10 Things NOT to do in Marrakesh
9 Reasons to Visit Marrakech In The Off-Season
Visiting Morocco, specifically Marrakech, will immediately transport you to a different era the moment you step off the plane. One feels like they're in the throws of a magical dream, full of traveler ancient traditions, sweeping deserts, majestic architecture and seductive corners alongside vibrant colors and exotic cuisine. As the gateway to Africa, Morocco can be dizzying with diversity, culture and overwhelm your senses in ways you have never felt before. Be it through the thrill of exploring a hidden alley, a successful haggle at the Jemaa el Fna medina or a refreshingly relaxing hammam treatment, Morocco will satisfy every desire and be one of the most exhilarating (and Instagrammable) places you will ever step foot. While the country is at its best in the springtime and the fall (when the temperatures are pleasant and the landscape is at its most lush) a recent visit to Marrakech in December proved that there are countless reasons to visit at any time of year. Here, 8 reasons to visit Morocco in the off-seasons–magic carpet and genie not included.
Treasure Hunting in the Jemaa el Fna Medina
Timid and shy travelers need not apply; a shopping trip to the Jemaa el Fna medina (or any medina for that matter) means being ready to haggle for any and everything. Imagine if the world's finest crafts and local markets were plopped i into the center of Times Square during rush hour for a rough idea of what shoppers should brace themselves for. The main square along with the souk shopping is a dream for gold medal shopaholics. With every turn, your senses will be on high alert with vendors' continual chattering and grand stall displays. I suggest coming here for a few hours a day (if you have the time) to absorb the ambiance of the souk and get a feel for your surroundings and what you plan to purchase. At the start, you will feel like a mouse in a maze, turning down alleyways filled with vibrant tassel purses, pungent leather slippers, barrels of exotic spices, beautiful silver lanterns and extravagant, jeweled caftans. The price negotiations can get aggressive at times; stand your ground. Bartering is part of the country's culture, and once you get accustomed to it, it's fun! When haggling, keep in mind that the price a seller initially quotes can typically be negotiated to a 50% discount (or more) if you come to the medina with street smarts, a smile and an easygoing attitude.
A Desert Oasis inOuarzazate
Are you a fanHomelandorGame of Thrones? Ouarzazate, the gateway to the desert, houses large scale international film studios that have been home to the sets of Oscar winning films and critically acclaimed television series. Being able to physically be on the sets of some of the most talked about films and shows is quite an extraordinary feeling, especially when the natural beauty of the Sahara desert can be mistaken for a movie set itself. Stop for a lunch in the Oasis du Fint; you'll feel like Indiana Jones riding a 4x4 across the rocky desert landscape, soaking in the vast palm tree paradise. Remember, this isn't an oasis in the metaphorical sense; it's an actual water source surrounded by lush greenery in the middle of the rocky desert. Here, a traditional Moroccan lunch of tagine and couscous can be had in luxurious tents with a camel on call–what more can one ask for?
Royal Mansour Le Spa
You might possibly mistake this spa for heaven–and with good reason; the Royal Mansour was originally commissioned by His Majesty as sanctuary for traveling dignitaries. Le Spa at the Royal Mansour is not only fit for royalty, but a feast for the senses. From the etheral white birdcage-like entrance to the faint orange blossom scent that lingers around every corner, the purity of the white decor and the faint sound of songbirds is the perfect embodiment of tranquility. A spa treatment here has effects that last far beyond the treatment room; each guest can't help but leave with an overwhelming sense of calm. A must do: the hammam treatment, a popular ritual in Moroccan culture, followed by a ceremonial massage. The two hours of intoxicating bliss begins in a low- lit, heated rose color marble cave in which a therapist covers you in black soap followed by a deep scrub with akese(scrubbing mitt) which removes lingering dead skin follicles. Continual warm water is poured all over your body along with your hair, something that leaves you feeling comforted and transformed. While its a hugely intimate treatment, follow the hammam with a Moroccan style deep relaxation massage. You will leave feeling like you have been on a spiritual journey–and it's the ultimate jet lag cure.
Fashion Inspiration at the Jardin Majorelle
The enchanting Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited places in Marrakech, and for good reason. It took the French painter Jacques Majorelle 40 years to bring this beautiful garden to life. One walk around and it's easy to see why Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980 and saved it from falling victim to a real estate project which would turn it into a hotel complex. After passing away in 2008, Yves Saint Laurent's ashes were scattered in the rose garden and a memorial was built. The garden is full of shady trees, exotic plants, cacti and palm trees, and one doesn't need to be a floriculture enthusiast to enjoy it. The Jardin Majorelle isn't just a garden, it is an art installation of vividly painted buildings and gazebos boasting an excellent spot for reflection and inspiration. There is no doubt that the exotic people and colors of Marrakech inspired the restoration of the Jardin and directly translated into many of Saint Laurent's designs. Be sure to check out 33 Rue Majorelle right outside of the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful concept store featuring unique and one of a kind items by Moroccan designers that you will not find anywhere else...not even in the souks.
Palm Tree Paradise at Les Palmeraie
A sea of palm trees are a visual feast, especially at sundown. And by sea, think hundreds of thousands of palm trees of all sizes covering 54 square miles right outside the city of Marrakech. Legend has it that this Palmeraie was formed centuries ago when Arab warriors would dispose of their palm date seeds onto the ground and, in turn, an oasis of palm trees emerged. If you don't wish to walk among the thousands of palms, you can opt for a camel ride that is bound to take twice as long, but be twice as fun.
Custom Kaftan Shopping at Bouriad Karim
Marrakesh is a fashion fantasyland with its bold colors, and if you are looking to add a local, quality piece to your wardrobe, you must make a stop into Bouriad Karim. This three level shop owned by two brothers houses the most exquisite handmade kaftans and djellabas, from fully embellished ones with stones and sequins and raw silk edges to more simple and plain styles. You'll have your pick of pre-made options here, but there is even more to choose from for those looking to create their own. Upstairs you can customize a pair of leather babouche slippers with your choice of silk buttons to attach. The prices here are significantly higher than that of the medina (understandably), but the quality and craftsmanship is spot on. Almost everything here is handmade across the street, from raw silk strands sewn directly onto the sleeve edges to the sequins that adorn the djellabas. Pieces can go for upwards of 20,000MAD (which is equivalent to about ,000). Bouriad Karim maintains the rich tradition of fashion artistry, and while the shop's aesthetic doesn't mirror that of a luxury department store in the States, you will get nothing but top notch service and a piece that will remain a staple in your closet for years to come.
Afternoon Tea at La Mamounia
One of the most Instagrammed places in Marrakech, La Mamounia, has continued to top the charts in world luxury stays with its overwhelming hospitality and stunningly exquisite decor and design. This grande-dame hotel is comprised of millions of hand-laid, hand-cut tiles pieced together on wood marquetry walls alongside intricately carved columns and handmade lanterns that encompass the property. This palace is a vibrant celebration of Marrakech's past, present and future through its exquisite design details and generous hospitality. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon walking the property's magnificent garden with view of the snow covered Atlas Mountains while blissfully sipping a Moroccan mint tea. While you're there, don't forget to stop into the popular black and white tile hallway and snap an Instagram shot.
The Marrakech International Film Festival
Glitz and glamour arrive on the red carpet during the Marrakech International Film Festival, which fills the city with directors, actors and screenwriters from countries across the globe in early December. Films of all types are projected to the public in the main Jemaa el Fna square and this past season, hundreds of crowd-goers gathered at the iconic Palais du Congres hoping to get a glimpse of the ever-chic French actress Isabelle Huppert (ElleandIn Things to Come,2019), who has been garnering continual Oscar buzz, legendary filmmaker Bela Tarr (President of the 2019 Jury) or Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, 2004).His Majesty King Mohammed VI is heavily vested in the continued promotion of arts and film in Morocco and with the support of luxury sponsors like BMW and Dior, the Marrakech International Film Festival is one to keep on your radar. As Morocco continues to climb the charts as a tourist destination and fashion-lovers getaway, festivals in Cannes and Venice might want to step up their game.
Dine like Royalty at Mes 'Lalla (With an afterparty at Ling Ling Hakkasan)
Situated on the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech property, Mes 'Lalla is quite the dining experience. While the menu is quite extensive, you will notice there are traditional Moroccan dishes with modern influences as well as Western options. The head chef, Chef Cherkaoui, hails from some of the country's most prestigious hotels including Le Majestic in Cannes and Le Crillon in Paris, and has created dishes from traditional Moroccan skills that were passed down from her grandmother. With the locally-sourced ingredients (some are even grown on property) like fresh fish, meat and vegetables for the tagines, the dishes are not only sinfully delicious, rich and full of exotic flavors, but also beautifully presented. After a five-star dining experience there, everything down to the delectable poached pear filled with fluffy cream still has me drooling. After dinner, head right across the hallway to Ling Ling by Hakkasan, which had its grand opening on September 17, 2019 (with others in Mykonos and London, and another in Oslo opening soon). Think of it as the naughty little sister of Hakkasan boasting Japanese Izakaya, a highly innovative cocktail list and an eclectic playlist that will have you lounging all evening long. Be sure to try the Golden Lingyu, the Ling Ling signature cocktail of tequila, peach, vanilla, chili, lime and apple.
Video: A Trip to Marrakech
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