In just over two hours by plane from Madrid or Barcelona we can escape to one of the most charming cities in North Africa. Its colours, tastes, noises and smells make it an exotic destination very easy for any traveller. I will tell you what I liked the most during the days I spent there last December.
First, the airport. This building fascinates at the moment you arrive. It is a modern building with a clear reference to the traditional architecture of the country. It was a project of the Moroccan study E2A (2008) that extended the existing terminal, from a body formed by large glazed aluminium windows. The motifs are inspired by the arabesques so characteristic of its ornamentation. The reflection in the floor tiles is amazing.
Where to stay. Being the most touristic city in the country, there are many options. We booked a riad (the typical Moroccan house that is distributed around a courtyard) in the north of the medina, where the maps do not serve to return home, only your memory. The owners are Paris and Fahd, who live in the UK but spend long periods in Morocco. You can enjoy their amazing house when they are not there through Airbnb 🙂
Although it’s hard to leave such a nice and relaxing place, you should discover the city. The northern part of the medina is perhaps the least tourist, for me the most authentic (it is a bit further away from Djema el-Fnaa). You must get lost in chaotic alleys full of people, donkeys and motorcycles, and buy (read bargain) in one of the hundreds craft shops. You also have to stop once in a while to have a sweet mint tea. Very sweet.
The terraces of Marrakech. Many restaurants and cafes have an open space at the rooftop, from where you can see the magnificent chaos of houses, cables and alleys that make it so special. From these terraces, you will also understand why they call it the red city. I recommend the Atay Cafe for a great natural orange juice and a chocolate crepe in the sun.
If you are very hungry and prefer a good dish of couscous or tajin, very close is Le Jardin, an oasis in the middle of that (happy) chaos. As the name suggests, the tables in this restaurant are set around a large garden. The food is delicious, and it is so beautiful that again it will be hard for you to leave that place…
And if you like the gardens, after lunch you have to visit the Jardin Majorelle (outside the rampart), which was built by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in 1924. However, perhaps the most famous inhabitant of this house and its gardens was the designer Yves Saint Laurent, to whom the city will dedicate a museum space in the Fall 2017.
A tip. Just in front there is the shop 33 Rue Majorelle, a space where you can buy the creations of Moroccan designers: posters, objects of decoration, bags … All the pieces have a common characteristic: contemporary design always influenced by the traditional forms of their Arab culture. And, of course, you can also have a mint tea or just chill in their cool coffee.
Let’s go back to the medina. La Maison de la Photographie is a must see. The different floors of this riad welcome exhibitions of antique photographs (and also some audio-visuals). The goal of this museum is to preserve and show the photographic heritage of Morocco, and has a large fund formed from several private archives. Keep these names: Marcelin Frandrin (1889-1957) and Jacques Belin, who immortalized the Moroccans during the first decades of the twentieth century.
Nearby is the Madrasa ben Youssef, a huge building from the Saadian era where the Koran was taught. You will not tire of looking at the stucco, the calligraphy and the colours and shapes of the almost hypnotic tiles covering both the interior walls and the large patio.
And of course you have to discover Jemma el-Fnaa Square and its surroundings. Two tips: visit it at least once al night and buy peanuts with honey and sesame in one of the food stands.
In one of the (busy) souks, very close to the square, is located Nomad, a cool restaurant where you can eat any typical Moroccan dish in a precise dining room located on the first floor, or at the terrace enjoying the views. On the ground floor of this house you will find Chabi Chic store, specialized in typical Moroccan kitchenware (with a more modern air), where you can buy pottery of a hundreds of colors.
And, finally, the carpets. If that month you go well with cash, you cannot resist; You’ll make room at home, that’s not a problem. If you want to know where I bought mine at a good price you will have to ask me 🙂