To escape the perilous Storm Doris in England last week, my boyfriend and I decided to seek some winter sun but without the long-haul flight and found ourselves in the wonderful world of Marrakech.
The beauty of Marrakech is you feel like you’re far away off in the Middle East when actually the flight time from London is less than 4 hours and you can go via Easyjet! It is also decently priced at all times throughout the year, meaning you can afford to have a bit of luxury that you might not be able to have elsewhere in Europe. I got the impression that they spoke more French than Arabic which was much easier for me to get by given my French heritage!
When searching through hotels, I had the conundrum of finding something luxurious, comfortable, good value for money but also classy and stylish. I’m not one for the big, all inclusive 5 star resorts like the Meridien or Sofitel, but I was also aware that my boyfriend, who’d been away with work for a couple of months, was not keen on being in a hidden riad in the Medina.
Thankfully we managed to find the gem that is Dar Rhizlane. It’s not quite a riad, but still has a riad feel to it. You truly feel that you’re still in Morocco rather than just another Hilton. I cannot explain to you the exact feel without being there, but its got SUCH class and originality that I can imagine it was like being a guest at Yves Saint Laurent’s house!
It’s situated outside of the Medina in the upmarket part of Marrakech: Hivernage. Just around the corner are multiple spas, gardens, rooftop bars and of course a Louis Vuitton.
The place oozes class and Henry and I often said to each other ‘I wish we lived here’. It has no clinical hotel feel to it but rather a French colonial guesthouse with classy furnishings, bay windows, Moroccan bathrooms and an exquisite garden. We booked their standard ‘Serail’ room, which was very spacious and had a huge bed, with a separate bathroom, toilet and shared lounge and balcony.
Although the weather was a little colder than we expected it to be, it was still lovely to lie by the pool with a good book. The ambience of the hotel was so nice and tranquil and really did not feel like you were in the middle of a busy city.
We did visit the Medina one night and had dinner overlooking the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. I’d been here last June when it was Ramadan and it was completely silent during the day, however this time it was completely different. There was so much hustle and bustle it was almost overwhelming! The souks were all jam-packed and there were performers and henna artists everywhere you looked.
If you like the business and fast-paced nature of a genuine Arabic market and bumbling through the narrow streets of the old town, then you would love this. If you’re someone who would prefer to have a calm and relaxing experience then avoid at all costs! It’s also great for a spot of shopping – you can buy such lovely bowls, tagine pots and Moroccan lamps at a tiny price (providing you’re good at haggling, of course).
For me, I love Moroccan food anyway, so was really happy to sample all the local cuisine! Think lots of lamb and spiced chicken with couscous and steamed vegetables. I never once had a bad tagine as the flavours there are amazing.
For a day trip, we decided to visit Imli which is in the Atlas Mountains. I was not expecting how mountainous these really were (why, I do not know) and came with a little fleece and my Converse. Suffice to say, I did slip and cut two fingers open on a rock mid-way through the trek and felt like I was going to freeze my bum off.
However the actual trek was amazing. We went through traditional Berber villages and saw how these people live almost medieval lives. We were also almost tempted to have a dip in one of the many waterfalls (not in February, thank you!) and at the end of the trek, we were treated to Moroccan food in a guest house! Our guide was such a nice, down-to-earth local man – he even carried me some of the way down after I cut my hand open!
All in all I had a wonderful and relaxing break and cannot wait to go back and explore more once it gets a bit warmer!