Before I get into this. Do yourself a favour and ignore anything bad or negative you may have read about Marrakesh previously. Honestly, it was without a doubt one of my favourite holiday destinations and I would go back in a heart beat. If you just take a little time to educate yourself a little bit before you go, make sure you pack the right clothes and know what to expect. You will have the most enjoyable holiday ever!
I’m going to split this post into two, other wise it might be the length of a Harry Potter book by the time I’ve finished. If all you’re interested in is the Scarebo Camp, desert experience you can click the hyper link which will take you straight to that post. But please stay and read both. I’ll love you forever if you did.
Hotel vs Riad
I’m sure if you’ve looked into Marrakesh you have seen yourself the abundance of hotels and Riad’s to choose from. We personally opted for a hotel, because let’s face it, when we have 40 degree weather, we want to make sure there is plenty of swimming pool to go around! Also, our holiday lasted eight nights, which was a lovely amount of time to spend in the hotel as our room (if you can even call it a room) was massive. A Riad would be the perfect choice if you wanted something a little smaller, more boutique and very traditional.
We stayed in Es Saadi Palace, which is one of four accommodation options within the Es Saadi grounds. You have the hotel, the Palace, the Ksar’s and the Villa’s. So there is literally an accommodation option for everyone. The Palace and the grounds were stunning. The Palace itself hosts a huge lagoon pool, swim up bar, gym/fitness centre, spa and a huge choice of food and drink.
We were amazingly lucky to receive an upgrade from the Junior Suite which we had booked to a beautiful top floor Corner Suite. The photos and videos of the room do not do it justice. From the stunning view (above), to the two sun terraces and not to mention a bathroom of dreams!!
The main terrace was the perfect spot for catching the last bit of the sun before it set, or just looking out watching the world go by. With the Koutoubia Mosque to the right and the pool, hotel grounds to the left, and everything else in between this was probably one of my favourite places to sit.
Food – All the Food!
We booked our stay on a bed and breakfast board basis, which was the only dining option. The breakfast choice was lovely, with fresh local pastries, eggs to order, fruit, smoothies, juices, shakes, and hot food selection. I got very excited when I saw they offered chocolate soy milk. Very happy Nicolle!
We dined in every available restaurant in the Palace (maybe one more than once), as well as some local restaurants and even went to a Riad to make sure we experienced it all. I cannot fault any of the food we had in house, and out. It was all beautiful. I’m quite surprised I didn’t come back to the UK looking like a lamb shank or tagine!!
Al fresco dining in Othello within Es Saadi Palace. You wouldn’t think you were sat only steps away from reception in a little hidden outside courtyard!
A special mention has to go to the La Cour Des Lions on the top level of the Palace, with the same incredible views, and food that would make you forget about any bad meal you’ve ever had. The lamb shank was so special, we ate it twice and enjoyed every single bite.
Might be worth noting if you see it on a menu, don’t be brave and try “Jben in a Cup”… This was in theory (to make it English) is cream cheese, with honey and almond butter. Yeah, bit weird and certainly not to my chocolate sweet tooth taste.
Upon recommendation we visited the Riad Palais Sebban for dinner, and we were not disappointed. It was located in the heart of the Medina, in the middle of the Souks (we will get onto navigating around them a little later). I didn’t really know what to expect, especially when we saw the entrance door, it was tiny, in the middle of a thin allay way next to a few houses, and I thought to myself “there is no way there is a hotel inside here!” Boy was I wrong. After we walked for a good 3/4 minutes through winding corridors, through more doors, up stairs… down stairs. We were greeted by the most beautiful courtyard, filled with tables, a plunge pool and a cute little man playing an Oud.
We were seated and handed a menu. But after a few minutes the waiter came over and explained to us that there is a dish on the menu, a slow cooked lamb number, that you have to order 24 hours in advance because it is cooked for so long, they need advanced warning. Luckily for us a lady who had ordered it the night before had become unwell and wasn’t able to eat it, (not so lucky for her, but we spoke to her and she was just thankful that she didn’t have to pay out for this big lump of meat that she couldn’t eat!). So the waiter offered it to us, and of course we snapped it right up.
If you get a chance to stay here, or even visit for a meal, that is a must do to pre-order and enjoy. It was honestly delicious!! (It really might not look like much, it’s quite hard to make a shoulder of lamb look fancy, but please if you take anything away from this today, order order order!!)
After the meal we went for a wander around the Riad to see what staying in one might be like. It was lovely, very intricate detail, traditional Moroccan decoration and something different to look at on every floor, with every twist and turn. The top floor hosted an array of chairs, sun beds, swing chairs and day beds. Perfect for sunbathing in the heat, but to cool down you would have to walk down a few floors to get to the pool. The views over the city were stunning, even in the dark!
As usual I researched a lot of places before we flew, and there was one place I found on Instagram that I thought we just had to visit. Firstly because of just how Instagram-able it looked, secondly it had really good reviews. Again, in the middle of the Souk, luckily this one was sign posted (kind of). Cafe Nomad, is one of the best spots to view the sunset, with inside and outside dining, stunning views over the Souks and lovely traditional Moroccan/Arabic food. This does get really busy, especially if you are hoping for an outside seat. So I really would recommend booking in advance if you can. They also have lots of little hats laying around so it certainly is the perfect spot for a pose or two!
Let’s talk Souks, Medina’s and What to Wear?!
So i’m sure if you’re planning a trip to Marrakesh you’ve already read all sorts about what not to wear, what to say, what to do if someone approaches you. So to cut down the reading I thought I would just do some Top Tips to make sure you have the best time ever.
- Dress appropriately. This is a given really, you are going to a Muslim Country. So keep your skimpy bikini for around the pool. Making sure shoulders and above the knee’s are covered when you go exploring and you won’t get the unwanted attention you’re all worried about. (Basically raid Zara!!)
- Learn to say “No Thank You” in Arabic. I personally didn’t feel threatened by the men in the Souks, I don’t think they were interested in me at all. All they care about is making a sale. So if you really aren’t interested a simple “La, Shukran”, goes a long way. They soon move onto the next person.
- Embrace the Souks, learn to get lost. Just remember to re-trace your steps. Basically don’t trust the signs, you’ll end up walking into a brick wall. We pretty much followed our nose and we worked it out well enough. You can kind of get your bearings to an extent on Google Maps, but just have fun with it and you’ll soon realise you’re back exactly where you started.
- Get yourself a fresh juice from one of the many, many juice stands in the Square. They will all want your business, they will all offer free samples, so if you wanted to play them a little bit, you probably could. Two juices and a bottle of water came to a mere £2.80. Bargain!!
- If someone offers you directions. They’re not just being nice!! I read this before, and I’m glad I did. We had one person approach us on a bike and tell us “The Square is this way, follow me”. Again. Be polite and refuse, you may need to do this more than once, but they soon get the idea. We also had someone tell us they worked in our hotel, to make sure I held onto my bag and that we needed to buy Argan Oil… I’m still not 100% sure what he wanted out of us, as he was super polite and just walked off. But i’m pretty sure he wasn’t from the hotel. Basically, if someone offers you directions and you take them, they will want money from you.
- Treat yourself to a spa treatment or two. You’re in the right place for it. Many hotels offer day pass access to their spa’s and health clubs, and many Riad’s offer spa services. We we’re lucky enough to have this incredible Spa in Es Saadi Palace. Again, perfect photo opt!
- Lay it on Factor 50 Thick!! The sun is HOT, enjoy it around the pool or in your Riad. But remember you’re in Africa, make sure you think about your sun cream application. (Just an excuse to post pool and bikini photos really!!)
- SCAREBO CAMP. – That is all!
For more photos and videos, remember to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to the blog to be the first to hear when I upload.