Marrakech - 4 days in the heart of the red city

OUR TRIP: 4 days from 25 to 29 November 2021

WHERE? In Marrakech, the red city

HOW TO GET THERE? It takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to fly from Paris, with flights departing all day from Orly in particular.

TOGET AROUND: Walking is the best way to discover the medina. For excursions, ask at your accommodation.

WHEN TO GO? In summer the heat can be overwhelming up to 50°! We recommend that you go in spring or autumn. In November, the weather is mild but you should bring warm clothes as temperatures are close to 0° in the Atlas Mountains and the nights are cool in the desert.

WHY GO THERE? To discover the diversity of the souks in the heart of the medina, to take the time to walk through the Agafay desert and to hike in the heart of the Atlas mountains!

ACCESSIBILITY: Find all our addresses on our map Mapstr !

Like last year in Martiniquewe wanted to escape from the greyness of Paris for a few days. No luck, when we arrived Isabelle from Riad Dar Alif told us that our stay was the only week without sun in the autumn! 

After a first stay in 2017 with the association Like The Others which changed our way of travelling, I was keen to help Myriam and Nicolas discover this city which had made such an impression on me! 

Diving into the heart of the medina

Marrakech is world famous for its medina. This city within a city is surrounded by ramparts that are hundreds of years old. They were built to protect its inhabitants from the heat and sandy winds coming from the Sahara.

The only way to discover it? Get lost in its narrow streets to discover the wonders it hides!

Opposite the minaret of the Koutoubia, the starting point is the Place de Jemma el-Fna. You won't be able to miss it if you follow the horse-drawn carriages that go around the medina. Rather empty during the day, apart from a few scattered vendors, it's a completely different sight from 6pm onwards! Dozens of stalls offer fresh fruit juices, couscous or tajines. We can only recommend you to eat there at least once and the best stand is the one ofAïcha, the number 1! 

At each end of the square, the souks begin. Each has its own speciality: spices, tannery, scrap metal and many others! The most amazing one is certainly the one for doors, whether for a garage, a shop or your home!

The spice square is a good landmark if you get lost. From here you can head north to the tanners. This is where you can learn more about the techniques for dyeing fabrics.

If you wish to shop in the souks, we advise you to go to theHandicraft ensemble. Prices are set by the state in agreement with the unions and cannot be changed. This will give you a clearer idea of your bargaining power! This is also an opportunity to see carpet weaving and why not try your hand at it!

Continue your peregrinations to reach the Secret GardenA haven of peace in the heart of the souks. This former 16th century palace, which had fallen into ruin, was completely redesigned in 2008. Two gardens have been created, one rather exotic with species from all over the world, the other is geometrically Islamic and everything is designed to be quiet and enjoy the shade of the trees. Here, the noise disappears in favour of the gentle lapping of the fountains and pools.

To celebrate Yves Saint Laurent' s ties to Morocco, an eponymous museum opened in 2017 with many unique pieces. If you are not a fashion enthusiast, the Majorelle garden should please you. Aesthetically pleasing, numerous palm trees and cacti punctuate the path before reaching the villa, refurbished as a Berber museum, painted in a hypnotic blue. 

The Place des Ferblantiers marks the southern entrance to the medina. It is from here that you can easily reach three monuments that have marked the history of the city: the El Badiî Palace, the Saadian tombs and the Bahia Palace. On the advice of our Riad, we visited the most emblematic one, the Bahia Palace

Built in the 19th century by one of the great viziers, this palace is one of the best preserved. Although it has been emptied of its furniture, the rooms are magnificent, especially the wooden ceilings which have retained all their splendour!

Discover the surroundings

Star Land

On the advice of the association Comme Les Autres, we spent an afternoon on the Terre des Étoiles estate in the heart of theAgafay desert. 

This eco-tourism oriented place offers glamping type rooms, two pools to enjoy the sunset, a restaurant and many activities.

We opted for a camel ride! This is a first for us. We have already tested the horse but this is a totally different experience. First of all, once the animal is lying down, the team helps you to place yourself on the seat. It is very comfortable and the support is much easier than a horse saddle thanks to a large metal hoop. It is very welcome when the animal gets up! The 1 hour ride loops around to a magical viewpoint over the expanse of the desert. This is clearly an experience not to be missed!

We conclude this afternoon with a cocktail by the fire, perfect for warming up at nightfall!

African sky

We wanted to mark our visit to Marrakech with an unusual activity and we got it!

Ciel d'Afrique is the first hot air balloon company to be allowed to fly over the region. They offer several flights including one over the Jbilet mountains north of Marrakech. We woke up in the night and to our great surprise the Marrakesh people were still sleeping! The driver who takes us to the take-off site knows the runways like the back of his hand. When we arrive, the gondolas are out and the balloons have just been unpacked. The flames are heating the interior so that they take their majestic shape!

Sitting comfortably in the basket, the take-off is done smoothly and it is without a sound that we fly over the Ouled El Garn. 

As we already know, this is not the last time we will be stepping into a hot air balloon!

Discover the Atlas

Our Riad offers many excursions, including one to the Atlas Mountains. If you have the possibility, we advise you to do it on Saturday. The day is divided into three stages:

In this cooperative, run solely by women, we are told how to recover the oil from the fruit of theargan tree, a tree known to be invaded by goats! This oil is available in two versions, one for cosmetics and the other for food. You can make massage oils, lip balms and spreads with argan oil!

Every Saturday Asni hosts the Berber market. The villagers from the region come to get vegetables, meat, clothes and then return to their lands. The looks on us are astonished, curious. Our guide of the day allows us to discuss with some of them and to learn more about the habits and customs of this region.

The village of Imlil is nestled at the bottom of the valley at the foot of Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa at 4,167m. On arrival we meet Houssein who will accompany us on a hike to Tamartet where we will have lunch.

We had not planned this excursion and this was quickly felt in our equipment... It is 1° and the snow is starting to fall and to crown it all, an opaque fog is showing its nose! No matter, we set off to attack the mountain! After 200 meters of positive altitude difference, we are soaked and a villager offers to take us by car to Tamartet! A hot royal couscous awaits us at the Jardin du Toubkal, just what we needed to conclude this incredible day!

Riad Dar Alif - Feeling at home in Marrakech

The Mellah is the old Jewish quarter of Marrakech. The pace is quite different from that of the medina. Here, the streets are so narrow that you have to weave between cats and mopeds. From the moment you enter, the news spreads like wildfire and everyone knows where you are staying!

It is in one of these alleys that Isabelle and her husband welcome you with open arms and will take care of you! They have been living in Marrakech for 6 years and know all the good addresses so don't hesitate to ask them.

Radijah, the Riad's cook, prepares delicious breakfasts, perfect for getting a full stomach before strolling through the narrow streets of the medina. In the evening, if you wish, you can dine at the Riad and once again, you will not be disappointed! The menu changes every day and it adapts to you if you have any dietary constraints.

Dar Alif offers three services that we did not expect:

  • A pool in the patio to cool off after a hot day
  • A terrace where you can have tea and look out over the roofs of the neighbourhood
  • A massage and treatment area. Remember to book it well in advance so that they can organize themselves

Finally, as mentioned above, they also offer day trips that are worthwhile. Again, feel free to tell them what you want and they will adapt the route as closely as possible.

Riad Dar Alif : Rates: from 66€ per night for the accessible room (located in the patio). Accessibility: from the entrance to the patio, the spaces are arranged to facilitate your movements in wheelchair. The room is easily accessible and the bathroom is well equipped (grab bars and shower seat). Unfortunately the terrace is only accessible by stairs.

Chez Aïcha : Stand No. 1 in Jemma El Fna Square lives up to its name! She is the only woman to run a stall on this huge square and she holds it with an iron hand! Price: from 5€ for a tajine or a royal couscous. Accessibility: the meal is served on picnic tables. We advise you to sit at the end of the table if the benches can't be moved. 

Le Tanjia : A very good restaurant to try Moroccan specialities! Prices: from 15€ for a dish. Accessibility: there is a step to access the main room. The team will immediately offer to help you. 

Max & Jan : This area has several small shops and a very good restaurant. Prices: from 12€ for the dishes. Accessibility: the entrance to this space is on one level but there are 2 steps to access the first part of the restaurant and a staircase leads to the terrace.

Les Jardins du Toubkal : One of the many addresses in Tamartet. You can eat a delicious couscous with a view of the Imlil valley! It is also possible to sleep there. Prices: from 6€. Accessibility: it is possible to enter the restaurant through the kitchen but the door is very narrow (max 64cm wide).

The Secret Garden : In the heart of the medina, this magnificent garden is a haven of peace. Rates: free for PRMs and their companions. Accessibility: the PRM entrance is through the exit. The rest of the garden is completely flat. 

Bahia Palace : This museum is very well done and the exhibitions are very interesting. Prices: free for PRM and 70dh/person (approx 7€). Accessibility: the palace is totally inaccessible. At the time of our visit, they were going to install some wooden ramps to allow PRM to move around more easily.

Jardin Majorelle : This garden was created by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Very aesthetic, it is the perfect place to take pictures. You can also visit the Saint Laurent museum, which displays many of his dresses and sketches. Prices: Free for PRM, 120dh/adult (approx. 11.5€). Accessibility: it is fully accessible (equipped toilets).

Terre des Étoiles : In the heart of the Agafay desert, the perfect place for an evening by the fire and a camel ride! You can also sleep there. Prices: 350dh/person for a camel ride (approx. 34€) and 750dh (approx. 70€) for the transfer from the medina. Accessibility: The terrain is quite passable, as is the restaurant. There are no toilets, but with a little help, it's easy.

African Sky: A breathtaking ballooning experience! They have several take-off points to see the desert from the sky! Prices: 2050dh/person (approx. 190€) and transfer from your hotel is included. Accessibility: to make the most of the flight, they install a big cushion to sit comfortably in the basket. The toilets are not accessible but they are big enough to enter easily.

Five days in Marrakech is the ideal time to discover all the facets of the red city: the souks of the medina, the immensity of the Agafay desert and the snowy peaks of the Atlas.

It's hard to imagine it being accessible to wheelchairs, but that's without counting on the help of the Marrakchis, who won't hesitate to lend you a hand to get over a high kerb or even to reach a restaurant at the top of a flight of stairs!

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