Marrakesh – the city of red

Marrakesh, Morocco is completely crazy. I don’t think anything could prepare you for it. It’s a mash up of first world and third world, Europe meets Middle East meets Africa. A donkey parked up next to a Mercedes whilst a man carries a live sheep on his shoulders past the supermarket.


The busy streets of Marrakesh

The air smells of horse piss, spices, smoke, mint tea and a million different flavours weaved in together.

The markets are bustling, people pull you from all sides, demanding money, wanting to give you a henna tattoo, sell you their leather wares.

And yet we had an amazing time. We spent most of the six days in the city, except for a day trip out to the Atlas mountains where we hiked up to a waterfall. As we went further up hill, it became colder and colder and when we reached the top we were forced to pull out our winter coats. The view was worth it though. The valley spilled out before us while the waterfall crashed behind.

The Atlas Mountains

We went back to the city, where the temperature rose to a blissful 30 degrees which was delightful after coming from the London winter. We ate each morning’s breakfast up on the roof terrace with the sun beating down, before making our way through the city’s narrow and winding streets where we got lost on more than one occasion.

Dress-wise, I didn’t reveal my shoulders or legs, as Marrakesh is a strict Muslim country and if you’re female and don’t want to get any unwanted attention then it’s best not to dress too provocatively. You’re still bound to get a little hassled by men though – I was called ‘beautiful’ a few too many times by slimy guys but you’ve just got to learn to take it with a pinch of salt.

We ate some great food – numerous tagines, salads, couscous and grilled kebabs. It’s hard to get alcohol in the city though, especially with dinner, so it was a relatively boozeless holiday – rather unusual for us!



We spent too much money in the souks, the markets that sprawl on for miles, buying leather bags, shoes, harem pants, jewellery (turquoise!) and tagines. It was good fun although the bartering takes some getting used to. The best technique I found is just to walk away and pretend the price is so ludicrously high that you’re never going to pay it. More often than most they chase you down the street and agree on the price that you previously mentioned. I think we possibly got ripped off a little because we’re hopeless at knocking the price down but when you look at the bigger picture, who cares? I’m sure they needed the money more than we did.

We visited beautiful buildings that were built centuries ago that have intricate carvings that make you wonder how they were made. The mosques dotted around the city were stunning works of architecture and the call to prayer came five days a day, when you could see men lining up outside the buildings, shoes places neatly beside them, bending down in unison to pray to their God. Although I must admit the call to prayer at 5am was rather annoying – a man chanting through a loudspeaker that reverberated through the room of our Riad.


The main square – Djemaa el Fna – has men chanting snakes rising out of woven baskets and young guys walking around with monkeys chained to leashes. If you want a photo with either a snake or an ape you must pay them an agreed fee. I thought it was cruel to do so, especially because the animals weren’t treated very kindly – the monkeys were kept locked up in little cages when they weren’t posing for photographs with tourists.

At night time the square truly comes alive with the hustle and bustle of the city. The food stalls open and are rammed with diners having their nightly meal. Scooters and cars zoom around, narrowly dodging tourists, and dancers dance for hours on end until you’re sure they must be ready to collapse from exhaustion.

The main square at night


The most relaxing thing we did during our stay was to visit a hammam. I would highly recommend this. We were scrubbed down from head to toe, which was rather painful at times but made you feel squeaky clean. Then we were rubbed all over with oil and received a full body massage. It was divine and made me feel amazing!

Our trip was eventful from start to finish. If you want to visit a place like no other, which is both busy and exciting with its chaotic streets, and calm and soothing with its lush courtyard gardens and relaxing hammams, visit Marrakesh. It’s well worth a holiday.

Inside Majourelle Garden, formerly owned by Yves Saint Laurent


4 Responses to “Marrakesh – the city of red”

  1. natasha Says:

    Great post Carmen, would love to visit Morocco soon!

  2. Pat Aust Says:

    Great blog! We felt the same way in Istanbul,but found bartering to be kind of fun, so we did a little in Greece (small island) with good results cuz end of tourist season. 🙂 The donkeys transporting you on Santorini Island leave quite the strong smells behind.

    • carmentheaussie Says:

      Thanks Pat, and for your frequent comments on my blog.
      We’ve been to Istabul too and I certainly found many similarities between it and Marrakesh! Yes, the donkeys on Santorini certainly do smell (we’ve been there too) but it didn’t stop us riding them up that steep cliff! Poor things!

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