Magical memories of the crazy ways of Marrakech
KATE FIELDER travels to the mysterious Moroccan city and is mesmerised by the chaos of the souk
NOW I understand. I’ve experienced some of the mysteries of Marrakech at last, and I know what friends who have visited this wonderful and chaotic city were so excited about when they came home with tall tales and magnificent memories.
I went to Marrakech with my mum, the only other person I know who gets ridiculously excited by the prospect of buying handbags, and lanterns, which are among Marrakech’s most obvious wares.
Although at first we were slightly apprehensive, having read some horror stories online about westerners being subjected to abuse, ripped off and pestered. However, from the moment we got there, to the second we boarded the plane home, I have nothing but good memories of a fabulous place and nothing more than friendly banter with people in the souks.
With easyJet’s direct route from Manchester, the four-hour flight was a doddle. On the shuttle transfer from the airport to the outskirts, we noticed mopeds carrying entire families clinging on for dear life with no obvious safety measures in place.
The street markets were bustling with locals and motorbikes and bicycles carrying loads you’d struggle to get in your car. It was fascinating chaos.
We stayed at The Tigmiza Pavilion, Suites and Spa which I can only describe as the most chilled-out, heavenly boutique Kasbah-like hotel.
It’s only a 20-minute drive from the airport, nestled in the greenery of the Palmerie of Marrakech with views of the stunning Atlas Mountains. It’s a really special place.
We arrived in the early evening and during check-in we were led to The Moroccan Room to relax and wait with freshly brewed mint tea and biscuits while we soaked up the beautiful surroundings.
The charm of the place engulfed us, with its heavily themed decor and grand design, every corner and part of the complex was delightful. It was all created by the owners, a local family.
The father came up with the concept and his wife, a very talented artist, proudly displays modern yet striking work in suites and communal areas. Their daughter designed and decorated each individual suite and pavilion to an exceptionally high standard.
I stayed in a duplex suite, l’orientale. With its deep earth tones, living room area on the ground floor, and dramatic mandarin style carved wood furniture, and marble staircase, every aspect of the theme worked perfectly, including the somewhat extravagant five chandeliers in one bedroom. It made me feel like a queen for the weekend. Exaggerated yet relaxed luxury.
It’s a place where no detail has been overlooked, even at breakfast while sitting on the beautiful Dining Room terrace, the waiters bring personalised printed mini bulletins from the hotel to keep you up to date with the news.
One of the many services the Tigmiza offers is a complimentary shuttle each day to and from the historic medina area of the city.
Marrakech is a city known for its bartering, including taxis, so having a designated bus service helps ease the pressure. The souks are insane and an experience in themselves. It is like going back in time, cluttered stalls, people shouting, animals milling around, live lizards and chickens in cages, narrow winding paths through stalls, ladies beating mint by the barrel load – it’s a complete assault on the senses.
Obviously the locals are used to this chaos and take to racing down the narrow paths with donkeys and carriages, or as I witnessed, one guy, with 30 freshly slaughtered chickens hanging off a bar across his shoulders.
With no room to pass him, I shrieked and dived into the nearest handbag stall area, while he lunged past me, chuckling to himself at my reaction.
The city is like nothing I’ve encountered, and I was instantly in love with the crazy ways.
One part of the city I wasn’t comfortable with, which I knew would be an issue for me, was the use of animals in the tourist trade: monkeys chained up for pictures with holiday-makers, snake charmers, and donkeys forced to remain motionless by bound feet.
I know it happens, and it’s a different culture, but tourists who pay for the privilege of posing for a picture with these animals are merely encouraging cruelty.
It didn’t sit easy with me so I made every effort to avoid these clusters of people and animals.
Back at the hotel and the ‘Metha a l’eau’ is a traditional Moroccan Hamman spa, complete with body scrub tables and enthusiastic masseurs. After a hard day bartering and shopping, I opted for a hamman beldi and scrub during which I was scrubbed and massaged within an inch of my life. Luckily it didn’t last too long and despite the torture, the treatment left my skin feeling super supple and smooth.
My final memory, of this wonderful place, was drinking wine (for a dry country, the hotel did sell alcohol at a very reasonable price) while basking in the last of the day’s sunshine on the terrace.
A cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc while lounging on sumptuous sofas with scatter cushions and ultra modern huge pink lanterns left me with a great impression of this very hip yet relaxed environment.
●● An alleyway in the souk (above). The opulent hotel (main image) is the perfect base from which to explore the city