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morocco

22 hours in Marrakech, Morocco

After four amazing days at a retreat for creative entrepreneurs by HDYTI in Essaouira, a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, it was almost time to return home. But I didn’t want to go home without having ever visited the city I’d be flying out from, so I booked a night in the gorgeous Sapphire Riad & Spa in the Marrakech medina and had less than 24 hours to explore everything I wanted to see and eat everything I wanted to eat in the dynamic city of Marrakech, a popular destination for solo travelers, couples, families as well as groups of friends. If you were ever in doubt whether 22 to 24 hours is really enough time, doubt no more. Perhaps you’d like to know more about my trip to Essaouira or read a little more about the luxurious Riad I stayed at? Don’t worry, blog posts will be up soon!

But first, here’s how I spent 22 hours in Marrakech

3 pm: Arrived in Marrakech, checked in at the Riad and got a tour around the gorgeous property – and enjoyed some complimentary mint tea and pastries. How divine!

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4 pm: The owner and staff members at the Riad were all lovely. In fact, they were so kind that I didn’t even have to worry about getting lost in the market as I was accompanied by a staff member to all the places I wanted to visit until it was time to return to the Riad for dinner. I guess he worried I’d get lost and never find my way back and end up sleeping on the streets somewhere. Which I am 100% certain would be the case if I had been wandering around completely by myself. I am a woman of few talents, but getting lost is definitely my biggest talent. I am always a damsel in distress whenever I travel solo. Always. Although that’s nothing to brag about, really.

Thanks to a male staff member from the Riad guiding me around the city, I felt safer than ever – except from when I almost got run over by scooters, bicycles and tuktuks going full speed through the small streets of the Medina.

First stop was the Maison de la Photographie de Marrakech – a museum of Moroccan photography. I would have never been able to find this museum on my own as it’s quite hidden past the souks of central old town Marrakech, down the narrow alleys of the Medina, somewhere around there, you’ll find this lovely little museum. Most of the photos displayed were in black and white and they all told a story. My favorite photo was one of a woman sitting next to two men, exposing her bare legs and laughing. She looked like a Moroccan Marilyn Monroe. Another photo I liked, was a photo of a group of veiled women. I loved the contrast between them and the leggy vixen.

I wanted to sit down and order a beverage at the roof terrace cafe, but impatience got the best of me as the waiter never came my way to take my order. So I skipped the pause cafe and focused on my photography instead.

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5:30 pm: “Do you want to visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa Koran school?” the lovely man from the Riad asked me. Of course I did. I wanted to see everything. Not trying to be holier than thou or anything but thankfully I was dressed like a conservative gal and not like a careless westerner in short shorts and a tank top like some of the tourists I’d seen in the Medina and even entering the Ben Youssef Madrasa. I love my shorts and tank tops just as much as the next girl, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a time and place for everything.

Founded in the 14th century, this former Islamic college is the most stunning piece of architecture found in the Medina (in my opinion). With a courtyard richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco, consisting entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns, this historical site is simply too beautiful to miss out on.

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6:00 pm: We spent about one hour visiting the busy market in Djemaa El-Fna. I wasn’t planning on buying anything and I barely even dared to look and no way did I touch anything at all. The vendors at the market seemed to be quite aggravated whenever I said no to whatever they had to offer. One lady tried to push me into getting henna tattoos done – something I should avoid like the plague as I suffer from eczema. I declined politely and she got seriously offended and asked me one more time, purposely ignoring my previous answer. I told her yet again that I wasn’t interested and she rolled her eyes at me and mumbled “oh la la, les touristes”. Lesson one; if you want to sell me stuff, make me laugh. Works like a charm. Just ask the gentleman in Essaouira who almost had me rolling on the floor laughing my butt off – and sold me jewelry when I wasn’t even planning to buy anything.

We finished the tour with a cup of tea at the market square, watching the sunset while acrobats entertained us with their choreographed moves.

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7:15 pm Morocco is amazing in many different ways, one of them being the way disabled people are treated. With respect, dignity and given the opportunity to work a full time job just like everybody else. Just because you depend on your wheelchair to get from A to B doesn’t mean you have to be physically bound to it at all times. Just ask the Moroccan tuktuk-drivers. In Morocco the disabled are given the opportunity to work as tuktuk-chauffeurs – and I think we got the most fast and furious one of them all.  At times I worried we’d run someone over with our full-speed tuktuk. That guy was not stopping for anyone. Buses, cars, women, children, red lights, queues, you name it – ain’t nobody got time for that!

Back at the Riad, I had about thirty minutes to relax in my room before getting ready for my three course meal. I’ll tell you all about my meal in a separate post (on the Riad). I’ll tell you one thing, though. It was delicious. Just like everything else I ate in Morocco.

8:50 am: The Riad had arranged for a guide to come meet me in the morning to take me to the sites I wanted to visit before heading to the airport at 1 pm. A bubbly Moroccan woman with the most beautiful smile and charming accent waited for me by the entrance to the Riad. She introduced herself and promised me we’d have enough time to do both the Jardin Majorelle and the Bahia Palace before returning to the Riad for my manicure appointment at noon. We hailed a cab and left the Medina to visit these spectacular sites.

Luck was on our side as there was absolutely no line to enter the Jardin Majorelle. We took advantage of the situation and the guide had me posing for photos pretty much everywhere in the garden – also for some videos that I’m not even sure I’m gonna share with anyone as I am probably the most awkward person you’d ever see on video. It’s cringe worthy, I tell you. The garden was amazingly beautiful. With the exception of one thing: vandalism done by tourists who think it’s a great idea to carve their initials into the bamboo, cactuses and other plants in the garden. It upset my guide to see it. And me too.

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Jardin Majorelle (or Majorelle Garden) is a botanical garden and the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech. The building was designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920’s and 30’s and the garden has been open to the public since 1947. Since 1980 the garden was owned by fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint-Laurent’s ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Garden.

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09:30 am Next stop, Bahia Palace. We hailed a cab and went to the opposite part of Marrakech. Ahead of schedule and again no line to buy tickets. Being an earlybird sure pays off!

The palace was built in the late 19th century and the name “Bahia” is actually Arabic for “brilliance” and “beautiful”. The palace was originally built for the Grand Vizier of the Sultan and was later occupied by his son and the four wives and several concubines.

Today, the spectacular Bahia Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Marrakech.

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10:45 “Would you like to visit a Berber pharmacy and learn about the local products?” my guide asked me and explained to me that she loved the makeup from there as well as the spices, oils and scents. Curious as I am, I obviously said yes. I ended up buying a whole lot of products as well. A really good lipstick (finally one that actually hydrates my lips and doesn’t stain), a stinky cream for my eczema, some sort of remedy for when you have a blocked nose – and five or six other products. Saffron included – so I guess I’ll have to start searching for recipes and actually use it!

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11:30 am We still had about thirty minutes before I had to return to the Riad and I wanted to spend those thirty minutes wisely. My guide suggested that we’d walk to the Saadian Tombs and visit them quickly.

The Saadian Tombs date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in the 15th-16th century). They were only first discovered in 1917 and were restored by Beaux-arts service. About sixty members of the Saadi dynasty were buried in the mausoleum. Their servants and soldiers were buried outside, in the garden.

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12:00 am Back in the Riad, just in time for my manicure appointment. My fragile, broken nails looked horrible and needed as much care and attention as possible. The lady who gave me the manicure told me to eat more bananas. In Poland they usually tell me to rub lemon juice on my nails. In Norway they tell me to drink more milk. Guess I should do all of the above to maintain good healthy nails.

1:00 pm The King was in town and traffic was worse than usual as everyone had to take an alternative route since the main one was blocked for security reasons. My taxi driver got me to the airport in time and even gave me a few mandarins to enjoy while waiting for my flight. I ate one and packed two in my handbag. A little souvenir from a country that has the freshest fruit juice I’ve ever had and the juiciest fruit salad I’ve ever tasted.

As I waited for my flight I browsed through the photos I’d taken during my 22 hours in Marrakech and smiled to myself. I might not have seen it all, but I sure am happy with everything I did see!

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29 comments on “22 hours in Marrakech, Morocco

  1. Wow you really know how to pack it all into a tight schedule! Looks like you saw some amazing sights! I love all the gorgeous tile on all the buildings in your photos. Would love to go to Marrakech someday.

  2. Oh my gosh! Your photos and the layout of your day has me dying to visit Marrakech! I’ve been wanting to go for so long (because it’s basically a dream of mine to sip mint tea in Morocco) and I’m trying to squeeze it into a trip this year. I love that you packed so much into just 22 hours — way to go girl!

  3. I have always been fascinated with Morocco, especially the city of Marrakech! The architecture are beautiful and stunning. And I love that there is so much color. I would definitely love the chance to see this city for myself someday!

  4. Well done wearing conservative clothing, it annoys me when western women show a lot of skin when travelling here. It shows a complete lack of awareness because the guys are staring and respect because it’s the norm for women to cover up. You sure did get around in your 22 hours even with the King causing a traffic jam to the airport. I also stayed in a Riad whilst in Marrakesh, I am still full from the breakfast I had. I wasn’t lucky enough to have someone show me around the Medina though. To be honest I preferred the KFC across the road from the square to the Couscous. Keep writing about your travels!

    • Haha, yeah I guess KFC is a good alternative for those who are not that into couscous and tagine. Before traveling to Morocco I heard so many stories from Western women who said they were harassed by local men in the medina. I never experienced this at all, simply because I dressed appropriately. Local men were just as polite with me in Morocco as in the European countries. It’s all down to you, how you want to present yourself, really.

  5. For the hotel to have someone accompany you around is so lovely and thoughtful! One of the things that riles me up the most when I go somewhere is seeing fellow tourists dressed like inconsiderate fools. A bit of a harsh statement, I know, but seriously! Although you may not always agree with the views and culture of the place your visiting in, respect is essential. And on a slightly related note… I love what you’re wearing in the first pic of you! Is it a dress or a skirt??

    • Thank you! It’s actually a strappy dress, worn underneath a turtle neck top with long sleeves 🙂 Yes, you’re right. Tourists can be quite inconsiderate. I always do research on the local dress codes before traveling to a new country. It’s even written in most guide books. It ain’t rocket science 🙂

  6. I say any amount of time – long or short – in Marrakesh is a good thing and you got to see most of the popular attractions. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and this brought back some memories. I remember being really impressed by the architecture of the madrasa.

  7. wow you fitted a lot into the short time that you did have their. im glad you enjoyed it maybe you will be able to go back one day and see the things that you missed

    • I hope I will! It’s only a 2 hour 30 minute flight from here (Paris) and the flights were cheap, so I’m sure I’ll be able to go back one day – hopefully soon 🙂

  8. You didn’t see it all, but to me it seems you saw hell of a lot! How great that you got to have a guide from your hotel! Was that service free? Sounds amazing though, seeing all the places you maybe wouldn’t have seen and feeling safe from and advances from men. I have always wanted to see Marrakech ever since I had a boyfriend from there a while back. Never got around to it though so thanks for taking me on a tour with you!

    • The guide who took me to the Bahia Palace, Jardin Majorelle etc on Monday was a professional guide and not free of service, but the staff member from the Riad who took me to the market, the photography museum and the Koran school, did it because he wanted to – free of charge 🙂

  9. roxannereid1

    Morocco is definitely on my wish list and your lovely photos just add to my determination to get there one day.

  10. That’s really sweet that you had a guide to the market! I’d totally get lost too, directions are NOT my strong point haha. I have yet to go to Morocco but it looks amazing, definitely want to visit Marrakech!

    • Directions is one thing, but in the Medina there’s a lot of parts where street names are not even written. haha. Although in most parts it’s written in both French and Arabic, which is good. But it’s hard when all streets look kind of the same, and there’s vendors trying to sell you things on each and every corner. haha

  11. Amazing post! We’re headed to Marrakech in March and some of these places that you listed I had never heard of. Love your story telling as well. Keep it up!

  12. This looks like my exact itinerary haha I was there in 2015 but we stayed for a little over 48 hours so had some time to rest in between and also take a day trip to the Atlas Mountain (which were incredible) I can’t wait to go back and explore a little of Morocco like Chefchaouen and Fez! xx

    • I would love to visit the Atlas Mountain! Could see it so clearly from Marrakech. Incredible! I’d love to visit Fez as well – also Tangier is supposed to be quite nice 🙂

  13. What a lovely write-up about your time in Marrakech – and the photos are so good and clear. Thank you for all the lovely comments about our small boutique hotel in the medina where you stayed, Riad Sapphire and Spa.
    Beryl’s sister Barbara

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