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The Marrakesh in 4 days Edit

I appreciate 'the familiar' as much as the next person.  Lunch for example: I worked at a newspaper in the noughties and ate red rice and feta every day for 15 years ( that's how I remember it anyway) ; At my current job at Conde Nast College I buy the same tabbouleh salad EVERY time I’m there. Also notebooks, writing pen choice and even my holiday wardrobe - in my opinion all things that benefit from regular repeating.

Holiday destinations however?   This is where I divert. I do understand how returning to a place you know well each year, particularly with family; particularly when the main criteria is relaxation, can be relaxing, and nostalgia inducing.   But personally? Give me the thrill of the new destination.  Yes this has meant that more holidays than most I sit up each night frantically googling the following day's itinery; buying last minute tickets for sights or trying to get into restaurants. (My short term forward planning is woefully bad) I appreciate this sounds like absolutely un- relaxing behaviour. We met friends in Ibiza last year and looking at my daily tick list through a more laid back holiday lens ( ie our friends) I realise I may seem like a madwoman. 

So when I say Marrakesh is one of the few places that pulls me back, it’s a big deal. The holiday version of my tabbouleh salad if you will. I’m not talking about an annual return, and always to a different hotel, but over the last 15 years I’ve been pre children, with toddlers, with grandparents and with teens. And I can absolutely vouch for it delivering for every familial permutation, and at all times of year. This half term we only had 4 days to play with, had booked a week in advance, and were travelling with two teens and a preteen- so the fact we’d been several times before gave us a head start. And yes I will concede there is something about not having to tick EVERY box of a new destination that is pretty blissful. (Side note: half terms are my new favourite time to travel- less busy than main holidays and a shorter trip feels just as relaxing) Here’s how we did it this time with a smattering of the last few trips thrown in. 

To Stay 

Full disclaimer:  an all inclusive is not my comfort zone, but the kids have been ramping up the pressure to try, and this time with added weight of assuaging GCSE stress levels we give it a whirl, at the Ibeirostar Marrakesh in the Palmeraie area, 15 minutes outside the Medina walls.  It  comes with a glowing recommendation from a stylish friend. Verdict: It’s a surprising success: the hotel feels authentic, small and set in acres of olive groves, with emphasis on low level sports ( read dusty basketball courts, sandy volleyball and and pétanque pitches) a restaurant set under shady olive trees and bougainvillea with outdoor barbecues and a traditional hamman spa. Most importantly it doesnt feel too 'much' (in general as a family we like to be where other people are not) Add a shuttle bus into the Medina, and we are winning on all bases. Footnote.  Last time we visited Marrakesh (at Christmas-time with three generations of family) we stayed inside the Medina walls at the excellent Riad Palais Calipau* - It’s vibe is modern Moroccan (out with the red velvet and in with rattan furnishings with a huge wall mural and rooftop sun deck and courtyard pool) and is walking distance to everything, which kept all three generations happpy. Additional footnote: If money were no object and I was there minus kids the eclectic El Fenn would be the dream.

*I have recommended this riad so many times I should be getting commission but am not. Yes I’m missing a trick.

To Eat 

We are experimenting with the all inclusive concept so we do try to eat at the hotel (verdict: the  food is pretty varied and there is a traditional Moroccan restaurant - plus teen friendly food vans poolside) but the lure of a stylish souk-side lunch means we stop at Terrasse des Epices set high above the marketplace ( you wont notice it unless you look) It's divine with raffia behatted waiters (of course I buy one) and a stairwell full of photos of plethora of well known faces that have frequented. ( Last time we went to the cafe of the same name: also excellent) Nomad is another souk spot we have tried and loved previously.  Outside the souks the cafe of the Gardens Majorelle that houses the YSL museum is a designer infused delight. Food is big news in Marrakesh and and there are always new must visit restaurants popping up ( many do need booking though)

To Do/To Buy

A trip to Marrakesh is incomplete without a browse and a barter around the souks. This time we opt for mornings when its cool and less busy, followed by pool time. However just wandering and photgraphing the faded pastel walls against blue sky gives me mass enjoyment. (My family not so much). The Henna Art Cafe is somewhere we return to ( excellent food while being henna'd) ; Jardin Majorelle is a must; Le Jardin Secret is on our list for next time. Further afield we have previously travelled to the Atlas Mountains and stayed at Kasbah du Toubkal 15 years ago. I don’t remember the experience as ‘luxe’ - however it now features in Mr and Mrs Smith, so I smugly allow myself to feel like I got in early. We also stayed in Berber tents in the desert pre kids. I have no memory of which but now the insta fabulous Scarabeo Camp seems to tick the same box. For adventure, in these more animal cruelty enlightened days I’d replace camel trips with a balloon ride or for my kids quad biking , both of which are bookable from our hotel.

And to buy? Yes to Berber rugs and pottery, but this time around our shopping focus is on designer dupe football kits and trainers for the teens. My woven hat from Terrasse des Epices ticks my holiday souvenir box.  Previously I have bought YSL Love posters from the museum shop ( regular readers will know I love both a museum shop and a gallery poster. ) I also grab a mini pot of concentrated orange blossom oil for my mum and immediately wish i'd got one for myself as its smells identical to the Claus Porto No4 Agua Clementina I bought my husband in Portugal.

 To wear

Finally what to wear in Marrakech? We only travel with two cases between 5 so packing is streamlined. I fall back on a tight version of my summer holiday wardrobe: A maxi dress for every night and a mix of resort sets and older dresses for day. I don’t factor spares and wear everything I take: There is something satisfying about having to style up an outfit even if I suddenly decide I've gone off it.  (This is how I get my kicks these days)  Then I max out with accessories: a trilby hat ( essential) fan, two evening bags: a new raffia purchase from Zara (that my family rudely suggest looks like i'm holding a lampshade), plus a zip up crossbody from Aspinal  and my trusty eight year old forestbound escape bag for the plane. Oh and lots of gold jewellery and a large leopard cover up scarf for the medina.  Shoes wise I take my new chunky fisherman sandals from Asra which also work well to travel in, leopard ganni sandals and pool flip flops.  I use a denim copenhagen blouse as cover up which works very well as airport jacket ( my daughter suggests i look too 'extra' for a flight which i obvs take as a compliment.)

Final Thoughts.

I won't call myself a convert to the all inclusive but for Marrakesh to mix up the culture of the medina with some relaxation is a good compromise. Plus it undoubtedly lowers the anxiety levels of feeding hungry teenagers three (plus) meals a day. However: I'm now off to spend three months researching a 50th birthday trip for my husband that will undoubtedly raise those levels back up to comfortable (medium high) normality.

We travel on Easyjet and book direct through Ibeirostar which combined works out cheaper than the many 'last minute' options on line, at around £3200 for 5 people for 5 nights in interconnecting rooms.  I always use the skyscanner app to filter flights. This time we book an evening flight, and arriving at 9pm for a glass of wine with a full day ahead is an excellent alternative to our usual 4am holiday starts. A taxi from the Medina to the Palmeraie area ( if shuttle buses are missed) costs around £12 for a seven seater.

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4 days ago

Great piece - I’m taking my daughter to Marrakesh for her 18th and booked Ryad Anabel following your recommendation.


Jun 16

Excellent info!

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