Thursday, 16 June 2016

✈TRAVEL: Marrakech Video Diary

My friends and I (#squad) treated ourselves to a well deserved post-exams trip to Morocco. To be honest, we could have probably made the holiday a lot more jam packed with touristy things but the heat was getting to us (you'll hear me complain more about that later) and was still catching up on sleep from the aftermath of exams. 
As per usual, I've made a post-holiday summary of the trip for your benefit :-).
Also a photo diary is coming up soon so stay tuned for that! (link HERE)


I am warning you now, DON'T EVER GO TO MARRAKECH IN THE SUMMER (don't say I didn't warn you). The temperature during our stay (5-9 June) was probably on average around 40°C and the air was so dry. The lack of humidity did help make the heat feel more bearable, but also left me with a very dry, sore throat at the end of the trip which no amounts of water could remedy. The city also lacks air conditioning so don't hope to rely on the AC either.


riad  /ˈriːad/ noun 
(in Morocco) a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, often converted into a hotel.

Riad Calista
I found Riad Calista on Alpharooms and we were definitely happy with our choice when we arrived there. This riad actually looked very similar to the photos online and the owner was very friendly and helpful. It wasn't the fanciest of places I've stayed at but felt very homey (kinda like a cross between a hotel and an Airbnb). The distance from the city centre wasn't too bad (20 minutes on foot) - could've been better but the quietness of being not too close the busy roads was quite nice as well. 
Link to Riad Calista HERE


Most places were in walking distance and we spent 50 mins walking on one of the cooler days (cooler still being 36°C) but the taxis are fairly cheap as well. Just make sure to settle the fare of the ride before you get in the taxi and my friends researched that you shouldn't agree to be charged more than 50 Dirhams (~£3.60) maximum per ride. 


Bahia Palace
The palace grounds are so pretty and there's plenty of shade to take a break in, which is always a plus. Honestly, there's not much else to say other than it's a beautiful palace where you can take great photos (upcoming in my next blog post!).
Admission fee: 10 Dirhams (~£0.70)
Opening hours: 8.30-11.45AM / 2.30-5.45PM Sat-Thurs
8.30-11.30AM / 3-5.45PM Fri

Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Majorelle was co-owned by Yves-Saint Laurent and his ashes were supposedly scattered across the garden, and you can go see the YSL memorial at the heart of the garden also. In 2010, the street in front of Jardin Majorelle was renamed in memory of YSL to Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Again, the garden is very beautiful and incredibly photogenic with plenty of cacti and greenery to give you a break from the desert land.
Opening hours: 1 Oct - 30 Apr / 8AM-5:30PM
1 May - 30 Sep / 8AM-6PM
The month of Ramadan / 9AM-5PM
Entrance fee: entry to garden 70 Dhs (~£5) (half price if you show student ID)

Ourika Valley
One thing I definitely wanted to do on this trip was to go hiking, and a couple of the others were determined to go camel riding. We had originally booked a last minute tour on (which I don't recommend at all) but the tour fell through (but my friends who went to Marrakech before us do advise TripAdvisor). Fortunately, the owner of the riad we were staying at had a couple of tour options available to us, and conveniently at the cheapest prices I'd seen (~250 Dhs / ~£18). So we picked the trip to the closest village (around 1-2 hour car ride away from the city) and they had the option of camel riding for 30 minutes for an additional 100 Dhs (~£7.30). 
Before we went hiking, we stopped off at a village in the mountains where we were given a tour and they served us mint tea (the bomb dot com) and bread to dip in fresh honey, butter or Argan oil. They then showed us how the Argan oil was made and offered us a selection of products to buy. Apparently any Argan oil sold in Marrakech was the pure oil made from the villages mixed with some olive oil. I don't know how true that is but I got a bottle of pure Argan oil anyway at less than half the price it would have been in the UK!
Hiking wise, any trainers are a sufficient footwear option as long as they have enough grip and I would advise you take a lot of water.

Ben Youssef Madrasa
This place was originally a university but the architecture is incredible. Again, great for photos and many shaded parts also to take refuge from the hot damn sun.
Entrance fee: 50 Dhs (~£3.60)
Opening hours: 9AM-6PM all day every day

Marrakech Museum
This museum is right next to the Ben Youssef Madrasa and, to be honest, the content of the museum isn't that impressive. But, the architecture of the buildings themselves is great again, and there's this one room the looks like it has a natural sepia filter over it because of the canvas covering the ceiling where the natural light comes in. 
Entrance fee: 50 Dhs (~£3.60)
Opening hours: 9AM - 6:30PM

Jemaa El-Fna
This market place is probably the ultimate tourist attraction of Marrakech. There are so many streets to explore filled with Moroccan tea sets, genie pants and leather backpacks. Definitely don't forget to haggle with the stall owners and the best way to haggle, I've found, is to just walk away and turn back around when they've shouted out a price low enough.
There are snake charmers and monkeys around the main square, but I was told by my friend not to take photos or videos of them because the snake/monkey owners will try to charge you for taking photos/footage. 


If you're oriental Asian, be prepared to have a lot of mildly racist words shouted at you ("arigatou" and "konnichiwa" probably being the most common). I don't know if this is necessarily the case if you travel with a more diverse group but we were all oriental Asians and got very bored of being asked if we were Japanese by the end of the trip. 

If you go to Marrakech during Ramadan, most tourist attraction spots should be open as usual and the only things that are really closed are restaurants and shops for the locals and Jemaa El-Fna closes later than usual (I don't know how late the food stalls open but we made sure to get there after sun down). 

They say it's best to dress more modestly so as to avoid harassment (i.e. no exposed shoulders and bottoms below knee length for girls, and guys can wear sleeveless tops and short that reach just above the knees). I wore mostly culottes on the trip but, honestly, it didn't seem to make too much of a difference the day I wore shorts. If you're going in an all girls group though, I would probably stick to the dress code just to be on the safer side.

Hope this was helpful for anyone who plans on going to Marrakech in the future!


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