I don’t have a bucket list (and shouldn’t it be wish list anyways, ‘bucket’ implies something nasty lurking deep within it), but if I did then Morocco, or more specifically Marrakech, would be floating somewhere near the top. And thanks to Cyplon Holidays an opportunity to visit this fascinating city of sights, sounds and smells was presented recently.
Due to an early departure I overnighted at the conveniently located London Gatwick Hilton hotel, a covered walk of only a few minutes (plus inter terminal monorail) from check in, Northern airport options are also available.
The Easyjet service from London Gatwick was efficient, and upon arrival we were taken to our first viewing, the Selman Hotel on the outskirts of the city. The interior was atmospherically lit, with impressive furnishings and impeccable facilities, the property history as the King’s former stables is evident – a corner of the expansive grounds featuring a number of horses from various locations around the world who perform at an equestrian show within the grounds.
Onwards to our base for the educational stay, the recently renovated and reopened Movenpick Hotel Mansour Eddahbi. Welcomed by the first of many mint tea experiences we were shown around the buildings including the spa and restaurant options and child activity centre. Quirkily the hotel was also hosting an artist from Spain who was given free reign to decorate all surfaces – a new exhibit appearing almost daily. And this experimental approach is ongoing with other artists lined up to fill in the blank spaces. Subsequently we travelled to the Iberostar Club Palmarie, an all inclusive family option. Maybe not the best location, the journey there seemed to take a while, but then we hadn’t necessarily got our bearings yet. An abundance of entertainment and activities, for all ages, were available – with both a large main pool and chill out / adult only smaller alternative in a quieter area.
The second day included a trip out from the city to the foothills of the High Atlas mountain range. And located here was the Tamadot Hotel, a Richard Branson owned high end exclusive property with stunning views and furnishings. After returning to Marrakech we viewed a couple of Riads within the Medina walls. From outside these properties are quite plain, it being the custom not to advertise your wealth – but inside reveal impressive architecture and individual designs from courtyard through rooms to rooftop terrace with views across the city. We undertook a Tagine cookery course at La Maison Arabe, eating the fruits of our labours accompanied by a guembris player; maybe not the best meal encountered during our stay, the cuisine quality and quantity being consistently flavoursome and fulsome. The people were also great hosts, very friendly…
The only experience which differed was walking around the souks, food stalls and spice markets very late on the Saturday night – it felt as though the whole city population was congregated hereabouts in Jemaa el-Fnaa / the main square. Intimidating for some in our group (and there were a few animal related practises which were definitely not acceptable to Western European eyes), but ultimately ‘no’ in English, French or Arabic was sufficient to halt any persistent hawkers. A subsequent daytime guided walk was very different, less hectic and noisy with the call of ‘Asda prices’ being a regular beckoning from the stall holders. A few bargains could be purchased, as long as you were prepared to haggle.
In conclusion, I was not disappointed and would definitely recommend Marrakech either as a short break option (though avoid the summer months), or in combination with a few days outside the city relaxing in a mountain retreat (walking and cycling activities are generally available) or one of the many other Morocco (city or coast) destinations.
Please also note all Gates Travel colleagues have a wealth of acquired travel knowledge and experiences, recently visited destinations include Greece, Bali, San Diego and Las Vegas, a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords and Croatia.