrakech so many times before, we could just take our time to visit some old favourites or check out what’s new. And as ever, I left this buzzing and crazy city already plotting my return.

Someday I might write up my complete guide to Marrakech, but for now you can see all my posts here.

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