I recently spent 4 busy and exciting days in the capital city of Morocco, Marrakesh. I've always wanted to go, as with many places around the world, it was just finding the right time to visit. For a first time visitor, I was eager to see as much as possible whilst enjoying a new cultural experience. January - March is considered to be the low tourist season, this means cheaper prices for Riaids (traditional Moroccan guest houses) and less tourists, so there are better deals when purchasing souvenirs.
If you are a little worried about visiting this North African country, due to instability in that part of the world, you needn't worry. Morocco is safe, well, I certainly never felt unsafe, everyone was so friendly. There is a lot to do and I strongly recommend you purchase a city guide book, just to advise you what to expect and all the wonderful things to see. Here were some of my favourites and as you will see, I booked a number of excursions before I went. I would strongly recommend this, I've always done this as I want to ensure that my tour guide turns up!
1) Jeamaa El Fnaa - A trip to Marrakesh would not be complete without a visit to this famous, majestic bustling square. Whether it's for a day tour of Marrakesh (highly recommended), just to wander, observe the storytellers and soothsayers, a spot of shopping, or to see a large range of street food stalls, this is the best place to be. I visited Jeamaa El Fino square on three occasions, during a day tour, at night (highly recommended for the street food) and on my last day to spend the last of my Morrocan Dirahms, I was amazed on each occasion.
2) Go Camel Riding in the desert.
Ok, this may not be the first thing that people think of when visiting Marrakesh, but escape from the hustle and bustle with a morning or afternoon camel ride in the desert. Even better if you book a sunset camel ride tour where you get to sample Moroccan tea and pancakes with honey.
3) Marjorelle Garden (or Jardin marjoelle in Marrakesh) is one of the most visited sites in Marrakesh and rightly so. 40 years of intense passion by Jacques Marjoeelle, art deco inspiration, beautiful flowers and trees and bold colours. I was transported into tranquillity amongst the hustle and bustle. You must bring your camera and take the opportunity to make lots of photographs. The entry fee is around £5. If you have the time (which I did not, as my camel ride was in the afternoon), visit the museum which shows the history and fascinating facts of the gardens.
4) Take a trip to Atlas Mountains. Nestled around 1hr to 1.5 hr away from the hot and bustling Marrakesh, take a cooler and scenic route up the famous Atlas mountains. Marvel of the colour of the roads, take a camel ride, or watch the local women make the famous Argan oil. My cousin and I booked an excursion whereby we had lunch in a traditional Berber family and observed some of the most beautiful views.
5) Haggle Haggle Haggle, haggling and pick some wonderful souvenirs. Haggling is a way of life in Marrakesh. I loved the experience of battering and negotiating a price over many of the gorgeous souvenirs. The first price that they will offer will be ridiculous, but I had a method of dropping the asking price to half, then negotiating somewhere from the half to 75% of the asking price. Make sure you purchase one of the the gorgeous plates, tagines, nougats and of course pashminas to purchase for yourself or a family member.
For more fabulous things to do, take a look at the Morrocan tourism board website.