I have had many perfect days in Marrakech but this time around my last day was especially perfect and I thought I should share in case you need some inspiration on how to spend a great day in my favorite city.
My day started with a driver from the Royal Mansour taking me to La Mamounia, one of the best 5 star hotels in Marrakech where I spent the last night. That was a bit funny because the two are the two most luxurious hotels in town and basically archenemies. Well no, of course not, but I dare say they are each other’s best competition. Over the course of the day, I recognized quite a few guests I had seen at Royal Mansour before, obviously, I wasn’t the only one switching sides.
La Mamounia – the 5 star hotel in Marrakech
There is no shortcoming of great 5 star hotels in Marrakech but the Mamounia hotel is something special. It comes with a lot of history, something that I really love. It was the preferred hotel of Winston Churchill so much so that not even WW II could keep him away. It is also said to have inspired Hitchcock’s The Birds as he allegedly got attacked by a flock of birds on his suite’s balcony. Considering that I had birds flying in and out whenever I opened my door, I believe the story.
And of course, with Churchill came the rest of the political high society and after Hitchcock came the Stones, Yves Saint Laurent and many more. Marrakech has been hip and happening for a long time already.
My favorite, however, is the story that Pico Iyer shared during his travel talk at PURE. Back in the day, he’d come to Marrakech as a poor, struggling writer and would stay in a dingy hostel opposite the Mamounia just for proximity and to sneak in to use the pool. While the Instagrammers of this world made the inside pool the most famous of all the luxury hotels in Marrakech, I prefer the outside pool – you would definitely risk getting in trouble to have a few laps here or just admire the mermaid tiles.
For me, it was definitely good enough to implement my newly found on-the-road fitness routine before I dug into the bottle of Ruinart the hotel had left for me in my room. Needless to say, I was a bit more excited about the latter, but the pool is can definitely hold up.
Champagne infused I made my way to Jemaa el Fna, an easy 10-minute stroll. Ignore the drivers approaching you even if they tell you they have already met you at the Mamounia. The first time this happened I almost fell for it and felt very bad for presumingly not remembering the guy. Only later did I realize that they, of course, know where you are coming from and will just count on the fact that you don’t want to admit to a bad memory and be overly suspicious.
Jemaa el Fna is mesmerizing and overwhelming at once. I do love the energy and a fresh orange juice on the go. I hate the guys with their monkeys and the snake charmers (read here why), but I love the acrobats and musicians. And then there is the tooth fairy which I feel very ambivalent about.
This guy sits here day in and day out with a table in front of him full of dentures and teeth. It is creepy as hell. Usually, I am not a fan of paying to take someone’s picture and get really shy in general when I approach someone to ask if they will allow me. But in this case, I know that’s how he makes his money and I finally caved because I really really wanted a picture of a crazy tooth fairy-dentist. In case you wonder how to approach these guys – I paid him 20 dirhams and of course, he wanted more, arguing with me – best set a price before and I think you can get away with paying 10. Moroccans, what do you say?
From the square, I made my way through the souks to one of my favorite places in Marrakech: La Maison de la Photographie. Navigating the souks ain’t easy but google maps can help – I recommend getting a 3G card for your phone (there are lots of shops who will cut you a sim card on Passage Prince Moulay Rachid close to the post office).
Once I knew I was headed in the right direction I actually really enjoyed my stroll: kittens and shopping and miraculously the vendors seemed mildly mannered – the best of all of Marrakech combined!
The Maison is one of the prettiest museums I have ever been to and I recommend even to those who don’t usually like museums. They display works from the previous century of Moroccan life and it is absolutely mesmerizing. I also love their tiny shop where you can buy prints and postcards.
From here it isn’t far to the Medersa Ben Youssef, an old Islamic college in the most beautiful setting or the Musee de Mouassine, a traditional Moroccan house that was renovated with traditional techniques showing a glimpse into city life of the 17th century. For a bit more contemporary sights head to Riad Yima where you can buy artwork from Hassan Hajjaj, the self-proclaimed Moroccan “Andy Wahloo” as well as clothing and home decor.
While I had all the best intentions of discovering something new, Le Jardin Secret, this time, I ended up at an old favorite: Nomad to souk up – yes, pun intended – the souks from above and eat an extra helping of amlou and verbena ice cream. Of course, I used the chance to stock up on harissa from downstairs Chabi Chic, orange blossom water from my favorite store on Place des Espices and argan oil from Terre d’Eveil around the corner. I promise you, you won’t find better in Morocco!
From a good view to an even better view I went to meet my friend Issam on top of Cafe de France, a landmark at the Jemaa el Fna and THE place for a perfect sunset view. Good thing if you know a local who will score a prime spot for you to enjoy this without getting hit by multiple selfie sticks:
A word of warning advice: They don’t serve alcohol here. I will be the first to admit that a beer would have bee a lovely addition, the spectacular panorama of the square, the Koutoubia mosque and yes, the mountains far in the back, doesn’t need a pick me up.
Back at the Mamounia, it was almost dinner time, something that got me almost as excited as my champagne – a true sign of a good 5 star hotel in Marrakech. Le Marocain is deep within their gardens which you can also visit even if you are not staying here. The Mamounia hotel was built around its gardens which once belonged to Prince Mamoun and were known for their splendor. Dinner was also a splendid affair and I was as grateful for my giant macaron dessert as I was for the opportunity to walk it off amongst giant palm trees, cacti, and roses afterward. Also, this splendor entails that you are not wearing your slippers which are, albeit fancy, still slippers. Then again, you don’t need to wear a ballgown either, dear girl in the bar, the prince is long gone!
Since I knew that my accommodation in Essaouira for the next week wouldn’t be quite as grand, I took full advantage of my rooms for the rest of the evening. That included hugging all my pillows and spending ample time in my bathroom, size of most New York apartments. Cue tub selfie.
Needless to say, you would have a better time just enjoying a regular pre-bedtime soak but at least I managed to not flood the entire marble floor again.
I slept with my balcony doors wide open and so there may have been a bird or two in my room. Then again, I may have dreamed that appropriately inspired by Hitchcock. There was definitely orange blossom scent in my nose and the call to prayer woke me early. But that just how a perfect night & stay at the 5 star hotel in Marrakech is supposed to be.
Merci to the La Mamounia for a wonderful night, champagne and the biggest, best macaron ever!
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