Everything about Marrakesh is breathtaking. From the clamor and stress of wandering the Djemma el-Fna, and the endless, winding alleys of the souk, to turning a corner and finding yourself in a completely quiet oasis, hidden from the heat and the sound – you’ll never have a chance to get bored. When you make it to this magical, timeless, gorgeous city, there are a few things that you must do.
1.GET LOST IN THE SOUK
You knew this was coming. In the souks of Marrakech you can find anything and everything – from Berber rugs woven in the Atlas Mountains and hand-sewn leather bags and shoes, to the most intricate lanterns made of tin, copper and bronze. Check out the olive souk and the traditional Moroccan pastry sellers too – they seem to be the most generous, and were happy to give me tastes of their wares.
2. PAMPER YOURSELF IN A HAMMAM
If you are on a girls trip, or going solo, take advantage of the opportunity to check out a traditional hammam. Similar to Turkish baths, hammams involve a soak in a steam room, usually followed by a scrub with local argan oils. Traditionally Moroccans attend the hammam every week – you can often find hammams in the medina (old town) that allow entry for just 50 dirham. If you’re traveling with your partner, or are looking for something fancier, head to a spa for hammam and massage. I went to KosySpa for an amazing chilled out afternoon that included all the good hammam bits and ended with fresh mint tea by the pool, in a cosy robe. So relaxing!
3. MARVEL AT ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE
Islamic architecture is known for its use of geometric shapes. This comes from the fact that in Islam depictions of humans and animals aren’t allowed. But this also means the buildings are especially beautiful and mesmerizing, and unlike anything you’ll see in many parts of the world. Make time to spend a few hours at Ben Youssef Madrassa, an ancient Koranic school that was built in the 14th century, as well as Palais Bahia, an ancient palace with hidden gardens as well as gorgeous tile work.
4. GORGE ON MOROCCAN CUISINE
If you leave Marrakesh hungry, you’ve done something wrong. Probably the most famous dish would be tagine, named for the claypot in which it is cooked (and of course you can pick up a tagine while shopping in the souks, if you’d like to take a little piece of Morocco home with you). Some of the common combinations include lamb or beef with prunes, chicken with preserved lemons, and vegetable tagine made with carrots and pickles.
But there’s more than tagine on offer. Every restaurant will offer up marinated olives and delicious traditional bread, when you take a seat. Couscous is plentiful and very different from the Western version. And when it comes to sweets, Moroccan pastries are out of this world! To slake your thirst, get some freshly pressed juice in the Djemaa el Fna to sip while you take in all the chaos of snake charmers, playful monkeys, and intrepid salesmen all around you.
5. STORK WATCH ON A ROOFTOP
A lot of people don’t realize this about Marrakesh until they get there, but storks are part and parcel of the landscape. Be sure to look up as you wander to find these majestic three feet tall birds, who love to build their massive nests on the ramparts of the city. They also seem to congregate around the ruins of Badi Palace, and the Saadian Tombs. Head to the rooftop of the Kasbah Cafe to keep watch over the Saadian Tombs and hopefully catch a glimpse of the storks.