Magical Marrakech-The Mushmina Guide To The Enchanting Red City
Here at Mushmina, we are constantly asked about traveling to Morocco. Where should I go? What are the best places to see? How do I arrange the best Moroccan travel itinerary? Best Moroccan food? Where’s the best shopping? We are happy to oblige as Morocco is such a mystical, enchanting country! We also thought it would be a fabulous idea to share our best ‘insider secrets’ with you all. And if you look closely, you will see that several of the restaurants and spots we love have bold, strong women at the realm. Of course they do! So if you are ready to fall under the spell of Morocco, here are some of our best tips for coming to this beautiful and enigmatic destination-
Where To Stay
Palais Khum (Dar El Bacha)
If you are looking for luxury, consider staying at the Palais Khum. Excellent service, lovely food, beautiful architecture and a gorgeously designed indoor pool. And there’s a fab spa with a traditional Moroccan hammam or classic European options. To truly relax you! We even staged a photoshoot of Mushmina Floret Satchel Bags at the Palais once.
In a magical city that has a riad (traditional Moroccan guesthouse) practically on every corner, El Fenn stands out from the crowd. Owned by Richard Branson’s sister, Vanessa Branson, this is the spot if you want luxury, comfort, and gorgeous Moroccan-inspired décor. El Fenn also has a well-known restaurant, spa, and even a library on the premise of its lovely guesthouse; you might never want to leave!
This little riad is a well designed charmer and a more affordable option for a taste of Marrakech glamour. We love the attention to detail this riad offers, each room is uniquely designed with original artwork, vintage mirrors, and hand-painted ceilings, even an orange tree in the interior courtyard! If the hotel is full, ask about the lesser known and conveniently located ‘Annex’ building (where Heather and Katie like to stay when in Marrakech on business). The Tresor Annex is a ‘no sign on the door’ kind of place. Enjoy warm welcomes from the staff, hot tea upon arrival, and a cozy rooftop terrace with a view of the the Atlas Mountains. Yes please!
Where To Go
The quaint neighborhood of Dar El Bacha is a one-stop-shop for shopping, eating and culture. And it’s one of Heather & Katie’s favorite spots! Start at the end of Rue Dar El Bacha and check out the gorgeously subtle Musée Des Confluences, a stunning museum that opens up to a beautiful Andalucian-inspired garden. Pop in for a quiet stroll and a relaxed moment in the shade; check out the magnificent rooms of this former residence and find your zen.
Moving on through the calm street of Dar El Bacha, you will find little shops and boutiques that are fascinatingly vibrant and unique. Check out the ‘fondouks’; the centuries-old stables for travelers of the past. These fascinating spaces are often restored and transformed into interesting artisanal workspaces. Often, though, they are not restored at all and this is part of their charm.
Take your time and meander through this funky neighborhood and when you are ready for a drink, pop into Palais Khum’s bakery for a Moroccan mint tea + pastry or perhaps even a glass of wine. This fab spot is beautifully designed and decorated and as often is the case in Marrakech, it’s hidden from the road and you could walk by without ever even noticing it…..mystical!
Le Jardin Secret
This newly renovated 19th century palace garden includes a lush Islamic-Andalucian inspired garden, plus shop and rooftop café overlooking the garden. It’s a little oasis hidden away amidst the busy feel of Marrakech; just off the medina. Sit on a bench and relish the peace. There’s a tower where for a small extra fee, you can go and check out the view of the city all around you. A birds-eye look and an escape from the heat and crowds.
Terrasse Des Epices
A popular relaxed hangout that still manages to keep its relaxed atmosphere, Terrasse Des Epices is that place where you can stop for a glass of wine or beer on the balcony and observe the charming chaos of Marrakech below. They even blow cool mist onto patrons from above during the hot summer months. This is one of the best terraces in town.
Jardin Majorelle + Yves Saint Laurent Museum
An iconic site in Marrakech that was created over 40 years by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, this majestic garden (lose yourself in a sea of blue!) sits nestled next to the equally iconic Musée Yves Saint Laurent. YSL’s love of Morocco is evident at this incredible homage and trust us, even if you don’t appreciate his style, you will thoroughly understand the impact that Saint Laurent had on global fashion and humanity after your visit. Do arrive early as it’s a major tourist destination and there will likely be a line; luckily it typically moves quite efficiently.
Where To Shop
Max and Jan Concept Store
This fabulously unique boutique concept shop is whimsically set in a restored ‘fondouk’ in the Marrakech medina. Max & Jan’s gorgeous merchandise combines the best of ethical fashion and beautiful Moroccan-inspired craftsmanship and heritage. We are excited to announce that Mushmina Mali ‘mudcloth’ handbags will soon be available chez Max & Jan. This shop is absolutely stunning complete with a gallery, occasional yoga classes, and a rooftop restaurant offering ‘soul food.’ This is a not to miss spot for shopping in he medina!
The ancient Jewish neighborhood or ‘Mellah’ of Marrakech is a must-see. We love wandering through the narrow alleyways of the Mellah, taking in the vibrant sights and smells. Ask the reception at your riad how to get to the Mellah and they can surely help you find your way (or tell a taxi to put you next to the restaurant Tanjia). This is off the tourist path and you can find items at lower prices in the souks of the mellah. Lanterns, souvenirs, and spices are also available in the newly renovated square.
Where To Eat
It is impossible to come to Marrakech and not to have some sort of a food experience. However, not all food is good food. We recommend going on a unique, custom food tour with the best of the best-Marrakech Food Tours, co-owned with her husband by our fab pal, Amanda Mouttaki, aka MarocMama. Trust us, you will enjoy! You’ll get a true feel for authentic Moroccan cuisine and a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the thriving food culture in Marrakech. Read more about Amanda on the Mushmina blog, The Fantastic Ms. Foodie.
Amal Women’s Center + Cooking Classes
This gem of a spot is one of the best places for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you will find in Marrakech. And even better is the Amal Center’s heart. Proudly run by the fierce Nora Fitzgerald, the Amal Center non-profit provides professional training for disadvantaged women to become chefs. The Amal Center also helps these women to find stable, long-term jobs in local riads and restaurants after their intensive training. The result is an exquisite array of Moroccan-European food, beautifully served, made with love and spirit. The Amal Women’s Center Restaurant is nestled in the hustle and bustle of Guéliz, about 15 minutes in a taxi from the medina. And if you are looking for a fabulous cooking class in the cutest, coziest setting, check out the Amal Center’s cooking center further down the road in Targa. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to sign up for a cooking class. Read more about the Amal Center on the Mushmina blog, Sister Center, Soul of Marrakech.
Henna Art Café
Just five minutes off the main square of Jemaa El Fna, this colorful breakfast + lunch spot is run by the amazing Lori Gordon, professional artist and bold woman extraordinaire. Lori’s Henna Art Café supports the non-profit, which provides full-time work for three female henna artists. The food at the Henna Art Café is a delicious mix of Moroccan and American comfort food. The art gallery within the café is a wonderful locale for buying creative, innovative art created with henna. Do not miss out on this lovely place! Read more about this lovely spot on the Mushmina blog, Eat, Paint, Love.
Déjeuner A Marrakech
Despite the name, this fave spot for Tara is actually open also for lunch and dinner. The lovely terrace makes it an ideal place for a meal away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. And the Moroccan-French cuisine is delish! Gorgeous attention to detail, quality ingredients, creativity and fun on the menu, and beer and wine to boot. And the prices are reasonable. ‘Déjeuner’ is owned by Fatima, a bold female Moroccan entrepreneur and we love to support strong Moroccan women!
Stay tuned for our next Mushmina travel guide, featuring excursions outside of Marrakech.
By Tara Fraiture, Mushmina Blogger and Director of Social Engagement