Marrakesh by Café du Monde
City of the ColourfulAs you make your way to the ‘red city’, you’ll quickly find out that your notion of logistics, normalcy and time is lost here - instead, you’re world will be turned upside down. Though it may prove a little tricky at first, you’ll soon fall into the swing of things and not regret it. As troubadours, henna ladies, tarot readers, laughing children and crazy men wishing to throw a snake upon you (for a small fee, of course). The expression ‘hustle and bustle’ was never more fitting for this place; a constant stream of people, flavours, sounds and colours, you’ll take a lot in. On a daily basis. Work or study here and you’ll have an experience to remember, that’s for sure...Why should I choose Marrakesh for my year abroad?
If you’re into architecture, old or ‘new’, Marrakesh has a lot to offer. File your way around the Koutoubia and admire sculpture and masonry of a time past, while away an afternoon in the Menara gardens, stand before the splendor of Saadian Tombs, with work reminiscent of Andalusian engineering...Or try your hand at BCBG life in the ville nouvelle, complete with boutique shopping, designer gardens (YSL’s, no less) and upmarket restaurants and bars. A city of two halves, a huge trading city, Marrakesh ruffles feathers - real and decorative.
Though you may not quite spot a flying carpet here, the Souks are a huge pull to the city, for locals, trading merchants and tourists alike. Take a break (or a whole day) visiting the plethora of stalls, speaking to the characterful sellers, barter your way into buying yet another pair of citric-coloured babouches and take gorgeous pictures of the coloured spice pyramids on display. Walk out of the market and try your luck round the tanneries (though be warned - the smell is not for the faint-hearted). If you can’t get enough of the market fever during the day, be sure to take a stroll through the main square leading to the market, Djemaa el Fna, at night. Monkeys running riot on foreign shoulders, countless pop-up eateries offering succulent tajines and the odd old men striking up conversation are part and parcel of living life out here, the Moroccan way.
Apart from the great museums and the glorious theatre house on offer, Marrakesh has some awesome shopping; whether you’re looking to spend your dirham in a luxury boutique or in the market, you’ll come home with incredible gems. Try Chez les Nomades for an experience and a half: carpets galore, but definitely a far cry from Carpet Land; old and new, and a great client service make this an unusual shopping trip. If you’re looking for clothes, Kulchi has some of the best on offer with African prints woven into modern cocktail dresses, cotton shirts and so on and so forth. The Cabinet Populaire offers all an alchemyst would, with added extras: rose water by the gallon, bygone packaging and all sorts of lotions and potions for your ills.
Eating is a big deal here: with some many restaurants luring you in with the sweet smell of tagines, couscous and oranges, it’s hard to pick particular favourites. Past year abroaders have noted that the Patisserie des Princes is worth forking out a few bob over - incredible sweet and savoury snacks to tickle anyone’s palate, with great service to boot. If you’re looking for somewhere to take your parents, look no further than seemingly expensive Tangia - the prices may be a lot higher than you typical Djemaa el Fna stall, but the food is worth it - a mouth-watering use of spices, cleaverly-crafted dishes and a great wine list make this place perfect for food connoisseurs. Lolo Quoi and its cousin, Le Grand Café de la Poste are bargainous and have a drinks license - you know what to do.
Bars and nighttime entertainment are available - though make sure you don’t get completely legless within sight, at least, as it’s not regarded very highly here. Or manly for that matter. If you fancy wetting your whistle, you could try Afric’n Chic for some nice French tapas and a few quiet drinks, all within a Afro-Brazilian décor. The Bar du Soleil offers cinematic charm: an old-school waiter, beautiful gardens and the sudden urge for a Tom Collins. Take note of the prices though: quite steep for many, but you do get gorgeous pistachios with your beverage. In terms of clubbing, you could venture out to Pacha, which is slightly out of town, for an international pop-meets-house-meets-egyptopop phenomenom, or try out other scenes such as Le Paradise or Actor’s for some bygone electro era (circa 1980).
Kistsch, colourful, courteous and alluring, Marrakesh offers colonial chic, old-age charm and an incredible vibe for anyone looking for something a little out-there on their year abroad. A dream destination, by any account!