Back in January, I was browsing HotUKDeals during my lunch hour and came across a 3 night break in Marrakech for two people with a mouth watering and tempting total price of £259 . This price included flights and accommodation at the Las Palmeras Hotel in a deluxe room that also offered free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Could I afford this trip? Probably not, but this a bargain that I couldn’t walk away from and it was all booked up before I had time to talk myself out of it.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure of looking up destinations and accommodation on the infamous website Trip Advisor where it never ceases to amaze me how so many people like to complain at the smallest thing and how you can read through 100 positive comments but only pay attention to the handful of negatives.
Our booked accommodation the Las Palmeras Hotel gets very mixed reviews on Trip Advisor that can be summed up by the following.
- Quiet and Peaceful allowing you to escape the madness of Marrakech at night.
- Mustafa and Martine go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your stay.
- Rooms are clean and comfortable.
- 20 minutes from Marrakech and expensive taxis to get anywhere.
- No shops or restaurants nearby.
- No actual restaurant or even menu.
I don’t go on holiday to sit around and complain about my accommodation because it’s essentially just a base that I return to after spending the day seeing as much as I can of the chosen destination, and for this reason, I try not to pay too much attention to some of the Trip Advisor but simply take a few pointers.
We had 2 full days to make the most our time in Marrakech, so there wasn’t time to argue with taxi drivers or hotel owners about the lack of a shower curtain and figured if Taxi’s were going to be expensive anyway we will book a few tours and trips in advance of our visit to avoid all of the usual bullshit that some people appear to walk into on every trip they take.
Click Excursions ticked all the boxes with great prices and reviews, so we booked a full itinerary a few weeks before travelling and didn’t even need to leave a deposit, so simply has to pay for everything when we embarked on this exciting trip.
So with everything booked, nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?
Arriving at around 5pm and feeling a little tired and hungry, we quickly regretted not packing a few cheeky bags of crisps, biscuits or emergency chocolate bars and understood how isolated some previous visitors have felt, with no handy shops nearby to stock up on a few nibbles.
It’s worth pointing out that the Las Palmeras is not a hotel in the traditional sense but a ‘Riad’; this is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. I see this as a positive though and a small family run guest house that feels homely is much better than just another soulless 5* hotel chain that looks exactly the same no matter what city you stay in.
A quick chat with Martine and she advised that the evening meals start at 8pm, so after a few hours of anticipation, we were now ready to eat whatever was available which was quite handy as things suddenly got quite bizarre.
There was no menu, prices or even told what we were eating so opted to simply eat what we were given, our starter was a soup and to this day, we have no idea what was in it but it was very nice. Main course was Chicken b’stilla (we Googled), a classic Moroccan dish that is a pie with chicken, eggs, almonds, caramelised onions and saffron. Finally desert was served Moroccan Sliced Oranges with Cinnamon, Sugar.
Traditional Moroccan food, home made with natural ingredients was hard to fault but we still left the table a little confused. Why no menu or choice? What had we just eaten? How much did it cost? I asked Martine the following day as the cynical traveller in me, thought we were going to get stung but the 3 course meal with a bottle of wine for two people had cost 400 Moroccan Dirham’s which although was a little more expensive than restaurants in the city, it wasn’t too bad.
Abdullah picked us up at 9am, and drove for 20 minutes into Marrakech before handing over to Jamal as we embarked on a 3 hour tour of the city. Jamal is the perfect guide who spoke with great knowledge about the history of Marrakech and we learned more from him than we ever could of from a guide book. When we reached the Souks, I don’t mind admitting it was nice to have Jamal escorting us because it was just as crazy as you could ever have imagined.
Snake charmers, monkeys in dresses and traders are all desperately trying to get your attention but with Jamal by our side, we could concentrate on exploring and learning about Marrakech.
We bid farewell to Jamal and now it was time to escape the madness and enjoy a romantic Horse and Carriage ride through the city and could just sit back and soak up the many sights on offer that we could never have covered on foot alone before stopping for a nice hour in a place of serenity and shade, at the Jardin Majorelle. Wandering within the paths of this small garden full of palms, bamboo, cacti, coloured pots and buildings, birdsong and pools is quite a contrast to the souks just a few hours earlier.
After the gardens, our new friend and driver Abdullah drove us to our camel ride adventure at La Palmeraie which is on the north side of the city in a very peaceful surrounding. This was the moment I get to ride a camel like Peter O’Toole and the perfect end to or day.
Abdullah had one more surprise for us tough and that was introduction to Morocco’s national drink: Berber whiskey, but he cheekily advised “whiskey without alcohol…its mint tea” and this wouldn’t be the last time that I would get to enjoy this national drink either.
As we head back to our accommodation, I ask Abdullah if he could stop somewhere so we can buy some snacks for our room. He selflessly said shops were too expensive but stopped somewhere that we could get a “Special Moroccan Price”
We returned to our Riad armed with snacks a plenty and many stories.
Once again our new friend Abdullah picked us up at 09:00am and we headed out to Ourika Valley for a day trip/adventure.
Another opportunity to escape the madness of the city and head for the Berber villages located 46 kilometres away. You will be rewarded with scenic landscapes and photo opportunities aplenty before being greeted by our guide Mohammed who will take us up to the Sitti Fatma waterfalls. There are seven of them but only the adventurous and fit tourist hikes to the top so make sure you take sensible shoes.
As we return home with many crazy stories, great photos and happy memories of enjoying Moroccan Whiskey with our friend Abdullah, our short time in Marrakech will always have a special place in our heart.