24 Hours in Marrakech

Marrakech: the Rose City, the Daughter of the Desert. Marrakech is in many ways the heart of Morocco. It has an undying sense of adventure and romance, lying as it does in the foothills of that Atlas with its sights trained on the desert beyond. From the hippies of the sixties to the current swathe of Hollywood greats, world-class footballers and superstar musicians, it has always attracted the fashionable and the bohemian. It is constantly changing and developing with new attractions like the YSL museum but at the same time the medina, ‘the old city’, remains the place where the spices, carpets, jewels and artefacts of Arabia and Africa jostle with each other to catch your eye in the mysterious alleyways that wind through the souk.

24 hours is, of course, a crazily short time to spend in a city with so much to see and do but with our Epic itinerary, we will cram a lifetime’s worth of new sensations into just one day.

Here is the Epic ‘Hit me with Marrakech’ in 24 hours suggestions:

See the city by side car

This is definitely a tour with a difference. We team up with Insiders to take you on a whizz round the old and new cities on a vintage motorbike with sidecar. The bikes were originally built in the 1940s and have been going strong ever since. You get a completely different perspective, and a close-up and personal view of the winding streets and alleyways, while feeling a bit like a star as the locals point and smile. We will take you to the places that you just can’t find alone: the back streets of the tanneries, the ancient irrigations systems of the Palmeraie, the biggest modern market in Marrakech as well as the highlights of the medina. We can provide both off the shelf and bespoke epic tours that last anything from 1.5 to 3 hours.

It’s a great way to pick up the vibe of the city and see some of the sites without tiring yourself out, and there are regular stops to point out aspects of interest from Jace street art in the medina, to the historic French quarter in the new town.

Taste the souk

Taking a guided food tour of the souk is a great way to experience the culture through some of the eating rituals and every day street foods of Marrakech.

Marrakech’s most famous dish is Tangia which is meat slow-cooked in an earthenware pot. What makes it really different is that the Tangia (the pot) is taken to a local hammam furnace or ‘furnatchi’ and cooked in the ashes. Svenge are donuts served hot out of the vat and covered in sugar you can get a punnet of baby ones or go for just one giant one, delicious dipped in honey or coated in sugar. There are also fat little sausages squished into fresh bread, and for vegetarians, an egg sandwich which we guarantee will be the best you ever tasted. If you’re vegan, there is a dish of lentils cooked in garlic and if you are brave you can add some tripe onto the top of that. We will take you round to sample all the best dishes at all the places where the Marrakchis go and of course we will always stop off for a mint tea, super-strong black coffee or fresh orange juice according to what you fancy.

Hit the shops

The souk in the medina is stuffed with every kind of Moroccan handicraft you can imagine and a Christmas shopping trip here is a joy but Marrakech has also become an international design centre with European designers harnessing the skills and history of artisanship in Morocco and giving it their own spin. Epic can tailor a visit that includes stop-offs at some of the best quality designers, from the prolific French designer LRNCE, current darling of Vogue, to the more established and still growing Max and Jan and a number of concept stores such as 33 Majorelle which host a variety of good quality designers. Not forgetting of course Mustapha Blaoui who can ship almost anything you need for home interiors.

If there is something more specific you are after, our guides are sure to find it for you from the host of spice stalls, music shops, craft markets, leather and textile souks. It’s very important to know that our guides do NOT take commission and will also help you with prices so you won’t be ripped off and there is never any pressure to buy.

Take in some history

With 24 hours in Marrakech it is impossible to see all the sites in any level of detail, so we recommend visiting the Kasbah to enjoy sites relating to the Saadian Dynasty like the magnificent Saadian tombs and El Badi Palace. You should check out the new YSL Museum to get a context for the influence of Yves Saint Laurent has had on the city and how it, in turn, inspired him. The Majorelle Gardens next door are also pretty but they can be full of people so with just 24 hours you might want to put it on the list to visit next time.

El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace (literally Palace of Wonder) was built at the end of the 16th Century, by a Saadian Dynasty Sultan to celebrate his victory over the Portuguese army in 1578 in the Battle of the Three Kings. The ransom from the Portuguese to get their prisoners back after the battle paid for it. It is a fine example of the awesome scale of some of the palaces of the time. We are not the only ones who like it as Dior recently chose it as the venue for the house’s jaw dropping African inspired ‘Cruise Collection’ show.

The Saadian Tombs

Built alongside an 11th century mosque (the oldest in Marrakech) in the Kasbah region, the tombs are lavish memorials to family members and associates created in Italian Marble, gold and local zelig tile work.

YSL Museum

This is a stylishly-designed, inviting museum with great exhibits for those interested in style, fashion and the man himself. With advance notice you can visit the Pierre Berger library which is full of the things that inspired Yves St Laurent when he was designing his jewellery and body pieces that borrowed heavily from Berber Tribal jewellery.

It’s e-scent-ial 

We can never resist a good pun. As well as the sights and sounds, there is a third dimension, the scents of Marrakech and one of the really special things we can offer you is to create your very own perfume using all the different essences produced here: jasmine, orange blossom, sandalwood. You’ll come back from the trip with something that is uniquely your own.

Have a hammam

After all that rushing around, we think you deserve to relax, so set aside a couple of hours to have a traditional Moroccan steam bath and argan oil scrub in a hammam. The hammam is a throwback to the time that most people would not have running water in their homes so would go to the hammam once a week to have a really good scrub. For Moroccans it is often a social occasion with men and women going (separately!) with their friends to spend time catching up on all the news as well as getting clean. You will come out feeling super soft and ready for the evening ahead.

Watch the sun set at Café de France

Jema el Fna, the central square of Marrakech, is a chaotic, colourful, cacophony of noise and sights. This is where you come to get your hands hennaed, check out the acrobats, buy a set of human false teeth (we aren’t kidding) or best of all sit on the roof terrace of Café de France and just take it all in.

Café de France is the oldest classic coffee spot in the square, mentioned in many of the literature you read about the city such as Peter Mayne’s ‘A Year in Marrakech’ whilst sitting outside or on the terrace. You can eavesdrop on the Moroccan hipsters planning their next film project or buy an African shirt from one of the Senegalese sellers who wander in.

The sun setting over the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is always magnificent and the picture opportunities are endless, especially as the smoke from the open-air food stalls starts to rise.

After you have watched the sun set, go over to the stalls for a quick snack of spicy snail soup and try your hand at fishing for fanta bottles or throwing the ring over the can to win a prize. This is where all the Moroccans bring their kids out for an evening in the holidays and it is always full of life.

One thing we don’t recommend, however, is that you pose for a picture with the snake charmers and monkey handlers in the square, they can be quite aggressive with the need for money in exchange for photos and, well, we’re not so keen on using animals for entertainment generally.

Listen to stories over dinner

When you are in the square you will see knots of people gathered around someone telling a story, often with drums or string instruments to accompany them. These are the famed traditional storytellers of Marrakech who weave tales of wonder about the brave warriors and beautiful princesses of days gone by. It’s great to watch but unless you speak fluent Moroccan Arabic, you’ll find yourself a bit lost. But, don’t worry, we have the solution. We can organize a storytelling evening in your riad where we will bring a story teller to you who can tell you his amazing tales in your own language. Our storytellers are young Moroccans who have learnt the craft from masters and want to keep the traditions and the old stories many of which are not written down going.

Experience Marrakech night-life

While alcohol is hard to come by in the medina, there are options for those who want to enjoy a luxurious drink or two in the new town and bars in the city can be open until 1 or 2pm with clubs providing entertainment going on longer.

One of our favorites is the speak-easy style underground bar Barometre whose founders have created an awesome cocktail menu capable of taking on any high-end trendsetting bar in London or New York. Specialising in the art and theatre of cocktail making they have also produced their own barware including a terracotta container for their exotic, spicey and heady Marrakech-inspired cocktail. You can also dine at Barometre.

If you want to go clubbing then there is the club strip, including big venues such as Pacha’s, just outside the ramparts next to the Menara Mall. There are also music festivals held at venues around the town such as the Oasis music festival. We can put together a list of what’s going on when you’re in the country if music and dancing is your bag, including both modern and local, more traditional music events and venues.

Where to start?

There are so many things to do and see here both within and without the medina walls, your 24 hours will be just that – designed for you, with your interests and tastes in mind. But you will never fail to have a busy day if you want it. We can also design visits around special interest areas such as art, architecture, food, design, fashion or outdoor adventure – we’ve pulled many bespoke trips together for different groups.

Background reading:

Before you come, you might want to check out the many books written about the city.

Friend of Epic; Alice Morrison’s ‘My 1001 Nights’ gives a colourful view of a personal experience in the country and actually features people you might meet or talk to during your epic trip, or if you want to travel back in time… ‘A Year in Marrakech’ by Peter Mayne depicts the city in the 1950’s, and Esther Freud’s ‘Hideous Kinky’ brings to life the spiritual exploration of the 60’s and 70’s in a story about a bohemian mother voyaging to Morocco on a search for spiritual enlightenment through Sufism with her two English daughters in tow.

Enjoy!

For more information on how to make the most of your time in Marrakech within an epic designed trip, contact us at info@epic.travel