Marrakech: 7 Things You Need To Experience
From scaling the Atlas Mountains to attending the Marrakech International Film Festival, here are 7 things you need to do in and around Marrakech...
If we learnt anything during our 72 hours in Marrakech, it's to expect the unexpected.
Located in northwest Africa, and just a three-hour flight from London, Marrakech is an exhilarating city teeming with beautiful buildings, stunning food, and a lot of friendly people that are more than happy to help with your life ails, no matter how random (more on that later).
We can't recommend a visit enough - so grab yourself a ticket, and read up on these seven essential things you need to do in and around the city…
Visit The Serene, Surprisingly Fashionable Jardin Majorelle
One of Marrakech’s most-visited sites, Jardin Majorelle is a 12-acre botanical garden located in the heart of the city. It’s famous for its owner, the late fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent.
Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé saved the garden and its villa from becoming real estate in the 80s, and went about restoring the garden into the striking place it still is today.
During their time there, Saint Laurent and Bergé hosted garden parties – and geese – inside the grounds. (Hopefully those two ingredients didn’t mix. Drunken geese? Lethal.)
But what’s actually in Jardin Majorelle? Well, it features a collection of brilliant plants from the world over – and many, many, many cacti – as well as a large reflecting pool that plays host to water lilies, and is neighbour to terracotta pots. It’s a peaceful chill-out spot. Perfect if you want a change of pace from the bustling souks.
Journey Up The Atlas Mountains In 4x4s
Located just an hour or two from Marrakech, The Atlas Mountains span over 2500km of north-western Africa, stretching across Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. It’s also home to Morocco’s ski resort, Oukaimeden. (Yep, Morocco has a SKI RESORT.)
During the trip, MTV jumped in a pair of 4x4s and drove into the heavens.
The views were incredible.
Eat As Much Food As Possible
During our trip up the Atlas Mountains, we stopped off in two villages. Here we were shown around traditional Berber homes, where the local people cooked up some of their traditional cuisine, including tajine, couscous and more.
One of the Berber houses was perched on the mountainside, and because there wasn’t enough space for the people to build a stable nearby, they built the stable inside their home - and, straight across the hall from the bedrooms, were two merrily mooing cows.
Later on, when we were eating bread with butter, olive oil and honey, we were told that the butter had come from the cows living in the house. Which is amazing.
Just imagine the problems those cows can solve: want to eat your morning cereal, but you’re all out of milk? Don't worry, there are literally milk machines downstairs.
Explore The Souks
If you visit Marrakech, you have to journey into its bustling, chaotic, world-famous souks. There are carpets, clothes, and even this 100% legit Louis Vuitton rugby ball. *cough*
There are musical instruments, too, including gimbris.
A gimbri is a Moroccan plucked lute with three strings. They come in various shapes and sizes, but we think we bought a pretty cheap one. MTV haggled it down from 100 dirham (£8) to 40 dirham (£3), which we thought was a decent price. (Have we actually been mugged off?)
As it turns out, gimbris are pretty popular with Moroccan people. Everywhere MTV went, people wanted us to (attempt to) play. Some wanted to pluck it themselves, and one particularly friendly man even tuned it for us, and then started playing. Watch him below.
No, we have no idea why that random dude from around the corner started singing ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ either. Maybe because it’s a karaoke classic? Who knows. (That dude knows.)
Check out Marrakech’s incredible buildings
Marrakech is heaving with incredible buildings, such as the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech.
Good fact: a white flag is hung from the building at times of prayer, so that the deaf know when to pray. Inclusive.
We also visited Bahia (which means “brilliant”) Palace, where the Sultan housed his concubines during the 19th century. There were 24 extra bedrooms for those women, who held a lower status in society to the Sultan’s four legal wives.
Also, there were public bakeries. If you’re familiar with these already, please skip the next paragraph.
This might make us sound a bit ignorant, but it was the first time we’d seen a public bakery, and it’s actually kind of amazing: children bring their bread boards to the bakery on the way to school, leave them there, and then pick up their fresh bread up on the way home hours later. Isn't that great?
Side note: here's a lady who's clearly a bit fed up of tourists (like us) taking photos when she's just trying to do her bloody job.
Check Out The Marrakech International Film Festival
Founded in 2001 and held annually, the Marrakech International Film Festival ranks amongst the world's best film festivals.
Paul Verhoeven, director of Robocop (1987) and Basic Instinct (1992), had brought his latest film, Elle, to the festival. Starring Isabelle Huppert in a role she eventually received an Oscar nom for, Verhoeven spoke about his new flick, and contrasted it against his earlier works.
Interesting nugget from the masterclass: Verhoeven spoke about how much filming practices had changed over the years. For example, when filming a famous scene in Basic Instinct, the crew had to wait hours and hours for the sun to reach the right level, so that it would illuminate Sharon Stone’s face at the perfect moment. If Basic Instinct had been made in 2017, that effect could be added in digitally with ease. As Verhoeven told us, this means that, nowadays, that natural part of filmmaking has been lost.
Pick the right place to stay
Just a short ride from the airport and the centre of Marrakech, Mövenpick Mansour Eddahbi is in a prime location. With a heated pool, spa (professional masseuses are available) and jacuzzi all onsite, it's never a challenge to relax after a hectic day in the city centre, playing your gimbri. Most importantly, the hotel has a chocolate hour. Every day.
MTV Travelled With... Rooms at the upscale Mövenpick Hotel Mansour Eddahbi Marrakech start from €125 per night based on two sharing, including breakfast and taxes. For reservations visit www.movenpick.com or call tel: 0800 898 317. easyJet flies to Marrakech, from London Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester with fares from £31.99 one way, including taxes. Flights can be booked now at easyJet.com. Complete Tours offer a variety of excursions in Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. For more information, visit www.complete-tours.com