The minute we stepped into Riad Origines in Marrakech, we knew we were in for a special holiday. ‘Would you like to be upgraded to our suite?’ is usually a good indicator in my book. And a personal introduction to the city from the owner of our boutique hotel over fresh mint tea in this gorgeous location? Yep, this trip would be a lesson in luxury from my usual on-a-shoe-string travels.
My mum and I had decided to indulge in a little winter sun while I was home by booking a 4 day break to Morocco, made possible by the wonders of Easy Jet’s cheap seats. I will never get over how easy and affordable it is to travel from London…
We booked our hotel on booking.com and I cannot believe the deal we got for such a gorgeous place. The styling was fun and also traditional, the rooms were so comfortable and the staff went above and beyond.
Adilla walked us to and from the souks to make sure we didn’t get to lost, ordered us taxis when we were going further afield and always gave us advice on the best places to eat and shop. His kindness definitely made up for the various creepy approaches we had with males on the street, but we won’t go into that now.
Riad Origines even had its very own Hammam. Moroccos spas are what so many people come to Morocco for and being able to experience it in all its awkwardly naked, silky-skin-making glory in our own hotel was so nice. For less than £20 a woman came to our hotel, stripped us down and scrubbed us from head to toe with a rough cloth, while throwing different concoctions of boiling water, rose water and olive oil on us! I haven’t been to many spas in my life but this one was out of this world good and I just wish we were there for longer to experience it again.
Obviously no pictures were taken of this event, but take my word for it, you haven’t spa-ed until you’ve hammam-ed.
And you need a good scrub down after wandering around the markets all day!
The souks were our favourite place to be. While they may be considered a bit of a tourist trap, there is so much evidence of culture and history all around you that it is hard not to be enamoured. Especially after seeing photographs of the souks way back in the 1800’s in the Marrakech Museum of Photography (a must-visit) and realising how little has really changed.
And, boy, if you feel like a little retail therapy this is the place to go! Everything and anything you can think of is for sale in some form or another. Persian rugs, silk slippers, hand crafted leather and vintage jewellery could have forced us to charter our own plane home if we had had the money to buy it all. While prices certainly weren’t Nepal cheap, there were definitely some deals to be had.
When you are thoroughly souk-ed out the many palaces and museums of Marrakech are the perfect respite. Just like in Malaysia, the Islamic architecture blew us away. It was grand and it was intricate, colourful and peaceful, and like nothing I’d seen before. The Ben Youseff Madrasa and the Museum of Marrakech were our personal favourites.
There is nothing quite like the luxury of old, important buildings full of gilded mirrors, carved doorways and enormous moroccan style chandeliers.
Souks and museums will make you hungry and Marrakech has an abundance of lovely restaurants to choose from, all with that luxurious, traditional style we’d come to know and love. But be warned, some restaurants, particularly those in prime locations in the square (Djemma El Fna), are really not good. It’s sad when places like those believe their food doesn’t need to taste good just because of their accessibility. The following, though, are fabulous and all boast awesome rooftops to boot. I’m a sucker for a good rooftop.
NOMAD was a recommendation from the owner of our hotel and it certainly lived up to her glowing praise. The traditional Harissa soup and the not-quite-so traditional chicken kebabs with cous cous are particularly good.
Le Foundouk was also a recommendation, from a Facebook friend, and I’m so glad we weren’t put off by her description of it as somewhere ‘fancy’ to go for a special meal. You see I wouldn’t normally go for the expensive option for local food but Le Foundouk was so worth it! Just like everything in Marrakech, the extravagance was backed up by bags of taste, friendly staff and real style, that doesn’t break the bank.
Our absolute favourite restaurant though was Riad Jamma. This place is easy to miss in the depths of the medina and we almost didn’t find it which would have been such a shame. Here we had the best Moroccan food of the trip, all freshly prepared with an abundance of flavour and, of course, a lovely price tag. Order the beef or lamb tagine and thank me later.
Last but not least is the Djemma. A post about Marrakech cannot not mention the main square which is worth all the hype. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves but my two simple recommendations are fresh orange juice in the day and number 14. stall at night. The latter sells unbelievably fresh fish and seafood. You can order dessert from the Moroccan sweets stall and mint tea to keep the night going and take time to watch the street performers.
Our final hurrah in Marrakech was to the fabulous Le Comptoir bar and restaurant for fancy cocktails and belly dancing. Need I say more?
So, after rambling on for over 800 words, what really were the lessons in luxury I learned in Marrakech? It all boils down to the fact that luxurious travel doesn’t need to be out of reach and soulless. Marrakech proved that luxury can be affordable, down to earth and oh so enjoyable. Everyday we did things, we bought things and ate things, that felt special and made us feel special too.
Oh, and we went to the Marjorelle Gardens owned by none other than Yves St. Laurent. You can’t make this stuff up!
Have you ever been to Marrakech? Did you find the luxury life? And where else in the world have you experienced this type of lavishness on a budget?