Postcard From Marrakech


For my 50th birthday, as I didn’t have my children all available, I decided to experience Marrakech. A lot of people recommended it, so decided it was a good time of year to visit and booked it.

I have included a few photos, but the article highlights to me which photos I didn’t get.

Get the bad out of the way first: Ryanair

The only downer on the holiday was Ryanair: If you are happy to suffer them to save a few quid, good for you. For me the journey is part of the holiday, and the saving isn’t that much over the other budget airlines.

Ryanair had by far, the best flying times for us, otherwise I would have avoided them. In future I will sooner avoid the destination! My impression is that everything has a selling edge, and any chance to impose a charge that you cannot avoid is their idea of customer service. If I shook hands with a member of staff I’d expect to be missing fingers and have to pay to have them back.

To be fair to them, I expected a lot of possible grief with luggage and to have everything weighed and measured before boarding. Both ways they didn’t bat an eyelid, I guess as long as you’re not taking the O’Leary they have worked out it is best not to annoy holidaymakers (businessmen on city flights, I don’t know?). And anyone could have given us the bunny hop landing in Marrakech.

The seats were plastic and the most uncomfortable I have ever sat in. The app was hard work, I don’t remember swearing at the Easyjet one when we went to Rhodes last year. Most disgusting is seat allocation. You are expected to pay a fiver each to sit next to your partner on a plane (I know – you’d pay not to sit with them…). Btw, I don’t object to paying for legroom etc. If you don’t pay they spitefully keep you apart even if there are plenty of seats left. I believe other airlines do the same and I feel it is a total lack of customer service scam and they should all be embarrassed into stopping. Just put a couple of quid on the price of the seat in the first place. We swapped seats as soon as seat belts came off – so pointless.

Day One


We left for Stansted from MK and the twat nav wanted to take us down to the M25. We went cross country and managed to find a route that had a roundabout every ½ mile. Anyway, we arrived at the carpark, CSL Stansted Parking, in plenty of time. The staff were very friendly, they took my car keys (no worry about losing them abroad) and dropped us off at the Radisson, which is next to the terminal.

We then went through the airport in reasonable time and the flight left close to on time.

Arrival at the hotel

From Marrakech airport we were taken by taxi to our hotel. We avoided the shuttlebus as they cannot get down the streets, so that was a bargain for us. The taxi ride started out lovely, it was an eye-opener to see the clay-coloured buildings, completely unlike anything else we had encountered. Then we went through the gates of the medina where I had chosen for us to stay. It was the first glimpse of the white knuckle ride that is travelling around it. The roads are little wider than a car and people, mopeds, and donkey-drawn carts fill the roads without batting an eyelid to the chance of getting hit at any second. After a few halts and a lot of horn pressing we got within a couple of hundred yards of the hotel and our hotel manager, who had been phoned ahead, was there to meet us. We then made the way up a couple of narrow alleys to our hotel.


Our hotel was a riad, unique to Morocco I believe. Several hundred years old, originally the house of a wealthy merchant. The walls are solid with no windows on the outside. Only a couple of doors. The windows all open into a central courtyard that preserves privacy, and keep the smells and the noises of the city out. We were taken to the courtyard and were provided with the main drink in Morocco, sweet mint tea. Delicious.

The courtyard had a pool in the middle and a few plants. Over the courtyard, it is covered by plastic sheeting, with an opening in one corner for birds to fly in and out. As designed, the air in the riad was quiet & still, and we both felt it making us relaxed straight away.

We then chatted to the manager, he sorted out the wifi for us and gave us an app (MAPS.ME) for getting around the city with data turned off. He told us that the Moroccans were particularly fond of the English at the moment due to us buying so many veg from them. He then told us he was a Berber and explained there were Berbers and Arabs in Morocco, along with about the oldest surviving Jews in the world. All living peacefully together.


The Berbers are a very old lineage of humans. They have been around in the area from about 8,000 BC and have kept a genetic identity. They are more European in appearance than Arabs, longish rectangular faces. I had thought they would be a mix of Arab, Vandal, Phoenician, possible Greek, Roman too. Unfortunately their language is going out of use. In the villages they can live very long lives, well over 100. Some eat one meal a day, which is known to be healthy.


After talking, we were shown our room. It was large with a very comfortable king-size bed. The bathroom was also spacious and had a double shower. Even better, one of the showerheads was given 2m clearance, so I could actually get under it without bending. Big windows ensured the room was light.


Apologies but I didn’t get any photos of the most important part of Marrakech – too busy surviving it!

The medina area is an enormous rat run of alleyways and passages, literally thousands of them that were created organically without a lot of planning. We entered it and thought we would start off just wandering. We assumed we would work a bit of it out at least and get some bearings. After about an hour we were totally disorientated. We had managed to not come back to anywhere we recognised having been before and set out trying to use the app. All while we walked we were buzzed by bikes and mopeds, and a few people pulling carts. If you have been to the medina I am no doubt taking you there again. If you have not visited I cannot do it justice.

There were all sorts of shops and stalls, from butchers and fishmongers, to typical tourist shops and cafes, all with upstairs floors to view the area. You get a variety of smells as you walk along, a bit gamey at times and also a few whiffs of sewage, but nothing overpowering and it adds to the ambience.

We didn’t get too pestered until we found the main square and sat down for some more tea. It was the only time we sat at street level as we were immediately pestered by people selling t-shirts, sunglasses, shoe polishing etc. We then used the app to make our way back to the riad. Then we started to get pestered a lot more. Every other person would shout out – main square over there, and try to engage in conversation.

For the evening meal we went back to the main square and got pestered a lot more. It got very annoying – people would start walking with us and starting up conversations and it was obvious they were going to try to scam us for guiding us. We just had to walk the other way and tell them quite forcibly at times to go away. After getting cold feet choosing a restaurant, we opted for the Cafe de Paris. We overlooked the square as the sun set and the view was amazing. It was the week before Ramadan and was getting very busy.

For dinner I had lamb chops – three good-sized ones cooked to perfection. Gf had a couscous – wasn’t a great hit as we were expecting an explosion of flavour. Afterwards we made our way back again to the riad, getting thoroughly annoyed at the pestering.

Day Two


We were going to walk to the palaces and tombs but we were spoken to literally outside of the riad and informed the tanneries would be shut from tomorrow as the Berbers were leaving for their homelands for Ramadan. We followed a chap who worked there and were introduced to a guide who would take you around them. We knew we were being suckered but just in case it was true about them shutting we went along with it.

There are two types of tannery, Berber, which deals with camel leather, and Arab which deals with goat leather. We were given a tour of each, along with sprigs of herbs to use as nose poses. Being a butcher in the past I didn’t find the smells too bad. The skins are scraped and softened in urine, then placed in wells of dye. Mint, indigo etc. We were then shown people working the skins to make them usable for manufacture.

We were then shown to a shop and explained that the whole area is a co-operative. We were served mint tea and given a talk on carpet making. Gf was thinking of a carpet and quite liked one. The shopkeeper started at 14,000 diner, about £1,200 (approx 12 diner to the £1). Gf’s final offer was 2,500 diner which he couldn’t accept, final offer 4,800 diner. I then said I was looking for a leather coat. I found a lovely medium-length one that fitted perfectly. Lovely soft leather. Starting price, 7,000 diner. I couldn’t be bothered to hardball to the same level. I settled for 2,500 diner which would be a bargain in the UK for such a good coat. As we were leaving a chap had a quiet word with the shopkeeper to ask what we had offered for the carpet. He said take the offer and we had that too. It looks fabulous in her conservatory, which is African themed.

Palaces shut

After a rest at the riad it was still early so we headed off to the Bahia Palace. We took a long route that took us outside of the medina. We saw big birds circling which I assured my gf were vultures. They were in fact storks and there are a few nests on top of minarets. Great sight either way.

When we got there it was shut for a special event. The Badi palace next to it was shut too. We made our way to the Saadian Tombs. They were open but it was baking hot (mid-30s heatwave while we were in Marrakech) and although worth a look, not something to make the focus of the day.

Weary from walking we made our way back to the riad and had dinner there. I had a meatball and egg tagine, which was lovely and totally different to any other I had. Gf had another couscous which although better than the night before, wasn’t quite what she was hoping for.

Another photo error is that I didn’t take one of a couscous dish – they look amazing.

Moroccan Beer & Wine

The main beer is Casablanca. Lovely to slake a thirst when served cold, being more of a lager than a real UK beer.

Morocco produces quite a bit of wine, although apparently Islam is starting to have an effect on volume. We had a white that almost had a sherry taste to it, and a couple of different rose wines which were very good.

Day Three

Moroccan Breakfast

As we were doing the holiday culturally, we had traditional Moroccan breakfasts. There were minor changes day by day, but all the above was the usual. We took breakfast in the courtyard by the pool.

Every day we had three different baked goods, a roll, a folded pastry/pancake and the star of the show, and the winner over any crumpets/pikelets competition, was the Baghrir! Crumpet holes but not too deep.

We also had other flat rolls. And a selection of sweet topping. What looks like milk is actually homemade yoghurt, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed.

Dark strong coffee was served to wash it down. It was filling and kept us going until the evening.

Jardin Majorelle

The Majorelle Garden was designed by the French artist, Jacques Majorelle (never heard of him). After he died the garden went into disrepair. Yves Saint Laurent came across it and bought it, renovating it to a new glory. He is buried within the grounds.

The garden is a lovely calm cool place to visit – very distinctive. The photos describe it better than my words.

Here is where Yves and his partner are buried.


They have also built a museum to showcase his life and display some of his clothes. The displays were a disappointment for me. Later creations, mainly black evening gowns on black mannequins in subdued lighting. It was only when we watched a film of his life that I realised just how bold and ahead of the time he was during the 60s to early 80s. I can’t believe that they couldn’t find or even remake some of his iconic early stuff to display.

Secret Garden

On our way back we passed the Secret Garden. It is meant to be lovely but we were all gardened and walked out. Even with the app we got lost in the passageways of the medina and ended up going past an area where they produce metalwork, mainly from scrap. Had to dodge sparks from welding equipment – I’m not one for health and safety, but that was mental. But a funny memory that will stick.

Rooftop Terrace

We spent the late afternoon on the rooftop around the courtyard. Again the photos don’t do it justice. We had a good view of the area, and could see a few done-up Riads around. A lot are falling into disrepair, and it would be interesting to come in ten years to see if they are developed. I think too much would push out the locals which give character to the area.

Relaxed with a beer and had a good read.

Evening meals for the rest of the holiday

We couldn’t face too much walking so tried the restaurant just down the road from our riad. The food was as good as we’ve had, so we ate the rest of our meals there. Lovely just being up on the roof looking out at a little of evening local life. One meal I had was Tangier Tagine, lamb cooked with lemons, very astringent – would recommend. Fridays are couscous day in Marrakech, somehow tied into Friday call to prayer, but I don’t know why, probably just out of convenience. The couscous at this restaurant had more flavour – still not blown away, but that is probably us having unrealistic expectations.

Day Four

I’m 50 today. So we head off for a day at the seaside, with a stop along the way to see an argon oil facility.

Speaking French

Our driver for the day is fantastic, he makes sure we are not ripped off on stops. The second language in Morocco is French. My gf is as good as fluent, having spent a lot of time in France and Belgium. It makes a hell of a difference in getting about. Our driver says that as the UK are so nice in buying all their vegetables they are dropping French as the second language and from now on English will be taught. A US, UK, Oz partnership may have something to do with it too.

Argon Oil Co-op

This is an industry that is very big in the region we drove through. It is also the main way for ‘fallen women’ or women too difficult/ugly to get a husband to earn an income.

We are shown a group of women producing the oil by hand, although it must be mechanised out of sight.

There are three parts to an argon nut, the outer layer, eaten by goats, see photos below, the middle bit which is fuel for burning and the little kernel in the middle which is processed into the oil.

We purchase some products that use it. Honey, a musk aftershave, and some shampoo. A lot of money for what they are, but very good.

Goats up a tree

Yes, this is a thing. Something to do with eating the leaves. We passed several that day.


Great scrabble word if you have too many vowels.

After another good hour of driving, we reached a smallish seaside resort called Essaouira. Originally a Portuguese colony. There is the walled town which is very distinctive, which again, I forget to take a single photo of. Mainly filled with tourist shops.

The area was used for some scenes in the Game of Thrones. The beach is a favourite for kite surfers and we enjoyed watching them with a beer on the front. Despite it being quiet we still managed to get pestered a few times.

We walked through the fish market, and my stomach soon found its retch point, so didn’t stay long.

If you want a quiet beach in Morocco, maybe worth investigating.

Day Five

Atlas Mountains

We saved this for the last day as if we overdid the walking it wouldn’t matter. Our driver today was Badi. He is half Arab, half Berber. He is very talkative, especially in French, and flirts with gf all day. His main job is driving lorries, so he is a safe bet. We are taken into the Middle Atlas area, not the highest part.

Imi n’Ifri

We arrive at our first wonder. It is a cave formed by water erosion. There are a good hundred steps or more to descend to get there, and it is a bit of a scrabble to walk through. The views are amazing. Gf didn’t want to walk down so I went down with Badi. On the way up we have a cock measuring contest in who can look the most at ease as we bound up the steps at a good pace. Old overweight man just about wins against the youngster!

Bin El Ouidane

The next stop is a light blue lake, again the photos haven’t caught the bright colour. The route to it and to the final destination takes us over several passes and past a few Berber settlements. Interesting to note that they have similar drystone walls to us (yet another missed photo). The route is sometimes barely a single track and good fun when another vehicle suddenly appears around a hairpin.

Ouzoud Falls

Our final destination is the Ouzoud Falls. Another group of long flights of steps. This is the big destination and some industry has built up around it. There are a few restaurants and other shops. The men in the photo were of some religious order, and they enjoyed serenading the tourists.

The falls are spectacular and well worth the visit alone. After going up and down the steps, we had a light bite at one of the restaurants and watched what I believe to be bee-eaters flying around close to the falls. Iridescent plumage occasionally glinting in the sunlight.

Having refreshed ourselves, we were taken back.

White knuckle ride

Back at the hotel, we had run out of cash and asked the hotel where the nearest bank was. We were told the medina square, and we didn’t fancy any more walking. The manager arranged for a friend to take me on the back of a moped. It was amazing, seeing the world from the view of the locals, whizzing down the alleyways and narrow streets. Narrowly avoiding hitting all and sundry that appeared in our path. The suspension couldn’t quite take the weight so every time we hit a big bump, we really felt it. As it was the start of Ramadan, the main square was completely jam-packed with people enjoying themselves. It was a lovely sight.

I got my money out and we whizzed back. Gf said I was just grinning from ear to ear.

Day Six

We had an Elevenish flight back and planned to leave straight after breakfast. However, the taxi arrived early, and good job too. By the time we got through all the checks, there wasn’t long to grab a few presents. We arrived home about on time.

Round Up

Marrakech is an amazing place to visit. If you love the culture of Istanbul, you will love the unique culture here. Having my gf there made it extra special and an amazing way to spend my 50th birthday.

There are places still to see so maybe visit again in the future. If I get to Timbuktu, it may warrant a stop-off on the way back.

Finally a big thank you to the two managers of the hotel. They were fabulous, we got on like a house on fire, and would love to meet up with them again if we ever were to return.


© Jerry Mandarin 2023