I’m freshly home from the most magical week in Marrakesh, a wonderful city that overloaded my senses and ignited my imagination. I wanted to share my experiences there with you, because to be completely honest I’m not the bravest traveller. Sometimes my Instagram gives people the impression that I’m well travelled, boldly going forth with my camera to discover the far reaches of the world. This is the me of my dreams, but it’s not the truth! I am the girl who misses flights (here), leaves her passport in the loos in the airport (yep!), is terrible at attempting other languages, and is in fact only just coming to terms with ordering my own coffee in London! The words “boo and “goose” would quite possibly be used in the same sentence as me.
Although I’m no stranger to foreign holidays, I was not amongst my many friends who left school/university and travelled for a year at least. I always chose work. I chose paying rent, and saving for deposits… I always felt the need to get on rather than allow real life stand still. I had itchy feet in different way I suppose, and it paid off for me in that I achieved many of my life goals relatively young. I always wistfully reassured myself one day my time would come with travelling. I never expected it to be like this, or that photography and Instagram would offer me this amazing window of opportunity – but here it is and 2017 has got off to an amazing start.
This February we travelled to Morocco in collaboration with Club Med, and stayed in the beautiful La Palmeraie resort which is a 10 minute drive from the city of Marrakesh. It was my first time in Morocco, or indeed in North Africa, but I’d seen photos and had a big hunch I was going to really love it. I wasn’t disappointed.
If you’re not familiar with Club Med, they pioneered the all-inclusive concept. What is wonderful is that they don’t just include your flights, transfers, accommodation, food, and drinks, but you can also participate in many sports and activities all included in the cost of your holiday. This was our first time at an all-inclusive resort, and it was a dream to not have to carry your bag and wallet around all the time, be constantly doing currency conversions in your head and worrying about blowing the budget because your kids want a Magnum and not just a mini milk.
It was clear that many people were there for the sports. The resort is set in Morocco’s oldest palm grove, which provides a beautiful setting of lush gardens and created a real country club feel. People strolled around in their tennis gear, groups of mountain bikers or people on pony treks would pass by at regular intervals, there was yoga and keep fit classes early in the mornings by the main pool. This was a huge bonus. There really was something for everyone going on all the time. Equally you could do absolutely nothing and lounge next to one of the beautiful pools.
The weather the week we were there was perfect. I think to be honest we hit lucky for the time of year. I had checked the forecast before leaving and it said rain for the first couple of days, so I had packed jackets and jumpers and we were well equipped. We would have run into serious trouble without them! My advise would be if you go there at this time of year pack for every eventuality. Someone told me Morocco is known as “the cold country with the hot sun”. This is a perfect description as far as I can see. The snowcapped Atlas Mountains in the distance serve to remind you that cold air is never far away! First thing in the morning was very chilly while we were there, and although it was then beautifully warm (even baking hot towards the end of the week) I think the weather broke soon after we left and it was then cool and windy again.
After arriving at the airport our car took us through the city of Marrakesh en route to the resort. I was craning my bleary eyes (we’d been up at 2am that morning!) through the car window and was fascinated by the hustle and bustle I could see. Mopeds and bikes everywhere, people stepping out into the road and dodging the cars, so busy. The most immediate thing that struck me however was the colour. It socks you between the eyes! Most of the walls are constructed with the local clay, giving everything it’s ochre colour. The colours range from a deep burnt orange, through soft ochre, to the palest pink. I knew I needed to see more.
Like I say, I’m not the boldest traveller. I had zero data on my phone whilst I was away so I was relying on the rather slow wifi at the resort. I had paid for £25 worth of data when we first arrived at the airport, and it was gone in 3 hours, so beware of that one if you go here. I was, I confess, concerned about going into the city. I was worried about getting lost and wondering aimlessly and not actually seeing anything or finding the most interesting bits. I rely heavily whilst in Paris or other cities on the maps on my phone to lead me to things, and without this costing me a potential fortune I knew I was lost. I didn’t know quite how I was going to manage it, but I knew I needed to.
I asked around and several people advised me to get a guide, which are apparently readily available at the main square. The buses ran from the resort very regularly all day, and dropped people at the main square of Marrakesh. I ended up asking the advise of the excursions representative at the resort and she told me that some guides will take you to their mates in the souk to try and get a cut of you buying a carpet from them, rather than actually taking you where you want to go. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can imagine it is. I opted to hire a guide and driver through her, for a three hour walking tour of the city with photography in mind rather than shopping. I can’t recommend this enough, and wherever you stay I imagine the Riad owner would be happy to help and recommend someone similar, which might be a good idea rather than you picking one up at the square.
My guide Mohammad was awesome. He was born in the city and was very knowledgable. We worked our way into the deepest parts of the old medina, down little winding alleyways some of which even he’d never seen before. We peered around corners looking for interesting doors, bumped into areas where the walls had collapsed and the road was impassible, ducked our heads and felt our way through tunnels as dark as night – literally groping our way through to the sunshine on the other side. We wound our way through a rabbit warren of residential streets, diving out of the way of passing mopeds, nodding to folk who were sweeping the spotless streets or standing on their door steps with a cup of tea. He also told some fascinating history about the city.
I feel I have so much to share about my experience in both the resort and the city, so I’m going to continue this post… very soon. I wrote an epic number of words, and took dozens of images, so I’ve decided to split this post into two. In the next part there’s all my images from the city of Marrakesh, and I’ll tell you all about the ancient medina, the souk, the sparks from the welders, the snake charmers, the camera I used and my top tips when visiting this incredible city.
Now there’s a teaser…. xxx
You can read the next part of this post here
Our trip to Marrakesh was in collaboration with Club Med, however this post is not sponsored and all opinions are very much my own. You can see more details on our Marrakesh resort here.