Marrakech is a hot spot for many travellers. With an ancient Medina, maze like souks and energetic locals, here is a place that will have your senses working overtime. No plan is the best plan in Marrakech, allowing the eclectic personalities you'll meet & the irresistible atmosphere lead the way. Spontaneity quickly becoming an integral part of the adventure. This is how the Lost Little One story began, somewhere in the backstreets of this ancient Medina while living in Marrakech. Here I would spend my days aimlessly wandering around this bustling city, allowing every encounter to become an adventure. It's in this time that I discovered 5 things that you have to experience when in Marrakech.
The largest open square in all of Africa and the heart of the Old Town will have you in absolute awe. The only way to explain the extravaganza that is Jemaa el Fna is to compare it to a festival that erupts every single day. The locals gather to show you their beautiful handcrafted, hand-painted, sculpted and sewn treasures. The air littered with the scent of fresh spices, bursting with ornaments and people as far as the eye can see. You'll spot snake charmers, tooth pullers and henna tattooists offering to paint your hands with a traditional design. Musical acts playing traditional music and circus performers from the Atlas mountains. There are rows and rows of of juice vans, ready to freshly squeeze you something to ease the effects of sweltering Moroccan sun. All of this just a hint of the evening spectacle. By night the square transforms once again, with the whole centre becoming an outdoor restaurant with traditional food and drinks ready to be served by the energetic locals. Jemaa El Fna truly is an experience and one that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Marrakech.
Also known as Place des Épices or the Spice Traders Square this is the second most popular square in Marrakech. Bursting with high voltage colour this is the most entertaining place to spend an afternoon in Morocco. The centre of the square is filled with women creating traditionally hand-woven baskets, the outskirts with spice shops and old school herbalists. Here is where I top up my cabinet with 'things I can only find in Morocco'. My favourite way of navigating this square is to befriend a shop keeper, Moroccans are jokers and will appreciate an honest & open attitude. I sit in the shop of my new friend, ask him to show me what he has to offer and let the show begin. It's honestly so amazing, you'll be shown everything from menthol crystals, to exotic animals, seeds to stop you from snoring, remedies for arthritis & eczema, as well as natural deodorant in the form of stones and an abundance of fresh spices and incense just to name a few.
My favourite escape from the hustle and bustle, Jardin Marjorelle is located in the middle of Gueliz, Marrakech (New Town). Only a short taxi ride from Jemaa el Fna this garden provides a place of respite from the busy city streets. Two and a half acres of jaw dropping botanical gardens, this place of calm is almost entirely painted blue and is filled with lush green plants, sky high palms and tranquil ponds. The Garden was designed by French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle and features a Cubist villa designed by the French architect, Paul Sinoir. Works began on Jardin Majorelle in 1923 and it was rediscovered by famous designer Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980's, since becoming one of Marrakech's most popular destinations.
Just like a bird you can watch the city move below you as you soak it all in from a terrace in almost any local restaurant in Marrakech. After a couple of days you'll wonder why every rooftop in the world isn't equipped with one? But let me tell you, Morocco got it so right. Whether you're indulging in a traditionally prepared tajine or sipping on a delicious mint tea, spending the afternoon lazing on a terrace is a must. When I'm living in Marrakech I'll find any excuse to spend my days doing what I like to call terrace hopping. There's just something so magical about being a spectator in a city where people watching could be an olympic sport.
My 5th tip is definitely not for the faint hearted. The tanneries can be quit full on at the best of times and the experience is often a sensory overload — smell, colours, and sight — as the men at work use pre-industrial age techniques to create vegetable tanned Moroccan leather. The tanneries are located in the Bab Debbagh quarter of the Medina and have existed since the Medina was founded over a thousand years ago. It honestly is an experience that you want to be prepared for, as it can be pretty intense. But if you are experienced with dealing with Moroccan locals and can overlook the strong stench of organic matter, then it really is like taking a step back in time and something I highly recommend witnessing. This is one of the very last traditional tanneries left in the world still producing vegetable tanned leather.