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    Where To Shop And Sleep In Marrakesh

    13 May 2018

    I made a promise to myself when I started to really travel a little over a decade ago, that I would not return to the same place more than once. I needed to go to every place 'on my list' but then I found Morocco.

    If you are lucky enough to be based in Europe, you might consider heading there if you haven't already. Discount airline flights from most major European cities are cheap and quick. For the price of a massage you can book a flight and within about three hours can be anywhere within Morocco. Once you land, it's like being transported to Arabia meets France meets Indiana Jones, in all the best ways.

    I love exploring Marrakesh. I always recommend you start here. The Medina is central to Marrakesh with miles and miles of covered markets with thousands of different sellers and a maze of color. You never need to walk the same way twice when you enter into its maze. Often I walk in and try to get lost, this is when I find the best treasures and friendliest of locals.

    One of the best tips I can give you before going to Marrakesh and even before you even read any further, is to get an off-line map app on your smart-phone. These apps allow you to have maps accessible and searchable without relying on cellphone service or wifi access internationally and domestically. They allow you to get lost and find your location within seconds. I use CityMaps2Go!. I lost track of how many times these apps have saved me. From being stranded in Sri Lanka at 3am, to navigating the labyrinth of the souks.

    Once you have maps, you need a minimum of two days in Marrakesh to really get a feel of the city. More days you can expand beyond it. This article will be two parts: First, I’ll cover my favorite shops and places to stay in Marrakesh. In part two, I will go into places to dine, hammams- the Moroccan version of spas, and things to see and do that aren’t in the typical tourist guides:

    First off, shopping. I tend to stick to what I love: rugs, jewelry and unique clothing:

    One of my favorite places is this incredible cave of a jewelry shop in Souk Labbadine called Magasin Berbere. Well established, they carry amazing embroidered fabrics and antique ceramic pots and many one of a kind Berbere pieces which are well priced. I've never left empty-handed. Also something to note is always the shops phone numbers. One of the best ways to find any shop is to contact them by phone or text, they will happily often come directly to your Riad and escort you there. Magasin Berbere can be contacted at +212 661 698552

    Then there are shoes. Tons of vendors with shoes, whole sections of shoes. There is a whole souk that is just shoes, but Ahmed has hands down, the best leather slippers, shoes and sandals. The quality is exceptional and there are endless choices. It's so hard to pick just one pair, and they are cheap enough you don't have too. On my last trip I snagged a pair of pony hair zebra chelsea boots for just around 15 Euros that I have been wearing everyday since. Expect to spend around 5 to 15 Euros for a pair of sandals or shoes and less for slippers. 236 Souk El Kebire, Medina, +212 5 24 40 58 88 or +212 5 70 40 45

    If haggling isn’t your thing and the souks are overwhelming. I recommend going to the government run and operated Centre Artisanall. Everything there has set prices, which are fair and shown on every product. The profits go to the artist directly. Most importantly for many, it takes the bartering and guess work out of shopping in the souks where nothing has prices and it all comes down to how well you can haggle. I bought a kaftan here on one trip that every time I wear it- in or out of Morocco- people have stoppedto ask where they can find one like it- even locals Moroccans. The Centre is located just along the road from the Saadian tombs, so it is easy to find. They stock literally everything you could want: handwoven rugs, Berber jewelry, teapots, home furnishings, slippers, traditional clothing and bejeweled swords. It should be noted that ‘discounts’ are available, especially if you buy a few items from one seller, but you have to ask.

    If you are considering skipping the famous 33 rue Majorelle (think colette Paris but Moroccan) head to Riad Yima instead. The Riad is the brainchild of acclaimed Marrakesh artist Hassan Hajjaj and serves as both a gallery and a cafe. Everything you see, sit on and eat off is for sale. My favorite part is Hassan’s photography which contextualizes traditional Middle Eastern iconography within contemporary Western artifacts- think a gang of veiled women in Gucci riding motorcycles with heart sunglasses.

    If it’s your first time to Marrakesh, but even if its not, I always like to stay in the Medina. It’s considered the historic part of Marrakesh which is mostly entirely car-free, with the exception of the occasional motorbike. Found within the Medina is Riad Dar Darma, its a beautiful boutique Riad with a hint of Italian style. The entire Riad is perfectly dimly lit. It feels like you’re staying in monastery but with all the luxury of a high end hotel. The rooms are more than generous and completely quiet. The Red Apartment is a standout, and the bathtubs are worth a stay in their own right. The Riad is complete with pool, hammam, restaurant and a library. Massages and facials can even be arranged in room and lunch on the rooftop is perfection. It feels often completely private. I very rarely encountered other guest who did not keep to themselves and it is one of the places I always try to return to when I al looking for a total escape.

    If Dar Darma is a dark luxury then Riad Jardin Secret is it’s boho free-spirited sister. Started by a French model turned photographer and an artistic director, Riad Jardin Secrets might be best known for its pink cactus covered roof top and airy feel. What it lacks in pool and spa, the rooms and food make up for. The meals were some of best I have had in all of Marrakesh. The Riad is the perfect blend of a traditional Moroccan experience with the vibe of staying at an artist home, in the best way possible. It is the perfect retreat for people who don’t want to alter the spirit of old Marrakesh while still appreciating it’s spell. An open quiet space in a bustling and lively neighborhood. The Riad is just tucked away 2 minutes walking off of the main road, very close to the souks and many excellent hammams and cafes- that is, if you ever actually want to leave.

    forbes

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