Home / Travel / Morocco / Souks, Spices, and Marrakech | How to Explore Morocco’s Red City

I had saved Marrakech for later. To me, it felt like an advanced destination – suited to skilful travellers who know exactly what they are doing. The more I reflect, the more I see how wrong that assumption was.

I had bundled Morocco away with the likes of Japan and India for quite some time – a place not dangerous or in the midst of war, but somewhere that might pose a unique set of challenges. Having now visited all three countries with a difficulty rating of high in my mind, I can comfortably let you know they were all awesome and I held off in my earlier travel years for absolutely nothing.

Marrakech charmed me, and although I spent over a month exploring Morocco, I only had a few days in Marrakech and I would gladly return for longer next time.

“I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.”
Tahir Shah, Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

First impressions

You’re going the wrong way they chorused, almost in unison.

Those words are how Marrakech began, continued, and ended. It seems to be the most common scam in town, and it’s no wonder it’s caught on with just how snaking and complex the windy medina is. Many a tourist is lost here, so it makes sense to help them find their way back – for a fee, of course.

Thankfully I managed to make it through the trip without getting lost, however I had endless offers from all around to help me find my way. It’s a good idea to get good at finding your way around based on landmarks, and the wonderful riad I stayed with even provided all guests a small mobile phone to call back for a ride home from wherever in the medina they loose themselves in.

Old town Marrakech is alive with the hum of the medina, bustling souks and enthusiastic restaurateurs in abundance. It’s fragrant with spices and sizzling tagines, there’s so much vibrance and colour. Every alleyway feels like a new mystery, and immediately I was in love.

Is it Marrakech or Marrakesh?

You’ll find this city called Marrakech and Marrakesh – because both are correct. In English the Marrakesh spelling is more commonly used, and Marrakech is the French spelling (and Morocco is a French speaking nation)

But the real answer? Either is correct! So feel free to go with whichever you prefer.

When to Visit Marrakech

There isn’t a bad time to visit, however it depends how hot you like it. Generally speaking, the shoulder seasons are perfect for scoring a good price on a hotel, and moderate weather – for that aim to visit between March and May or between September and November.

What did I do? Well, I went in August. Being peak summertime it was undeniably hot – but, I like that in a place. It is also a busy time, and lots of rooms are booked and rates go up.

Next time, I will be aiming for a springtime visit from March until May where I hear the red city bursts into blossom and the temperature is comfortably warm with occasional showers. Sounds like paradise!

What to do while you’re here

Without even doing anything in particular, Marrakech is a brilliant city to explore by foot. The old city medina area feels like you’ve been transported back in time, and there’s no shortage of delicious smells and beautiful architecture to admire.

  • Devour a rooftop dinner Even better, do it at sunset whilst you can hear the melodic Maghrib prayer blanketing the city. There are so many different roof top restaurants knitted throughout the medina, with staircase entrances that are easy to miss. Some great spots with rooftop terraces are Café Caravane, Kui-Zin, and Terrasse Bakchich.
  • Stroll around Jemaa el-Fnaa the main square of central Marrakesh.
  • Barter, bargain and buy at the grand souk It’s like dropping right into Aladdin, magical some of the popular handicrafts & wares include colourful lamps, ornate silver tea pots with brightly coloured tea glasses, traditional tagines, spices, baskets, and the infamous rugs.
  • Enjoy (or endure) a hammam 

If you only eat 5 dishes in Marrakech…

Morocco is amazing for food, made especially magical by the abundant use of spices in everything. Saffron, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger make every dish fragrant and colourful. There are so many things worth trying, and usually never enough time to try them all! If you only have time for a handful of the most classic and delicious offerings, make sure to taste:

  1. Tagine. A key ingredient
  2. Couscous (on Fridays)
  3. Bastilla
  4. Kefta Mkoura spiced ground lamb (or sometimes beef) rolled into meatballs, sizzled over flame and cooked in a rich tomato sauce and finished with gently poached eggs nestled on top. Perfect with a hunk of fresh bread, and found just about anywhere that dishes up Moroccan food in town.
  5. Mint tea. To be fair, it’s not a dish. But Moroccan mint tea is delicious and a staple part of the food, culture, and hospitality of the country.

Where did I stay?

Marrakech is home to a seemingly endless number of magical, dreamy riads and hotels. I stayed at Riad Romance where my time couldn’t have been more idyllic and lovely. Every detail was considered, the hosts were so kind and welcoming, the mint tea flowed, and the chef made the most magical of private dinner for us on the rooftop at sunset.

🌿

This is a budding post, It's a work in progress

Notice anything missing? This is a budding post, which means although it's mostly complete, I'm still dropping in and working on it. I believe in learning in public, and releasing my thoughts, notes & ideas before they are finished is a part of the process. You can read more about seedling, budding, and evergreen posts here, or give me a nudge if there's anything you'd like me to add.

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