GETAWAY IN MOROCCO
Updated: Jan 28
Of course, I love my daughter more than anything in the world and I really do enjoy motherhood. However, I have to admit that since the birth of Slatki, our life has changed and this can sometimes be hard. Among other things, we had to adapt our nomad way of life to welcome our baby. However, if you love to travel, you'd better find a way to continue doing it, with or without your baby. We chose the second to go to Morocco.
Although we live in Paris, far from our families, and we don't have a nanny (yet), we have a chance to have loving, understanding and supportive parents from both sides who are ready to come and stay with our baby when we need a break. And as every couple, we do need one every now and then, especially at the moments when you had rather kill each other than go together on holidays. I don't know any exception of a common rule: the arrival of a baby in the family puts an additional pressure on the parents, thereby creating tension that they can only express... well, on each other, because we all tend to hate the one we love the most.
So we left Slatki for three days with her grand-parents and escaped from Paris to another Arabic (yet so different from the UAE where we used to live) country that I didn't know before. Just some three and half hours away and you discover a completely different world from Thousand and One Nights. The trip to Marrakesh was my birthday surprise (well in advance) for the Chef: although he knew the city quite well, we dreamt since a long time to go there together. I booked a traditional and modern at the same time Riad Chamali in the South of the Medina from where we could discover the city by foot.
What is Marrakesh? It is not even the capital of Morocco (unlike Rabat), but being a cultural and economical centre of Morocco, it evokes for me Arabic cultural heritage, refinement, craftsmanship, delicious food, warm, though cunning, people (especially at the souks) and beautiful nature whose richness I could only guess while staying in Marrakesh. In December, coming from rainy and cold Paris, Marrakesh warms up your heart with the sun, the blue sky and the hot mint tea.
I had an impression before coming to Marrakesh that in the old town, the Medina, apart from the souk, there is not much to see. This is very wrong. The city dates back from 11th century and boasts a large number of sumptuous riads, now mostly transferred into hotels or owned by rich Europeans, secret gardens, old palaces and cultural heritage museums. In three days we did not have time to discover all the treasures of this city, but here are a few recommendations.
The Secret Garden - In the centre of the Medina, this is not the most known garden of Marrakesh, but, recently renovated and well maintained, it is definitely one of the most beautiful ones.
Majorelle Garden - On the contrary, this is the most famous garden, well known by the tourists, so better go there in the morning at the opening. Owned in the past by Yves Saint Laurent and his companion Pierre Bergé (there is also a museum nearby dedicated to the famous couturier), this garden is first and foremost the monument to its founder, a French painter Jacques Majorelle. It was him who chose to paint the walls of his villa in the garden into the vivid blue color that is now known as Blue Majorelle.
Palais de Bahia - 19th century former residence of a rich vizir of Maroc, this palace is great monument of the Islamic architecture and craftsmanship, though in a deplorable state.
Place Jemaa el-Fna with its 12t century mosque Koutoubia - Inevitable when you come to Marrakesh, it is the largest place of the city, very popular and animated, especially at night. The whole local population has as a goal to direct you there, so even if you don't ask anything from anyone, they will still tell you, "The Place is there"...
I don't know about you, but for us FOOD while traveling is crucial, it is actually of the same importance as getting to know local traditions and culture. In Morocco it is a sin not to try couscous, tajine, pastilla, tabouleh and many other local delights. Alcohol though is expensive and anyway mostly imported from France so in three days we didn't take a glass.
La Sultana - A very chic restaurant in a 5-star hotel, that is worth visiting all by itself. Be prepared to spend at least €50 per person, but the food and the setting are worth it, less so the service though
Le Tanjia - A similar, but more affordable and more "traditional" place, with belly dancing in the evening
Le Jardin - Modern, stylish, very trendy place for Europeans. As the name evokes, the restaurant is located in a garden with a few terraces on different levels
Shtatto - Rooftop trendy cafe, from where you can enjoy the sunset; on the other floors you can find a few cool shops by the same owner
Kafe Merstan - Nice terrace and good coffee with spices
Bigua Cafe & Restaurant - Nice terrace, no coffee with spices, but the mint tea is nice
I did not know before, but Marrakesh is also a great place for shopping. Apart from the souks in the Medina where you can enjoy negotiation for the best deal to buy pottery, carpets, plaids, leather sandals or wicker bags, you can also go to the modern part of the city Gueliz in the quest for boutiques with a higher quality products at a still very reasonable price. I also discovered that both in the Medina and in Gueliz there are a few very nice concept stores proposing traditional products that Morocco is famous for but with a modern, stylish twist that makes them desirable for an amateur of ethnical design and travel, ready to pay two times the price for a rare pearl.
Atika - Great leather footwear shop
33 rue Majorelle - Just opposite Jardin Majorelle, there is a souvenir concept store, but considering the location, you can count a good tourist margin in. It is still worth visiting, at least to have a curious look
Galerie des Tanneurs - Next to 33 Rue Majorelle, leather footwear and bag store where you can find good quality clones of famous brands (not saying fakes, because none of them has the brand written on them)
Talal Cuir - Funky leather footwear boutique in the centre of the Medina
Chabi Chic - A chain of Moroccan gifts concept stores, mostly pottery. There are a few of them in Marrakesh
Max & Jan - Concept store and cafe in the centre of the Medina