About Our Trip To Marrakech

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So I was sitting at home, recovering from my China odyssey thinking “I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to leave home again”.  And then I saw pictures of this hotel on a website, and fell in love with everything about it; the rooftop terrace, the octagon rooms, the blue swimming pool...

And I decided to make it my very first group trip.  I’d block book some hotel rooms, find a perfect spa and invite all the friends who always say “I’d love to go on a spa trip with you.”  If I made a small commission on everybody’s trip it could be a whole new area of business for me.  Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out like that.  Because although everyone loved the idea of the trip, when push came to shove everyone had a reason for not jumping in.  So it looked like I was heading off to Marrakech solo once more, until my older sister, who I hadn’t even mentioned the trip to because she is practically allergic to sunlight decided she was in! 

Of course, this was before I’d ever heard of the “Arab Spring” (no, it’s not a mineral water), and suddenly I was double checking the government’s travel website more often than the weather forecast (it rained that week in Marrakech - but luckily before we got there!) 

Based on the current advice we decided we were still safe to go, particularly as our hotel was outside the centre of Marrakech, and we would just be a little bit more conservative and stick together outside the hotel.

I still loved Marrakech, the food, the atmosphere, the hammam, the Night Market, the towers of spice, but I did feel more nervous; because of the recent events and also because I was with my sister and I felt protective of her, especially as she was so entranced with the place that she had no hesitation in wandering down less auspicious pathways in the Medina. 

Having said that the only time I felt any real trepidation was when we went “the quick way” back to the centre from the government shop - a route I thought I remembered from my last time in Marrakech.  This area of the Medina is different in that it has a lot of very straight small roads which seem a lot easier to navigate than the tiny, windy corridors of the North Medina, but can still turn into as much of a maze.  Suddenly my sister and I were walking along with one young man “accompanying” us.  He was very friendly, telling us which way to go, but I still felt the need to turn to a lady with a baby in a pushchair and ask her for confirmation.  Two minutes later we came out in a main area, and felt embarrassed but relieved.

But not for long, it seemed that once we were back in a more touristy area we were seen as fair game by everyone trying to sell something.  With the pressure selling at an all time high I felt exhausted and loved returning to the safety of a restaurant, cafe or even our hotel.

(We did try to enjoy the serenity and safety of the gardens of La Mamounia, but were stopped at the gates.  Apparently the gardens are only open to non-guests at certain days.  We were also told that we would have to dress up more to be allowed in - what can I say, we’d been wandering around the Medina all day.)  It’s the first time I have ever been refused entry to a posh hotel, (I’ve been refused afternoon tea - at the Hong Kong Peninsula - because I was wearing Fit Flops, but welcomed with open arms in the same shoes at the Shanghai Peninsula).  If in doubt don’t be afraid to call ahead to check. The next day I rang to book lunch and our spa visit to Palais Rhoul - I also checked if there was a dress code and the receptionist was surprised that I even asked.  This is the kind of place that treats you like a queen (or spa princess, even) however you decide to show up.  

I loved visiting Palais Rhoul, but there was a lingering sadness; the focal point reminded me of a faded ruin, the lounge is like an ancient library, and with the receptionist telling me how empty their hotel was, as tourists stayed away in fear, I couldn’t help feeling that the place was fading away in front of me.

Sadly our trip took a turn for the worse at the end.  We booked our flight with Royal Air Maroc hoping it would be a step up from Ryanair or easyjet, and the food was certainly better, but our ridiculously early Monday morning flight was cancelled.  We were lucky enough to be checking in so early that we were run through the airport to catch Royal Air Maroc’s flight to Casablanca, so we could spend the day waiting in that airport for their evening flight from Casablanca to Heathrow (a bit of a pain for my sister as we were originally supposed to fly into Gatwick which was much more convenient for her) and we finally made it home miraculously with our checked in luggage.

We were still better off than the rest of the passengers who had to jump on a bus from Marrakech to Casablanca - they were not happy campers; the bus had no air conditioning.

Once again this was a knock on effect of the Arab Spring.  With so few passengers booked onto the flight the rumour was that the airline cancelled it to save money.  (I believe the official line was technical issues.)  Another thing to remember when booking a “local” airline is that different rules apply to European based airlines, for example, we would have been entitled to food and drink from a European airline, whereas we were left to fend for ourselves.

But worse was to come, a few weeks after our trip my favourite cafe in Marrakech was destroyed by terrorists

When you read this section, or even other parts of this website you’ll probably hear me moan from time to time about little problems and irritations along the way - they happen, and I write about them not just to vent but also to help you avoid some of the situations I’ve been in.  But having said that I want you to know that I also know down deep, even as I may complain, that I am a very, very lucky person.

Perhaps I was luckiest of all because I was on this trip with my sister, instead of a group that I was responsible for.  Which goes to show that so many times we are luckiest when we don’t get what we wish for.


Junior Suite, Terre Resort and Spa, Palmeraie, Marrakech, Morocco

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Night Market (Jemaa El-Fnaa), Marrakech, Morocco