How To Spend Three Magical Days in Marrakech
To celebrate my sister Lara’s 40th year, we indulged her desire to set foot in Africa, to complete her visits to all seven continents.
Since we couldn’t be away from work for too long, we headed to Marrakech for a taste of exotic Morocco.
The center of Marakkech is a cacophony of sights, sounds, tastes, and especially aromas—talk about sensory overload. The city center is a labyrinth of twists and turns that lead to secret hideaways.
At one turn we ended up in a treasure trove of antique Aladdin-style lamps and medieval armor, at another we ended up in an apothecary with magical argan nut oil that solves many beauty woes and Moroccan mint tea that flushes out toxins. The last led us to the giant souk next to the town square of Jemaa el-Fnaa with snake charmers and tarot card readers and a cow brain vendor who chastised me loudly for taking a photo without tasting his wares.
We flew to Morocco via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Business class had lovely details
While in transit in Istanbul, we enjoyed a relaxing time dining at the lounge with its a selection of local and international treats, and with entertainment for everyone, including a movie theater, virtual golf, a billiard table, even a grand piano.
Here is our suggested itinerary for 72 hours in Morocco
Check into Club Med Marrakech La Palmeriae and spend a relaxing morning getting over your jetlag.
Situated in Morocco’s oldest palm grove and just 14 minutes away by car from the bustling city center, it’s near enough to the action, but far enough to bean sunshine-filled oasis of quiet and calm with pathways lined with olive trees that lead its multiple swimming pools. Like Club Med properties around the world, Club Med Marrakech La Palmeriae is an all-inclusive family-friendly resort, with a special Kids’ Club that keeps children busy and happy (Think: rides on camels and Shetland ponies, circus trapeze sessions, and archery, tennis, or miniature golf) while their parents get
Le Riad is the most luxurious enclave on the property, with suites with private terraces or gardens for those who would prefer not to mingle. Breakfast is served en suite, with Champagne served in the evenings, for those who wish to stay in.
Take it slow and in the afternoon, head to the Bahia Palace, with its traditional Moroccan architecture, built over seven years by Bou Amed, the grand vizier of Marrakech, for himself, his four wives, his 24 concubines, and numerous grandchildren. The palace has intricately carved wooden windows and doors which open up to private courtyards and an orchard filled with orange and lemon trees, date palms, and olive trees. And while the apartments are empty,
You’re up and about ready to head into the dissonance of the medina, the old town.
Visit a local tannery. Warning: It smells so bad, we were given sprigs of mint leaves to hold to our noses to mask the stench. Skins from cows, sheep, goats, and even camels are treated in huge cement pits filled with water, limestone, and pigeon droppings to remove the hair and soften the leather. They are then laid out to dry, on roofs, hanging from windows and whatever space is available. It is a sight (and a smell) to
Time to head to the market. Make sure you have a guide to lead you through the maze of alleyways or you may get hopelessly lost. What would you like to buy? Lovely caftans with intricate embroidery, sequins, and beads. Ceramic plates and other pottery with Moorish designs. Gorgeous glass and metal lamps in all shapes and sizes. Pretty silver teapots and colorful tea glasses. And those pretty painted tagines which we wished we could bring back home but they were too heavy. Lara bought several pairs of colorful leather Berber shoes called Babouches that turn up at the ends, and an ottoman called a
Make sure to secure a few flasks of the liquid gold that is argan oil, cracked and cold-pressed by hand from ground argan nuts that resemble almonds. It’s an all-around elixir that works wonders as it smoothes and moisturizes skin and makes hair glisten. Our guide took us to an apothecary called Rosa Huile with a handsome man in a white coat who led us to a private room and proceeded to charm us into buying everything from argan oil to detoxifying mint tea to age-defying creams, exfoliating soaps, and muscle-relaxing balms. I must admit we bought everything.
At nightfall, head into the town square that is Jemaa el-Fnaa that is the throbbing, pulsating center of the city. It is a kaleidoscope of color filled with a Babel of voices and discordant din. Palm readers set up shop on little tables, snake charmers offer you to take photos with their serpents, ladies paint your arms with henna, buskers sing for their supper, food vendors woo you to their tents with the heady scent of meat and spices wafting from their tagines.
Head into the city and spend part of the morning at Musee Yves Saint-Laurent, with a façade of bricks with an interwoven pattern that pays homage to textiles.
The museum’s collection includes haute couture garments from each of the fashion designer’s collections between 1962 to 2002. It also holds lavish costumes and accessories designed for film actors and actresses.
Afterward, wander around Jardin Majorelle, the final resting place of Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. Created by painter Jacques Majorelle over a period of 40 years, it is filled with lush flowering trees, cacti, and other exotic plants. In the center is a vibrant blue structure that houses a small Berber museum, a café, and gift shop. Have a cup of mint tea and some sweets and browse through coffee table books celebrated the fabulous designer.
For a final celebratory dinner, our guide brought us to a sketchy neighborhood with mendicant children lurking around. He led us down one dark alley and then another, past rubble from demolished structures that had yet to be rebuilt. Finally, we reached a stretch where there was that proverbial a light at the end of the tunnel.
Gorgeous lanterns welcomed us to Restaurant Lotus Privilege, a hidden riad with a checkerboard-floored patio and comfortable couches where you can lounge about for cocktails before heading to dinner at the restaurant decked with mirrors and chandeliers.
Pretty little plates of mezze make colorful tasty bites: hummus, baba ghanoush, plump olives, roasted vegetables slicked with olive oil and topped with slivered almonds, redolent of garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and coriander. Succulent lamb cooked for hours in a tagine with dates, figs, apricots, and other good things. Local merguez sausage over couscous with potatoes, chickpeas, and raisins. And then the entertainment started. Traditional guitar and percussion instruments by men in