THE RED CITY
Marrakech, known as the Red City (due to the colour of its city walls) is quite unlike any European golf destination. The city has long been known for its palaces, gardens, mosques, minarets and souks but lately has seen a proliferation of trendy restaurants, bars and nightclubs, art galleries, cooking schools and designer boutiques.
It’s intoxicatingly crazy, inspiring, chaotic, lively, occasionally maddening but never dull. It’s incredibly safe for a large city and there is no tolerance of crime. There’s more than enough to keep everyone busy, no matter how diverse your interests. More Than Golf Marrakech will advise and tailor your trip to ensure you enjoy the very best that Marrakech has to offer both in terms of golf and culture.
We have provided below a very brief summary of what we consider to be the best of what Marrakech has to offer. The list is not exhaustive and is just a taster…
The Medina is the old walled part of a North African town. In Marrakech it’s roughly 4x4km and is slowly being gentrified. But luckily there’s a long way to go. There’s estimated to be around 1,500 riads in Marrakech, these houses typically offering accommodation of 6 rooms and upwards. Parts of Marrakech are crumbling, but that’s part of its charm. It’s definitely not sterile. And often the facades provide no indication of the splendour hidden behind their walls…
For us, Marrakech is all about the souks. It’s a beguiling cacophony of noise and humanity. Unlike bland shopping centres, it’s interactive. Deliveries arrive by handcart, donkey or moped, the only traffic able to navigate the narrow alleys. Bargaining and banter are almost as important as the actual purchase. The souks are basically broken down into different sections – for example, leather goods, shoes, silverware, fabrics, rugs, spices etc. And there are some larger stalls that are almost like warehouses, selling a huge variety of Moroccan ware. The souks are huge. It’s very easy to get disorientated but getting lost is half the fun. We can provide a guide to help orientate you, which might be a good idea on your first day, however after that we would suggest you make your own way and discover for yourselves!
On the subject of souks, you will never win when it comes to bargaining, no matter how much you think you have made the vendor discount their price. One method you could try, which is of course hardly full proof, is to name the price, walk off and show no interest – no vendor wants to lose a sale and will at that stage often drop the price further…. But no matter what method you employ it should always be performed with good humour. It’s supposed to be fun and most purchases will be significantly less than the equivalent item in Europe.
As you approach the outer perimeters of the souk you will be amazed by the number of craftsmen, hand making wood, leather, metal, everything really. The art of craftsmanship is very much still alive in Morocco and whilst nothing is ever made the same way twice, you know you have purchased something unique that is made with passion and skill and not by machine.
SOUK EL KHEMIS
In the north of the medina this bizarre market, sells an eclectic hotch potch of merchandise. Some of it is mainstream (i.e. clothes) but if you rummage around some of the back streets you will find some amazing antiques on display. These range from rugs to wooden doors, gramophone records and much more.
MAIN SQUARE (Jemaa el-Fnaa)
This is the focal point of the old medina. By day it’s a large and mostly empty square, but at night it comes alive with hundreds of food stalls and entertainers. The locals will try to entice you to their stall by coming out with all sorts of cockney rhyming gibberish, but it’s the atmosphere as much as the food that is memorable. And it’s not simply a tourist trap. It attracts more Moroccans than foreigners, being entertained by music, games, boxing and storytelling. The snake charmers and chimps on chains are not our thing, but overall it’s a place to be embraced and entertained. And if you prefer you can watch the fun unfold in the safety of a café overlooking the square.
Like all large cities Marrakech has its share of museums. The ones that best showcase Moroccan Zeilig (tile) and plasterwork are Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Bahia Palace. However, some of our favourite museums are those that are a little way off the beaten track, both smaller and more intimate. The Boucharouite museum, which showcases carpets made from rags and Dar Bellarj, which has beautiful architecture, are two examples.
The Majorelle Gardens is a two and half acre botanical and landscape garden created by French Orientalist Artist Jacques Majorelle over a forty year period. In the 1980’s it was purchased and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé and is not to be missed. Located next to the gardens is the recently opened Yves Saint Laurent museum which is well worth a visit.
COOKING SCHOOLS & FOOD TOURS
These have proliferated in Marrakech in the last few years. They range from the formal classes in state of the art classrooms to more informal sessions offered in your accommodation where half the fun is accompanying the cook to purchase the ingredients in the markets. The spices are invariably what makes Moroccan food so fresh and alive. Pretty much all of the classes finish off with eating a meal that you have prepared from scratch.
For those that prefer to try rather than cook, there are a number of interesting food tours that we can recommend, tasting either genuine Moroccan street or gourmet food.
SPAS & MASSAGES
Like the cooking schools, these have mushroomed in the last few years. If you leave Marrakech without having a hammam (steam) and gommage (scrub) you have missed out. The spas range in quality from the local baths (which are in themselves a great introduction into Moroccan life but not for the faint hearted), to specialist hamman and massage parlors to country clubs and luxurious 5 star hotels. Alternatively many of the riads and villas we use have their own hamman room and a masseur can be arranged to visit at a time that suits you. We have tried out and selected our preferred establishments and will recommend the best option for your group. Bear in mind some of the more popular spas do need advance reservations.
THE PALMERAIE AND CAMELS
Just outside Marrakech is a suburb called The Palmeraie which is full of palm trees. It’s illegal, by the way, to cut down a palm tree in Marrakech and that’s why they exist in the middle of some highways! In the Palmeraie you can ride camels, horses and quad bikes.
OPEN TOP BUS OR E-BIKE
Like all major cities, Marrakech has an open top bus. It’s an interesting tour around the walls of the medina and the new town Gueliz, which is full of fancy boutiques. Alternatively and lots of fun is an E-bike tour of the city.
RESTAURANTS & NIGHTLIFE
Suffice to say here, that there is no end to the variety of cuisine, Moroccan and international. The restaurant scene is evolving very quickly and the time is fast approaching when Marrakech will become a focal point for foodies.
Marrakech has a surprisingly lively night scene. One of our favourite haunts is Jhad Mahal, where east meets west. The band and its supporting cast perform both Western cover hits and Arabic ballads; the belly dancers meanwhile are able to dance to both…
WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY
Like all great cities, Marrakech is visible. It’s the street life that makes the place. In our view a trip to Marrakech should include a few hours of sitting in street side cafes, drinking mint tea with the locals, people watching and soaking up the atmosphere.
Our Western rules pertaining to order and health and safety are applied somewhat differently here! The traffic is crazy – a mixture of buses, taxis, new Mercs, old Mercs, bikes, mules, donkeys, wheelchairs. Lane management is non-existent. Spaces are there to be filled, not left empty. Somehow it works, but not by our rules. And when there are disagreements and collisions, it normally gets settled amicably.
People actually make eye contact here. People engage. If you make the effort to engage, they will engage. If you smile, they smile.
HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS
Many people’s perception of Marrakech is that of a hot and dusty trading post but it is much more than that. It’s surrounded by the glorious High Atlas Mountains, which are normally snow covered from November to March and provide a glorious and dramatic backdrop. Both day and overnight excursions to this beautiful area can be arranged.
Marrakech has great golf courses and is one of the world’s most exciting cities. With its extensive local knowledge More Than Golf Marrakech will ensure that you get the very best experience of Marrakech.