Risqué Business in Marrakesh
When I arrived in London in October after 6 months of travelling, I was extremely “skint” yet still determined to get away for Christmas. There were multiple places that would have made the perfect typical European white Christmas. All these charming European countries right on my door step – and I ended up in Morocco.
We flew with Ryanair and they annoyingly and purposely sit you separately if you don’t pay the extra money for seating. The 3.5-hour flight from London to Marrakesh seemed to drag on and so did the customs line.
We finally made it out of the airport and realised that our arranged driver was not there, again. We walked around for about half an hour, trying to find wifi or someone who could help. We then started chatting to an American couple who had the same trouble. They ended up finding their driver. So we started chatting to their driver and he had a friend, a local guy who offered to take us to our hotel, so we agreed on a price of 150 dirham (12 GBP) and we jumped into this random bloke’s car (sorry mum).
We arrived at our hotel, Adam Park Hotel and Spa ($100 AUD p/n) which was situated about a 15 minute drive from the airport and the medina (the old town). We were obviously fairly annoyed that our arranged transfer hadn’t showed up; they were very quick to blame booking.com for the mistake, saying they had not forwarded the information from us to them. I had later found out that the hotel just didn’t sort out the transfer.
We chucked our bags in our room and headed down the road to suss out some dinner. The streets are so clean and everything is really modern. We arrive at a shopping centre, which is pretty much a small Westfields, and we were so shocked. We did not expect Morocco to be like this at all. We had a feed and headed home for an early night.
The next day, we were up early and it’s a glorious morning. There’s also something bright, warm and round in the sky, something that we have not seen in months being in the UK – the sun, and it’s freaking delightful!
After breakfast, we grab a taxi to the Es Saadi resort and Spa. This hotel is unbelievable. We head to the spa and are told that the entry fee is a ridiculous 400 dirham per person (90 GBP/$138 AUD). I somehow manage to bullshit my way into free entry to use the pool just for a “few minutes,” which ended up being about 45 minutes. We relax, grab some pictures, have a swim, then head out stoked with an extra £180 still in our pockets.
From the spa we walked into the medina, with a few sneak peaks into high-end shops along the way. The medina is bustling, with everything from snake charmers, to monkeys, to fake designer items with the call of prayer echoing over the whole place and the smell of delicious foods wafting in the air. Absolute mayhem but such a good vibe.
We spent the afternoon exploring the local souks. I was delighted when we wandered reluctantly down a quiet, dingy street and found a whole market place dedicated to cane woven bags. I contained my excitement and narrowed it down to just one bag. The owner drove a hard bargain but I haggled and agreed on a price of 80 dirhams (15 GBP/27 AUD) .
We kept shopping until Tom got hangry, so we popped up to the roof top of Souk Kafe for our first Moroccan tagine. Tagine is the local dish, which usually consists of slow cooked meat and veggies in a handmade clay dish.
After lunch we spent some more time searching the souks for treasures; then once again Tom got hangry, so we stopped at a restaurant for dinner with the menu consisting of tagine and couscous. After dinner, we headed to our new hotel to meet our tour leader and group. We spent the next 10 days travelling around Morocco.
After 9 days on our tour, we arrived back in Marrakesh for our last night of our tour. They had arranged a formal dinner at our hotel, the Zalagh Kasbah hotel and spa, for New Years Eve. We spent the start of the night drinking bottles of wine and vodka that we snuck into the venue because the drinks were so expensive. Just before midnight we went back to one of the rooms and brought in the New Year on the balcony in our hotel.
After a few (maybe a lot more) drinks, we decided that it was a good idea to go skinny dipping in the huge hotel pool. Let me tell you, swimming naked at 3AM in the middle of winter isn’t as fun as it sounds; it was bloody freezing. We definitely got some looks running naked back to our rooms from the local ladies, who have nothing but their eyes showing… again, not a great idea.
The next morning, we woke up nursing a hangover and only did what any sane person does when they’re hungover – packed our bags and got a taxi to KFC. Unfortunately this KFC didn’t hit the spot. I’m slightly concerned that I may have eaten dog or camel but I was actually just happy we ate something other than tagine or couscous.
We dragged our sorry selves 20 minutes from the medina to our next hotel.
Tom had got excited and booked us in to stay at one of the nicest riads in Marrakesh without worrying about the price. We followed our Google Maps down a small, dull alley way to find the entrance to our riad, Palacio De Las Especias.
We walk in to this little oasis with a plunge pool and bean bags, where we are greeted with mint tea and freshly baked biscuits. We spend the afternoon, relaxing and reading on the roof top and in our room, which has a quaint day bed.
The next morning we slowly made our way out of bed, thankful that we’re not being rushed by a tour guide. We had the best spread for breakfast, with coffee, fresh juice, chocolate croissants, and fruits, all splayed to next to the pool.
After breakfast, we headed into the medina for again. This time when we got there, it was the busiest it had been, there were lots of police and these teenage boys following us around eyeing off my bag. It all felt a little overwhelming today. We stopped to look the snake charmers and within a second I had a snake around my neck, while another snake charmer, literally came running up behind me and threw his snake on me demanding money. We had some lunch, you guessed it, tagine and couscous and headed back to the tranquility of our little riad.
No trip to Morocco would be complete without a traditional hammam massage. Trip Advisor advice lead us to the Mythic Oriental Spa. We walked along the main road until we reached the street it was on, a creepy, dirty road. This went against everything my mind was telling me to do but we walked down there anyway. We turned the corner and there were kids playing soccer and as soon as they saw us they turned into beggars. Following us, pulling our arms and clothes; no matter what we said or did, they wouldn’t leave. They followed us down the skinny alley way until we saw a small light at the door way and a sign at the top for the spa, thank god!!
We were greeted with mint tea and asked to change into our robes. We had no idea what we were getting into, we didn’t know what a hammam was, except that we would get a massage at the end.
The massage therapist who spoke very little English lead us into the steam room and sat us down.
From about four feet away, she threw bucket after bucket of hot water on us. This went on for about 5 minutes; she then rolled us over and scrubbed our whole body. Then she threw another round of water over us, pointed at the ground with a simple “lay” and left the room.
We laid there for around 15 minutes. At this point, it’s really hot and not enjoyable anymore; we’re both bored out of our brains. Finally the therapist comes in, takes our hands, and leads us to another steam room where she throws more hot water over us. I can’t help but imagine this is how my dog feels when she gets bathed.
In the next room we’re asked to dry off as it’s time for our massage. I wouldn’t really call this a massage, its more a light rubdown over your whole body – and I mean whole body. The masseuse rubs the top of my thighs and even my boobs. We finish with another mint tea, get dressed, and walk back out onto the dark street. It was definitely an experience and I’m glad we did it; my skin feels great but I don’t think I would go out of my way again to get another hamman in my lifetime.
We finish our night with a chicken shawarma. We buy some extra food for a lady and her young daughter who were asleep in the alleyway. We head to bed, ready for our flight back to London in the morning.
The riad staff have a packed picnic breakfast ready for us in the morning and we jump in a taxi to the airport for 100 dirhams (7 GBP/13 AUD).
We had already checked in for our flight online but were sent back to the counter to get a stamp of approval to get into the departures section. This whole process takes around an hour and we have to show our passport seven times, so I’m really glad we left with plenty of time to make our flight.
This trip had a few ups and downs as most trips do but I enjoyed the lively atmosphere of Marrakesh. The culture and vibrance of the local people made the trip what it was. We ended up spending 300 GBP (528 AUD) per person which covered mainly food, goodies, and the little bit of alcohol when we could find it. Tom also forked out the 400 GBP (705 AUD) for two nights in our amazing riad.
In total our trip with flights, all accommodation, spending money and tour came to 1,925 GBP (3,389 AUD) for two people – a lot more than we wanted to spend but money well spent!
Until my next adventure…..
A version of this post was originally published on Ellyse’s blog. The tour company was Travel Talk Tours, which is not associated with Travltalk or Travltalking.