This was my second trip to Marrakech, ten years after my first.
This time, I went with my extended family, ranging from my 83 year old grandmother to my three year old daughter. 18 of us in total. We arrived at Marrakech Menera International Airport in the early hours of Good Friday morning. On arrival you have to fill out a landing card.
Tip: pick up an extra card, as you have to fill the same card on departure, so you can save time by filling it out before your return journey.
We were picked up by Youseff, who runs a tourist transport company. He was recommended by some friends who know him well. Youseff and his team were amazing. Very easy to communicate with in English, unbelievably accommodating, provided comfortable vehicles (Youseff himself drives an S-class Mercedes), reasonable price.
Our accommodation was a large eight bedroom Riad, some 21km South from Marrakech, that we found on Airbnb. There seem to be a number of similar properties available, with varying price and location.
On the first day, we had a relaxed start, then ventured to the Medina (medieval walled old town). Cars are only permitted in the Médina until 1pm, so we were dropped off at the main square, Jemaa el-Fna, and left to explore on foot.
Our plan was to go straight for lunch at a cafe with a rooftop terrace, called Nomad, but they didn’t have any space, so we went across another square (Place des Epices) to Cafe Des Epices. The food was simple, but tasty. If you can get space on one of these rooftops, it’s a great place to observe the hustle and bustle, in a space of relative serenity.
Later on, we found that three restaurants close to each other; Nomad, Cafe Des Epices, Le Jardin, all have the same owner. To get to the cafes, we first had to navigate through the Souks. This is no easy task, as despite having preloaded a cached map on google maps, we soon found that certain ‘roads’ shown on the map were in fact blocked off by unofficial shops, whilst other alleys are not shown at all. A good sense of direction here is invaluable, as it would be easy to get lost.
After lunch, we took a different route back to look at the Souks more closely. Here there are probably hundreds of small self contained shops within a maze like network of covered alleyways. They all sell either spices, leather goods, traditional clothes, shoes, local ceramics, Berber tea sets, designer knockoffs, rugs or jewellery and handicrafts. My mother and aunt, loved looking at all the stalls, and haggling for cheap deals, but even if you’re not looking for anything in particular, it’s still worth a stroll through the old gullies, if only to see all the beautiful colours.
The time we spent in the Souks, meant we didn’t visit any of the other historic sites of the Medina on this trip. My husband and I have visited them before, and are worth seeing if you want a break from the repetition of the Souks.
For dinner, we went to Vita Nova, a really nice Italian restaurant, with plenty of vegetarian options, and very reasonably priced. We then moved on to Azar, for shisha & drinks (whilst my parents kindly watched the kids). This is a vibrant place, with a live music act and friendly staff, however the shisha (159-190MAD) was a bit harsh, and the service very slow.
We headed South, for the Ourika Valley and the Atlas Mountains. Along the way, we made a quick stop at a Berber Argan Oil outlet. We were shown how the nuts were ground down to produce the oil, and given samples of both the edible and cosmetic products. We were then offered the chance to purchase these products at a cost of (100MAD for about 25cl).
We then drove on to the town of Setti-Fatma, which is more or less as far as that road takes you. From there, we took a gentle 1.5hr hike to the nearby waterfall. For my parents, aunt and the kids, it was a bit of a challenge at times, as hiking is not something they have much experience of, but they loved it. We walked to the second, larger waterfall, where we stopped for tea, before deciding to return back. It is possible to go beyond this, and see a total of 7 different waterfalls, but we were content with what we’d seen. The hike itself is not the most picturesque we’ve been on, and nor is the waterfall the most spectacular, however, the family really enjoyed getting out of the city for a bit, and therefore was time well spent for us.
Despite our best efforts, we were 45mins late for dinner at Naranj, but they still kept our table and happily welcomed us. The menu isn’t extensive but the food was very well presented and tasted nice. The staff were all really helpful and quick with our requests. It was a truly lovely experience for dinner at this restaurant. We then went to Sky Amani after dinner, wanting shisha & drinks, but they didn’t serve both on the same floor. So, after a round of unpleasant cocktails, we then moved on to Comptoir Darna. Comptoir Darna was heaving, so we went next door to Arkech, which had a good selection of drinks, shisha and friendly staff.
We’d asked Youseff to organise quad biking for us in the morning. We drove about 30/40mins out to Ouahat Sidi Brahim, to the North of the city. Following a quick safety talk, we set out on a 1.5hour round trip. Along the way, we stopped twice; once for a photo opp, and then for some Moroccan tea. Overall, it was quite a tame experience compared to places I’ve quad biked before. Meanwhile, my husband, took the four kids on a camel ride (they were too young for the quads), but also found this underwhelming compared to previous experiences in the Middle East.
Youseff recommended lunch at the Lebanese owned, Fayrouz. This isn’t a touristy restaurant. It is slightly out of the way, but the food was delicious. A typical menu of hummus, sharwana wraps, falafel, chicken Shish etc, more than satisfied all 18 of us, for about £100 in total.
After lunch, we took time out to make the most of our Riad, and had some quality family time. Those that braved the pool, had a lot of fun, despite the cold cold water. After that we ordered Dominos pizza, ate, drank and played games. It was a perfect end, to great family getaway.