Marrakech is a city of Contrasts, Mystery and Colors. From one hand, you have the old Medina, grounded in ancient times, crawling with beggars and magicians, at the center of labyrinthine souks in which one can get lost for hours on end. And on the other hand, you have the secret Medina buzzing with luxury and style. Renowned Architects, Fashion Designers, Artists and Chefs, all come there for inspiration.
Some return home with great ideas and goods but others get hooked and stay. In the midst of donkeys carrying fresh mint and fruits on their back and motorcycles riding through the narrow paths, you can find exquisite boutique hotels (Riads), design shops, art galleries and fabulous restaurants, ready to be discovered. What makes the experience that much more exciting and fun is the mystery of it all. None of these places can be found randomly unless they are sought for.
But another thing that makes it so addictive is the locals. Not only are they warm and welcoming but they are so funny! They truly have the best sense of humour, just the way I like it.
To fully appreciate what this unique city has to offer, you must venture out and seek both the Old and the New.
I will share with you some of my favorite spots.
You cannot (and shouldn’t) escape the shopping experience in the Medina! I highly recommend hiring a guide from your hotel who will show you the non-touristy areas and shops. It will completely change your experience. They will take you to the best areas and will even haggle for you! I’m sure they get a cut out of each sale but why not have a Win-Win all around? Unfortunately I didn’t have much time but if you want to do it right, I recommend setting a full day aside just for that.
Omar, our super cool guide first took us to a carpet store. Not so much on my list but so glad I went. It truly is an experience I won’t forget and I learned so much about the culture then. Amazing how much a carpet can tell about its owner.
Did you know that each color has a very specific meaning? When a man is interested in a lady, instead of asking her out, he has to offer her a carpet which will tell her who he is. For instance, if a man offers a yellow carpet, it means that he’s very jealous! If it’s red, it means that he is spiritual. The darker the red the less spiritual 🙂 If there are boxes in the carpet, that means that he will have other ladies! Once she receives the gift, after a long conversation with her friends she will decide whether he’s a fit for her or not. If he’s not, she will return the carpet and he will have to gracefully accept. Each carpet can take over two years to make so he must really think it over!
Also did you know that a man cannot favor one wife over the others? They all have to be treated equally. If he cannot handle the pressure he should stick to one wife! But thankfully for him (but not his pocket) they don’t all need to live in the same house 🙂
Address: 29, Derb Essanya, Rue El Kssour
Maison du Kaftan
A MUST go! Kaftans are handmade tunics and dresses, a typical Moroccan garment. This house is apparently known to make very high quality and diverse styles that will set you apart from your friends back home! I couldn’t resist and bought a couple! And of course, be ready to haggle as much as you can. It’s part of the experience and it’s welcomed 🙂
Address: 65 Rue Sidi El Yamani Mouassine
Le Jardin is one of the secret spots in the Medina which unless you have heard about there is no way you would just stumble upon it … except if you’re very lucky! This elegant, cozy garden was recently restored from an ancient merchant’s home. As you enter the place, you are transported by the smell of the orange blossom and the sound of the water running through the garden. Then as you walk in, you move from the exotic part to the tranquil and open traditional islamic garden. The menu offers typical Moroccan dishes light and flavorful. A true Oasis.
Address: Rue Mouassine 121
One of the newest secret hot spots in Riad Zitoune Lakdim. Very easy to miss since there are no apparent signs with just a normal door leading to stairs. Each of the three floors offers a quaint eating space with the icing being the terrasse! The narrow and the many steep steps going to the top (be aware if you have knee problems) lead the way to the most beautiful 360 degree view of Marrakech. It’s an ideal place to chill for a couple of hours and take in the sun and the atmosphere. The decor is simple but warm and tasteful. The menu is a bliss for our Vegetarian friends who can relish in the flavorful and healthy dishes served.
Address: Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim
It’s one of the hot spots of Marrakech. Tucked away in the maze of the Medina, it is virtually impossible to find it, even for locals. So to make it easier and cooler, guests are met at the taxi drop off by guides carrying lanterns and leading the way.
This Foundouk, ancient artisan’s workshop was transformed into a dapper restaurant where taste makers and socialites mingle. The waiters wear traditional uniforms and serve with a big smile. The menu is traditional Moroccan.
Address: 55, Souk Hal Fes, Kaat Bennahid
Le Comptoir Darna (our home) is THE place to be for a night out. A perfect blend between East and West.
The menu is as eclectic and diverse as the interiors and clientele. The belly dancers and DJ warm up the crowd and entice them to stay longer and experience the night.
An old palace turned into guesthouses. It’s a place where creatives can find their bliss. Every corner, every detail were thought of and meticulously executed – from the blue gate to the floors, to the magnificent courtyard. And the restaurant feels like being in a theater. The food, the presentation and the atmosphere are first class and so unique to El Fenn. A true gem not to miss.
Address: 2, Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian
There are so many more places but it would require 10 pages of writing!
One last tip. Don’t forget to visit a licensed herbalist for your pure Argan oil!
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