Travel: Exploring Marrakech

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I have to say, following our trip to Marrakech last month I feel a little like I let the side down. We chose it as our destination simply because Dan had stayed at the hotel before and loved it, and we found a great deal,  but since I’ve been back I’ve come to realise that apparently Marrakech is the Instagrammers holiday spot of choice right now. Get me! I failed miserably to do any of the ‘cool’ stuff and get hundreds of enviable ‘grams though, because to be honest, we were just too relaxed. They looked after us far too well, and we really had booked a holiday with the intention of chilling to the max rather than doing any worthy travelling so it hadn’t really crossed our minds to do anything other than lie by the pool and consume our body weight in rum. Despite my shockingly adept ability to lie around doing nothing, even I started to get cabin fever by the middle of the week though, so we decided to hop aboard our hotel’s free shuttle bus and visit the Medina!

I wasn’t 100% certain what to expect. I visited Egypt years ago in my youth, and while it was the most incredible experience the hassle and leering that went with venturing outside the main resorts was a little draining, and after a bit of Googling and some comments overheard from other guests in the hotel, I was expecting a similar vibe. With that in mind, one of the first things I did when we started planning the trip was to do a bit of research about what would be appropriate clothing. The Internet masses reliably informed me that attitudes towards modest dressing were pretty relaxed these days, but still, I like to acknowledge other cultures and be respectful, so I opted to wear a lightweight midi skirt with a plain white tee and brought a little denim jacket to slip on when we were outside the main tourist spots. Honestly, now I’ve done it I think you could probably pretty much wear what you want without much bother, but I felt comfortable and relaxed which is the main thing, and it did me well in the sunshine, which can feel really intense in the city compared to while you’re lying by the pool! One thing that is a must though is comfortable footwear – we walked A LOT, and while my flat sandals didn’t exactly hurt, after a few hours of exploring the hard soles took their toll and I had rather achy feet that evening!

I’d love to tell you we had a well thought out plan for tackling the maze of souks, but no, we took our usual approach and just jumped right in! We literally sent hours wandering the windy streets, taking in all the offerings of silver, leather, crockery and spices. Even if you aren’t in the market to buy anything it’s an awesome sight, so much colour and bussle, it’s a lot for your eyes to take in! After the craziness of the main square – where you may find the sales tactics a little more aggressive (but you will also see snakes, monkeys and all sorts of unexpected things, so still worth checking out!) – I found it a very relaxing little wander, which I wasn’t expecting. Obviously stallholders try to encourage you to come in and look at their wares, and come up with some creative excuses for you to stick around and make a purchase, but I genuinely never felt hassled once. There was lots of friendly banter but they knew how far they could go before accepting that you weren’t interested and I never felt uncomfortable.

Actually – that’s a lie. I felt COMPLETELY uncomfortable when it came to haggling because I just CAN’T DO IT! I am just chronically polite and get all kinds of embarrassed when trying to negotiate. Seriously, you might as well just ask for my bank details and empty the account, I am that bad. Haggling here is a completely normal and expected part of the process – you should look to spend not even half of the first price they first offer, and they love someone who drives a hard bargain – I still couldn’t bring myself to do it though and even watching it go on made me feel awkward (I know, I have issues…) Luckily though Dan is a pro and we got ourselves some great deals! We spent around £70 on gifts and treats, but got an impressive haul. We bought some cinnamon for my Dad who likes to try his hand at tagines every now and then (true fact – cinnamon is only really cinnamon if it comes in bark or stick form – the ground cinnamon you buy in supermarkets over here is actually not cinnamon at all, but cassia) as well as a couple of spice mixes for us to use at home. I bought some scarves for my Mum & Sister (plus a cheeky one for me – it helps you drive a good bargain if you buy in bulk so it had to be done…) some silver tassel earrings for my other sister (erm, and a pair for me… are you sensing a pattern here??) and a leather purse for a friend whose Birthday it was, as well as a little cotton outfit for her baby girl. Finally, I couldn’t NOT treat myself to a pair of harem pants now, could I? I’ve been after a pair for lounging around on lazy weekends, and what better than to buy a bonafide Moroccan pair, right? Dan thinks I look like I’m wearing my PJs, which I do, but they are just too comfy for me to care about that, soooo…..

Shopping is thirsty work of course, so we stopped off at one of Marrakech’s many roof top bars for some mint tea and a spot of lunch. Food and drink is incredibly cheap here and I was impressed with how much we got for our money! As much as I was loving the day it was nice to get a little bit of respite from all the noise and business of the streets below, it was incredibly peaceful up there and a lovely place to catch your breath – the only hassling we got was from a neighbourhood cat who was very keen to get in on Danny’s kebab!

After lunch we had decided to walk over to visit Majorelle Gardens which had been recommended by a friend. We got ourselves lost more than once, but luckily Google maps helped us through (remember to put your phone in aeroplane mode to avoid crazy data charges!) and we found our way there! The journey took us through some of the ‘real’ Morocco where things got a little more intense. Mopeds drive through the tiny streets quite erratically so you have to keep your wits about you, and you’ll see things like cages crammed with chickens so it’s not an animal lover’s paradise, but it was really interesting to see what life is like away from the tourists. The oppressive heat, strong smell of petrol and constant risk of death by moped did get a bit much for me after a bit and I was glad to surface out onto street level, but I’m glad we got to experience it. It was then a short walk through the city to the gardens, but discovered there was rather a long queue and we didn’t have time before our bus back to the hotel so had to give it a miss, but it’s definitely on our list for our next visit!

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And we most definitely will be back! It was a sensory overload and we were definitely happy to get back to our hotel for some more relaxation, but there were so many more sights we’d like to see so I’m certain this won’t be the last time we visit Marrakech!

Love,

Sig

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