January, one of my favourite months. Blue skies, crisp mornings, beautiful sunrises/sunsets, starry skies. It's my "take it easy" month and without all the hype we read about in the press and social, it is a good reset month. For me that means catching up with all the boring house jobs I've been putting off and far more importantly all the film and box sets I've been wanting to watch.
January is a great month to travel. Last year I visited beautiful Florence in January and Venice in February. The weather was beautiful and there were very few tourists. I'll come back to both another time but suffice to say January is a great time to visit European cities that in summer are typically heaving.
For now let's talk all things Morroco. My love affair with Morocco started when we launched the personalised baskets and sourced many of our early designs in Souks of Marrakech. I remember my first trip to Marrakech. I travelled with Mum and both of us walked in eyes wide closed. So, from experience, a little housekeeping....
1. It's chaotic and can be very crowded. Be prepared.
2. Don't trust any man (women rarely engage) that offers advise or help without being asked and more importantly if you ask for help be prepared to tip.
3. Barter even when they say it's their best price.
4. Avoid eye contact or engagement with salesmen unless you are serious about buying.
5. Buy a SIM card when you arrive at the airport. Many kiosks in the arrivals hall. It's cheap, around £3 (have cash for this as they don't accept card) and worth every penny as data runs out so fast with so many UK providers. You may need your phone navigation.
6. The Medina is very easy to get lost in. From experience, all roads lead to the square. Jemaa -El- Fnaa. I would suggest you start and finish your souk visit there.
7. Jemaa-El_Fenn is buzzing and great fun BUT do not hold the monkeys or snakes if invited. They make it seem like they are gifting you and then demand payment and it can be vey uncomfortable.
8. Engage with the locals, even with a smile. They are really friendly.
9. Do not walk in the Medina late at night alone - it's dark and not easy to navigate in the dark.
10. Do not drink the tap water.
11. Print boarding passes on departure. They do not have the facility to scan from phones.
12. Departures can be busy, leave time to get through security and passport control.
With that sorted, let's discuss where to stay. I have stayed in Riad's and Hotels. I often travel alone and before getting to know Marrakech I found staying in hotels safer as I wasn't confident walking in the Medina at night - mostly fear of getting lost. I should say Marrakech feels pretty safe so don't be alarmed. Today I I much prefer to stay in a Riad however there are masses of excellent hotels. Most of the luxury chains have hotels Marrakech. My suggestions would be:
Mandarin Oriental, La Mamounia, Royal Mansour, Four Seasons, Sofitel.
My favourite, to date, is El Fenn. It is owned by Vanessa Branson, sister of Richard and is UNSPEAKABLY chic. https://el-fenn.com The shop is wonderful, the roof top bar and lunch an absolute must.
Riad's are hidden away. The thrill and amazement as you walk down dark alleys, all doors looking the same and you get to the door of your chosen Riad, the doors open and you'll be amazed at the beautiful spaces. Each one different, each one with its own character. You'll be utterly blown away. My favourites, all differing budgets:
Riad Olema & Spa https://www.riadolema-spa.com Small, clean, lovely staff. I've stayed here a few times and would definitely recommend.
Riad Abracadabra https://www.riadabracadabra.com They also have a country hotel which looks beautiful and is 20 mins outside the city - Casa Abracadabra https://casaabracadabra.com/en/ I just stayed here and it was very excellent.
La Sultana - very beautiful https://www.lasultanahotels.com/marrakech Very beautiful and regarded as one of the high end properties.
One to "watch this space", Riad Izza - opening late spring. I visited last week and it is exceptional. Very very unique. Much of the design inspired by the legendary Bill Willis https://www.billwillis.com More about Riad Izza another time. It lends itself to its own blog post. Follow on instagram for updates on the opening @izzamarrakech
Beldi Country Club, about 15 mins outside and it is very special. I stayed there just as they open post Covid and I had a disappointing stay however I think it might just have been the time I stayed. I have gone back since for lunch and it was wonderful. Good shopping also. https://beldicountryclub.com
Jnane Tamsna A stunning Boutique Hotel about 20 mins outside Marrakech is amazing and an idea might be to do a a few nights in the centre and then escape to one of the hotels on the outskirts https://www.jnanetamsna.com
To save time, this Times feature is very good!
I should also add, there are some great tours you can take. Hot air balloon trips, Atlas Mountains, Lunch in the dessert. Day trips to other cities by train. I did a day trip to Casablanca which was really interesting.
A few years ago we did a shoot in Essouria on the coast - again beautiful and well work a visit.
I hope you find this useful. Do ask if you have any questions.
Lots of Love!