So you’re here to find out the cost of a weekend in Marrakech. Cool.
Markets (lots of)
Motorbikes (tres lots of)
…. you get the idea.
Sunday December 4th, a horrid English winter lurked outside my girlfriends bedroom window, but it meant little to us. As I urged her to pack faster our flight to far off lands loomed closer. We were escaping. A quick last minute purchase of some travel insurance that DID cover Morocco (mine and Esthers seemingly the only European cover on the planet that didn’t cover morocco) and daddy cabs were soon whisking us off to the airport.
The flight was painless, another budget flight job, but as no one wanted to sit next to me, Esther and I had 3 seats to ourselves. Bonus! We landed well ahead of schedule and met with our pre arranged taxi without hassle. Some money withdrawn from the bank (the Moroccan Dirham is a protected currency) and away we went, into the madness that was the Moroccan traffic system. Seemingly a driving test is null and void, although they might want to think about introducing a walking test.
You seriously need your wits about you to survive crossing these roadsYou seriously need your wits about you to survive walking anywhere, as we were to later find out. So, back to the driving, it was basically chaos. Road rage was expressed through the use of horns rather than shouting, the noise deafening, and lanes seemed to be more of a guideline rather than rule. We switched lanes whenever there was the slightest gap and beeped anyone that was half a second slower than they should have been when pulling away from a set of traffic lights … frankly I’m surprised that anyone stopped at traffic lights in the first place. “Almost there” our driver said as we approached a huge roundabout in the far right hand lane, only to cut up 3 other lanes and take the 3rd exit. We couldnt help but laugh.
Getting out of the car our Riad was nowhere in sight. Our driver said that we’d have to walk the rest of the way, as the Medina streets were too small for (most) cars to fit down. We waited, wondering what lay in store next before a huge smile emerged from the crowd and hugs were exchanged. The smile and long hugging arms belonged to our host Mohamed. He was to guide us the rest of the way to our Riad and instantly set about telling us that we’d picked the best time to arrive in Marrakech. His reason for such a claim was hat the city was currently hosting its annual international film festival. Within the main square a huge screen had been erected (stop laughing at the back) and a choice selection of films were being shown each evening.
The route to our Riad was erm .. interesting. We followed Mohamed through was felt like a small maze before arriving at an amazing wooden door. Before setting of on this break I warned Esther that I had not booked another 4* hotel like we had stayed in in Malta. I told her that we’d be staying in a Riad and that it was authentic, but in truth I didnt really know what that meant at the time. It was as much a surprise to me as it was her, and the surprise was a massively pleasant one. We both loved the Douarskoll Riad. It was an oasis of quiet in madness of Marrakech. We were given the tour which ended on the rooftop terrace. As it was dusk, it was a great time to witness the city fall into darkness. The rooftop became our favourite place over the next few days.
With the light soon gone we had a couple of hours to go out and have a quick peek at the famous main square, or Djemaa el Fna as its more commonly known. It was a fleeting visit, but we got a small taster of the brilliant madness that was the food and market stalls of the area. We’d get a better look the next day.
That evening we sat down to eat within the Riad as Mohamed had prepared a traditional Moroccan dinner for us. We started with a thick veggie soup that was delicious, before moving on to a lamb tangine, the meat just fell apart at the slightest touch of a fork. It was an incredible meal, so tasty, so filling.
Monday morning we were greeted by a glorious breakfast. Warm crusty bread, pancakes, lemon sponge, fresh orange juice and sweet black tea. It was a feast, and a little snooze on the sun drenched rooftop was needed to recover from another amazing meal. It was hot enough to don simply a t-shirt, but Esther chose to stay covered a bit, not knowing if her Casper the ghost like Carribean-Irish skin would offend some builders working next door.
Come 1pm we were still lapping up the sun when we finally gave in to our consciences and decided that we should haul our fat asses off the blissful rooftop, and go explore what Marrakech had to offer.
First stop was the Dar Cherifa. Mohamed had recommended a quick visit as this little Riad was supposedly one of the oldest in Marrakesh, and had been lovingly and painfully restored using state funding so that it was viewable to the public. As it was just around the corner from our own Riad we thought we’d have a little look, but didn’t realise it doubled as a small cafe. Step up our first pot of mint tea. Why not!? Our waiter poured the pungent liquid in a rather extravagent manner and we were took our first tentative sips. It was nice, I wasn’t blown away by it (it was no mint ice cream … those would follow), but the pot was finished and we chilled for a bit, looking up through the skylight (not sure of the proper term) at the cloudless blue sky.
Having paid up at the Dar Cherifa we headed back out and made our way to the main square once more, this time for a look in the day light. On route we thought we’d just deviate slightly and have a little look down a side road and before we knew it we were well and truely lost within the Souks. I mean we hadn’t a clue where we were, not even a rough idea, and there were no other touristy looking people around so we knew we were out in the sticks somewhere. It took a good hour, and the help of a kind local, before we emerged in the main square again, relief sprayed across both of our faces. Its fun exploring, but the streets were manic on this day and on a couple of occasions we were both clipped by passing bikes.
We healed our wounds with a mint ice cream each (told you they would come) and spent the rest of the afternoon in and around the central Koutoubia Mosque (12th century) and its gardens watching the sun go down. We were in time to hear evening prayer boom out from the megaphones attached to the Mosque. It was always an impressive time as prayer after prayer could be heard ringing out throughout the city. That night we scoffed another tangine in a restaurant overlooking the market and Esther made her first purchase on the way back to the Riad. I think we were tucked up in bed by 10pm. Rock and Roll!
Tuesday started in much the same way as Monday. A hearty breakfast was followed by a stint of reading and burning on the roof. We did take a bit of time at breakfast to chat to the 3 girls who were in the room opposite ours. They were pretty cool and told us a few tips for buying bits and pieces in the markets.
We hit the mean streets again that afternoon and set off to explore the Bahia Palace which was a 30 minute walk from our riad. Once we reached the palace we were unsure if it was open or not until a helpful local told us to just approach the guard on duty and he will let us in. 10 Dirham later we were in. Maybe it’s because i’m a miserable brit, but when people abroad offer help, I instantly think that they’ll also be asking for money. I know its a terrible assumption and I do feel guilty, but Marrakesh showed me that my assumptions are not always correct. On more than one occasion, help from locals was offered and nothing was expected in return, only smiles exchanged before we went our separate ways.
The palace was beautiful, the decorated ceilings were vast and the orange tree gardens tranquil. We took our time strolling and exploring. The palace didn’t take long to walk around, but i’d highly recommend a visit.
Next we took on the Royal Palace gardens. We were told that the gardens are only accessible to the public when the palace is without resident. This was such a time, so we took the opportunity. We got a little lost of the way, but a teenager saw the opportunity to earn some cash and directed us asking for ‘paper’ in return (the only time my presumption of money for help was proved correct), we gave him a little something which he didnt look overly amused with … tough i’m afraid! The gardens were huge, but had a main road running straight through them which kind of spoilt the tranquillity. We walked for a good 30 mins through the gardens and around the palace before eventually ending up back at the Koutoubia Mosque where we’d visited the previous evening.
Ashamedly we had dinner at the same restaurant as the previous night. Not something i would normally do, but the prices were reasonable, the food good and the views of the bustling market amazing.
**Click me, i’m much fatter than this!
After dinner on the Tuesday was when we went for it shopping wise. Scarves were what I was after, good xmas presents. We settled on a stall where the staff were kind and wrapped Esther up in all manner of scarves. I was well aware it was all part of an act to get us onside, but I dont think we did too badly price wise, maybe we paid a little over the odds, but I was happy and that was the main thing.
Haggling can take quite a bit of bottle, especially when the seller and yourself don’t speak the same language. I tried on occasion to use my broken GCSE French, but it is somewhat limited and only extends to …
- Straight ahead
- I live in a house
- Please may i take off my blazer?
… pretty poor i agree.
Surprise Surprise Wednersday morning was spent on the roof soaking up the last of the sunshine and taking in the views of the Atlas mountains one last time. We did partake in a bit of last minute shopping, Esther was in a particularly no nonsense mood when it came to haggling that day and we picked up a few last minute bargains. Sadly though come 3pm we were on our way back to the airport and by 10pm back at home. What a trip!
Marrakech is an amazing place and relatively cheap making it ideal for a mini break if you’re based in Europe. December was a good time to visit. The days were still hot, although the nights very cold so take jumpers. The film festival was well worth a look too.
Staying a riad provides a back to basics kind of lifestyle, but its totally refreshing. Esther and I were without TV, phones and booze for all of our break, but didn’t miss these things at all. The early nights and early mornings were a refreshing change. Everything you do can be heard throughout the Riads though, everything. So if you’re in a couple and was to be ‘romantic’ … well it might not end up private if you catch my drift.
The markets as you probably well know can get a little hectic. Whilst you’re dodging numerous bikes and motocycles (amazingly we didnt see one crash), sellers will try and guide you into their shop or towards their stall. More than once women grabbed Esthers wrists and tried to show her how great henna would look on her. I’d read about the possibility of pickpockets but had nothing stollen and didn’t get the feeling that there were many in operation and targeting tourists. The tourist police were present in the souks each day we ventured out which was reassuring.
3 nights was probably enough for visiting the city alone, but Esther and I didnt go on any tours to the Atlas mountains or desserts. They seem like they might be worth a go … maybe next time. In all, I couldn’t fault Marrakech. I loved it, it was sensory overload, but its a long time since I’ve felt that, felt that home was a million miles away and that i was exploring the world. Loved it, loved it. You should go! … all of you!
The cost of a weekend in Marrakech
|2 x Return flights from London Luton||137.95||161.64||1793.35|
|3 nights accomodation at the Douskall Riad (double room, shower but no toilet)||57.25||67.08||750.00|
|Return airport shuttle||25.60||30.00||332.80|
|Spending money inc meals||102.00||119.51||1325.00|
|Average costs whilst in Marrakech||GBP||EURO||MAD|
|1 ltr bottle of water||1.92||2.25||25.00|
|Small metal candle holder||2.31||2.70||30.00|
|Small leather candle holder||3.85||4.51||50.00|
Rates used …
1 GBP = 1.17175 EUR
1 GBP = 13.1001 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
- Haggle in the markets, haggle your ass off. Most of the stall owners will take you for all that they can, and why shouldnt they. Decide your top end price and dont budge from it, usually it’ll be met so long as its not stupid.
- Take warm clothing, the night were very very cold!
- If flying with Ryanair and you’ve checked in for your return flight online, you will still need to go and get your boarding card stamped at a checkin desk before security will let you through to departures.