MOROCCAN TALES

by - March 30, 2018


Our Marrakech trip really was an adventure, and it all started with us battling our way through an incredible snow storm on our journey from Cornwall to the airport in London…

Honestly, you couldn’t write our insane drive from Cornwall to London, it was definitely eventful. Not only was the snow getting heavier and heavier, but the roads were getting icier and icier. We drove by a completely destroyed caravan, around 18 car accidents, and at one stage we had to stop as a car just a few vehicles ahead of us was on fire! On. Fire. Mad!

Thankfully we left Cornwall almost two hours earlier than planned, and our sheer perseverance got us through the worst of it. The roads behind us were being closed and hundreds of people were stranded. Eep! But we made it, and after a quick but wonderful dinner and a nap we were heading off to London airport in the early hours of a very snowy morning. And oh, the fun continued.

We were booked onto a Ryan Air flight, and I can assure you that I will never fly Ryan Air again. After waiting in line for almost an hour to speak to the most unhelpful and sour-faced woman, we were each charged £55 for not having checked in online. Eep! I’ve never heard of this before, and I’ve never been charged by any other airline for checking in at the airport! I then had to rush to check in my bag – which took another 20 minutes, and with just 20 minutes to go before our gate closed it was a mad dash to security… where the line was just incredible. Luckily I managed to plea with the kindest security guy in the world who rushed us through, and if he hadn’t we really would’ve missed our flight. You know in movies where people run like crazy through the airport to get to the gate? That was us. All four of us. With hand luggage. Definitely a funny memory, and I was laughing at the time, but wow was it stressful! After braving the insane snow journey, we were NOT missing that flight haha!

Three hours later and we reached Marrakech. There are endless and tiring security stops in/out of Moroccan airports, and the lines are long, and the pervy security guys make it even more awkward for you. An hour or so later and we were finally on our shuttle to our luxurious, brand new, adult only, five star hotel. And breathe!

The hotel really was amazing. Security-manned front gates, a beautiful marbled (though very slippery) floor, two amazing outdoor pools (one with a bar!), and a dreamy dreamy spa with an indoor pool. The hotel had opened just four days before we arrived, so things were still a little fresh and not everything was perfect, the staff weren’t really understanding us, and we couldn’t check into our rooms for hours, but it was bliss. Sunshine, pools, free cocktails, hurrah!

I’m definitely a budget traveller, especially due to my self-employed status, but this four night all-inclusive trip was £350 per person… you can’t really say no to that. The hotel we stayed at is the Be Live Collection, Marrakech – really worth checking out. They’re a Spanish company, and they really are pretty luxurious. They also have a family-friendly hotel in Marrakech, just around the corner from the adult only edition. The hotel also offered free shuttles to/from the souks – which we definitely made the most of.

Now, onto the good bits…

DAY ONE
We’d arrived at our hotel at around 11am, and we weren’t able to check into our rooms until 3pm. Argh. All of us in jeans, it became a bit of a lobster-red and hot afternoon, but we did get to sit by the pool and make the most of the all-inclusive food and drinks. I stayed true to meat-free and had the most amazing fish burger ever! Drool. The fish in Morocco really is worth trying

Finally 3pm rolled around and we were given our room keys… it was worth the wait. Two sinks, two showers, one bath, and two double beds per room. There were definitely a few flaws, like there’s a huge window between the bathroom and the bedroom – thankfully with a (pretty see-through) blind, a mini bar that suggests we help ourselves – but it wasn’t stocked, our showers had a mind of their own and constantly flitted between Satan hot and ice cold, and no ‘do not disturb’ sign – which caused a very awkward moment when housekeeping let themselves in as I was in the shower.

We certainly made the most of the buffet at dinner times; the food was just amazing, especially the array of desserts. Everything was lovely, fresh, and super tasty, and by the end of day one they knew to just keep bringing the wine and cocktails haha.


Be Live Collection, Marrakech


DAY TWO
We began our second day with a wonderful laze by the quieter of the two pools, which was fitted with a fabulous pool bar. Normally you have to battle for seats around the pool on holiday, but nobody was there, so we had first pick… and plenty of time to get in some people-free shots.

A relaxing morning was definitely what we needed, and after some lunch and a quick change we headed into the souks. What an amazing experience! I was worried that it would be a little too much like Tunisia, in that they really hassle you… and yes, they did, but the older men did it in a very polite and subtle way, we were seen as equals – and were immediately very happy bartering are way around the tiny but wonderful streets filled with treasures. There were hidden gems around every corner… a secret garden right in the middle of the souks, impressively detailed doorways and archways, and a little mosque – all so very beautiful.

The souks are filled with some really stunning objects, lanterns, keepsakes, trinkets, bags, shoes, and oodles and oodles of incredible jewellery! We definitely came away with some brilliant bargains. I haggled myself a great deal on two wicker bags.

We roamed the souks for a few hours before emerging back into a very busy and bustling square, where a sunset was meeting the call to prayer. The main mosque is just in front of the souks, and it is beautiful. You can see it from all over Marrakech, and it’s a great focal point if you get lost in the confusing streets.


   
in the souks


DAY THREE
Two of us headed off on a guided tour of Marrakech on our third day. Our hotel arranged the inexpensive tour on, and it fit just four of us… two from our hotel, and a couple from the Be Live Experience hotel just around the corner. Our guide was so informative! He’s been guiding tours for years and years, and everyone knew him wherever we went.

Our tour started in a pretty olive grove/garden, with acres and acres of olive trees situated around what used to be a main reservoir in Marrakech… it’s now a very still and eerie, perfectly square pond filled with carp.

A quick trot passed some camels and we headed to the Koutoubia and Saadien tombs; they were incredible. Royals are buried in the tombs, along with their servants when they pass away. We learnt that servants are never dismissed in Morocco, but passed from one generation to the next. At least they’re kept in employment I suppose! The tombs themselves were just beautiful grand buildings, with amazing cedar wood and tiled designs everywhere. You did have to battle to get to the great spots, but low and behold if you turn a corner there were identical or equally beautiful spots that the tourists hadn’t noticed because they were too busy oohing and ahhing over the very first things you see. Some areas are roped off, but you can see the architecture in all its glory, you’re not cut off from walking all the way up to everything.

Next on the tour was Bahia Palace (beautiful palace)… and it really is very aptly named. It was built for Marrakech’s prime minister and his four wives. Each wife had a beautiful room, but the favourite wife had a beautiful courtyard and garden to match. Dreamy dreamy. You’d really aspire to be top wife. Only within the last few years have new laws passed that Moroccan men can now only take a second wife if the first wife agrees to it, and women can now also instigate divorce - honestly it was all so so interesting to learn about.  

There was also a concubine room with an infamous courtyard that was filmed many a time in the old days of Arabian classics and black and white movies. Naturally we got some shots here.


   
Bahia Palace


After a quick walk around the outside of the beautiful mosque, we headed to a pharmacy were we got to watch women in traditional clothing making argon oil. They crush each nut by hand, to the extent that their hands become dyed from the extracts. We also got to learn about lots of different scents, spices, and oils. The women here were so lovely, sitting with us and trying to talk with us. It was a real little insight into their daily working lives. There are two main languages in Morocco, Arabic and French (as they were under French ‘protection’ for many many years). English is being spoken, but not brilliantly.

Tour over and we headed back to the hotel to meet the other two in our girly crew, and immediately headed out to Chez Ali for dinner and a show. Now this was an interesting experience! It was a little questionable at first, as we were treated to a very quick guided tour around the beautiful grounds… and came across mannequins all dressed up. Creepy mannequin moments aside, we were treated to an amazing four course meal. I did thankfully plan ahead and have a quick dinner at the hotel’s buffet, because course number one was beef stew, but as soon as they realised I was a vegetarian they began to emerge with the most amazing veggie dishes throughout the meal for me! It was amazing! Everything smelled, looked, and tasted perfect. We were even treated to some traditional music and signing whilst we ate.

After our final course we all headed outside to an enormous seating area that swept its way around a showground area of at least three football fields. It was enormous. But also freezing. Thankfully the venue was prepared and blankets were being draped over our shivering selves. I can’t say I was overwhelmed by the show, it was very repetitive with horses running back and forth whilst men shot gunpowder weapons into the air, a beautiful belly dancer that we only caught glimpses of as her ‘platform’ was annoyingly draped in beams and fabric, and finally a little horse riding show where the cutest little donkey made an appearance! I can’t say I’d go back to Chez Ali again, and it would definitely be far more enjoyable in temperatures above 5 degrees haha.


Chez Ali


DAY FOUR
Now this was the day I was most looking forward to. I had lunch reservations at the infamous La Mamounia.

Two of us headed into the souks bright and early to treat ourselves to some jewellery that we’d seen the day before on our guided tour, but had been unable to stop to barter away. I must say, out of all the trips into the souks that we did, this one made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. It was a Friday, and Fridays are days off in Marrakech, so the younger generations are left the man the stalls. Whether they were all just super seedy, or using ‘shocking’ tactics to attempt to gain sales, I really felt like I had to hide myself away. I was completely covered, and even pulled my kimono top tight around myself so that no skin was visible. Yet I still got pervy shout outs. So ladies, avoid the souks on a Friday at all costs. The younger guys in Marrakech clearly have no tact or manners when speaking to women. 

Still on the hunt for beautiful jewellery, we ended up in what we lovingly named the ‘deep deep souk’. We had no idea where we were, we were totally lost and in the depths of the souks, the parts where you can see all of the works being created right in front of you, the parts where you had to perfectly time a little trot passed some stalls before the sparks of metal work started again. We even caught glimpses of people dying fabrics, it was amazing.

Thankfully the older generation really are polite, and they pointed us in the right direction and things began to look familiar again… though immediately came more ‘ooh my gooodd, oh you look amazing’ cat calls from childish chaps. One guy even shouted ‘ohh my god you look like my ex’ – my reply? “That’s horrible, I’m clearly better!” At least that got a giggle from everyone. I was called Queen, Princess, Lady Gaga (wtf?!), and the girls were offered a hefty amount of camels for me. Eep.

Finally out of souk territory we walked across the Medina for our lunch at La Mamounia. It’s literally a brisk 10 minute walk from the souks and passed the mosque. On the way you get to see amazing sights of the mosque and two beautiful fountains. Before you can actually step into La Mamounia you have to attempt to bypass a security guard (I’m so glad I booked ahead) and step through a metal detector, but the moment we walked through the doors into the hotel, our jaws dropped. What a slice of Moroccan heaven. It even had the most perfect fragrance wafting around.


La Mamounia


Thankfully we’d taken swimwear and immediately swapped our lunch reservation for a day pass. We’d only planned on having lunch, taking some photos, and being back at the hotel for about 2pm. Nope. We made it back to the hotel for around 7.30pm… oops. We ended up spending the best part of the day shooting photos, basking by the outdoor pool, having lunch, a couple of cocktails, and then wandering around the most beautiful gardens with hidden spots of luxury everywhere. There were endless surprises at La Mamounia. Everything was immaculate, everything was beyond beautiful, even the staff were friendly and attentive. We were sat by the pool thinking ‘if we ever come to Marrakech again and can afford to stay here for a week, we’ve made it’ haha.

Their room prices range from £300-£1,000 a night, definitely not one for the budget traveller… but their day passes are brilliantly priced and so worth every penny. If you are keen to book a day pass or make a reservation, just send them an email. They were really quick and helpful. They even dm’d me on Instagram whilst I was there to ask if they could have some of my photographs to use on their social media – best surprise of the day or what?! Me?! My photos?! Errrrrrr, yes of course! So hopefully I’ll see those appearing on their Instagram and Facebook soon.


La Mamounia


Finally we begrudgingly tore ourselves away, hopped back into the souks for two seconds so that I could buy a ring I’d seen earlier on (a beautiful silver ring with a moonstone in the centre), and caught the shuttle back in time for our final meal.


And that was that. Perfect girly holiday in the Moroccan sun. What an experience. I would definitely feel safe to go back alone (just no souks on a Friday!!!), but I’d strongly have my wits about me, and would hugely prefer to go with a friend. I didn’t get to see the desert on this occasion, and would love to visit Fez, so I’ll definitely be back one day. Ahh, dreamy dreamy Marrakech. I fell in love with the architecture; you could definitely see why it’s becoming a little hot spot.

If you’re keen to see more snaps from my trip, they’re slowly making appearances on Instagram, which you can find here - @perfectlyclaudia …or if you’d like to know anything else about Marrakech please drop me a comment below!

Claudia xo




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2 comments

  1. First of all, I LOVE your pictures!
    Second; Ryanair can suck... the thing is that you have to read ALL of their rules and guidelines before - that will def save you money. Checking in at the airport always costs €50. It's stupid, but that's how they get compensated for their ridiculously cheap tickets.
    Anyway, aside for the bad Ryanair experience and not being able to check in when you arrived, it sounds like you had a nice time. I'd love to visit Marrakech, it looks so pretty. *-*

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    Replies
    1. Ahh thank you so so much!! <3

      Argh it's mad. I read the guidelines whilst we were in the queue and it was so misleading, and definitely didn't say how much they'd charge. Boooo! I've never experienced it with another airline. I'll check in online with everyone from now on haha.

      Ahh Marrakech really is so dreamy, and so unexpectedly clean! I loved it, and I'd definitely go back!

      Claudia xo

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