Recently, I had the utmost pleasure to visit Marrakech for the second time. This time I was able to explore more than the first time, I was only there for 2 days.
Marrakech is a fascinating destination, offering visitors an exotic experience. As Morocco is part of Africa, you definitely feel as if you’re somewhere foreign from the minute you arrive.
Landing in Marrakech you first see a desert filled with low buildings all the same color as the sand. Once you explore the insides of these building you realize that is where all the color and design is expressed. On the drive from the airport to your hotel you immediately see Camel’s and a culture that’s rich with heritage and religion.
Don’t be startled by the call to prayer you hear broadcast through Marrakech at different times of day. At first it will take you by surprise, however I found it to be beautiful and spiritually calming. The people are warm, friendly, and it almost seems as if you’ve landed in a different century.
The Medina, the old city, is surrounded by a wall protecting it from the newer city built around it in modern times.
There are many wonderful hotel choices in Marrakech, from the grand, La Mamounia (my personal favorite) to the small riads hidden on side streets behind a door you’d never know the jewel behind it. Village des Orangers was my personal favorite. Whatever you choose, I’d personally recommend somewhere authentic.
Other favorites are Amanjena, a bit out of town, however a secluded oasis, full of beautiful chambers and serene waterways. The Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental are beautiful and what you’d expect them to be. I chose to dine at their restaurants as there were many choices, and accommodating with allergies and special requests. All of the hotels have amazing restaurants and I’d recommend experiencing them. The moroccan restaurant at La Mamounia is exceptional, and a must! As is the Churchill bar which feel as if its intact from the 1940’s.
Days can be spent exploring the Souk, the Medina, where you can wander for hours and shop and see unusual things such as snake charmers, and monkeys wandering free. I definitely recommend having a personal local tour guide to help you navigate the winding maze, and to help steer you towards authentic shops rather than touristic ones. Tour guides will also keep you safely guarded from the pick pockets and aggressive sales people.
Spa’s in Morocco are also fantastic! Explore a spa experience at one of the 5 star hotels where you will be treated like royalty and have a cultural experience as well. From the body scrubs to the massages. The Spa at La Mamounia again is my personal favorite. You must descend a dark stairwell down to an underground spa that feels as if you’re in caves that have been there for centuries.
Being gay in Marrakech isn’t a deterrent as long as your not blatant in public places as you would be in any foreign exotic destination. You will see men holding hands in the streets, but this is part of the culture there and not unusual. My husband and I didn’t encounter any discrimination. There have been gay men visiting the city from France and Spain for many years.
Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, set up house in Marrakech in 1966 and were part of the culture there for many years! Today you can visit Jardin Majorelle which YSL bought in the 1980’s and visit their home & museum there, which is incredible, and a well spent day.
Marrakech is a wonderfully exotic place to visit for a few days, and an easy side trip from Paris, Madrid, Barcelona or Lisbon. I recommend going and experiencing the culture, the delicious food, the wonderful people and the beautiful oasis’s that have been created in this sensual paradise.