7 things you must try in Marrakesh

7 things you must try in Marrakesh
Love exploring the world? Don't miss out on any of these must-dos in Morocco by travel blogger Shaima Al Tamimi
5 min read
04 Apr, 2017
Don't be fooled by standard tourist guides - experience the real Morocco [Shaima]

I am not a fan of the holiday blues feeling one gets when reminiscing over vacation throwback photos.

However, if there is one thing I really love, it is knowing I had a very enriching experience visiting a country through interacting with locals and exploring the road less traveled.

Of course, no trip is complete without indulging in some of the touristy things, as long as you know that you are not solely relying on that to experience a destination.

A 17-day trip to Marrakech filled my soul to the core with its vibrant demeanor that always seems to be on full swing. Whether it is early in the day or late at night, it is almost as though someone has permanently switched the “on” button in this city. Should you go to Marrakech, here are my ultimate top local experiences to consider based on the highlights of my trip.

1- Forget hotels - stay in a Riad

Riads are basically traditional houses with an Andalusian communal courtyard aiming to bring people together.  Nowadays, they are renovated to accommodate travelers and come in a range of hospitality levels. They are meant to feel homier, and the people who work in riads also live in the neighborhood.

We stayed at Al Maha Marakech and it was nothing short of beautiful, however, as it has opened recently, we did experience several hiccups in the service due to shortage of staff. Before you travel, research riad options and go for ones with good reviews.

Riad - Al Maha Marakech [Saleh]

Riad - Al Maha Marakech [Shaima]

 2- Visit a couscous factory in the village

No really! This was one of my favourite places to check out and the story behind it is heartwarming. Two sisters, Hafitha and Thuraya started a co-op to encourage village women to quit moving to the city for lack of better opportunities. Most of these women are elderly and walk a total of 10 km back and forth to produce good handmade couscous. No machines.

If you are conscious about healthy eating, you will especially love this because they make couscous out of plants like Cactus, Jujube, Rice, Millet and Corn, making them gluten free.

Couscous factory, Marrakesh [Saleh]

Couscous factory, Marrakesh [Shaima]

 3- Djem Al Fnaa Market

This is the one touristy thing on the list but it really puts the gem in Djem. I have never seen a market bustle with life, street food and live music. I also do not advise going without a local if you are not good at haggling prices down.

During the day, the market focuses more on retail and live performances, and at night, all the street vendors come to play. I have had one of the most detectible Tanjia (lamb stew in clay pot cooked on coal for 5 hours).

Tanjia is known as the single man’s dish. Traditionally, men would take their clay pot to the market, buy the ingredients and stuff it in the pot on the go. The pot is then taken to the hamam and cooked by burying it in a room full of coals. Definitely not something you want to miss.

Also, be wary of taking pictures at the souk. People will gladly accept, but it comes at the cost of a few dirhams!

 Djem El Fanaa [Saleh]

Djem El Fanaa [Shaima]

4- Lunch at the Amal Centre

This experience is not to be missed. I ate there three times and enjoyed the variety every time. This place is special because of the visionary Nora Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald started a catering training centre that's also a restaurant on the front yard. The centre provides culinary training for disabled and disadvantaged women seeking to improve their skills. Training programs lasts for six months, after which, the women graduate fully equipped to work in a commercial kitchen or start their own small business. Everyone is super friendly and what's endearing is to hear their dreams and plans to stand on their own feet and contribute to giving back to community.

Food served at Amal centre is Morrocan with a contemporary twist. I loved their Chicken Tajine with hand cut home chips and honey-soy glazed teriyaki with fresh peas. It was the right amount sweet and sticky. If you ae like me, go round the back and have a chat with the ladies in the kitchen and see them harmoniously work like a well-oiled machine.

Amal Centre [Saleh]
Amal Centre [Shaima]

5- Visit T'erre D'amanar

Marrakech is known to be busy, fast and can exhaust you sometimes. Actually, that is life for all of us!

Terre D'amanar is one of the places worthy of the term "getaway". If you have a night to spare, I highly recommend visiting this place to get lost in the beauty of its vast, and cactus filled mountainous acres whether you want to relax or unleash the adventurous person in you. Their zip line trail is one of the longest in the African continent.

Terre D'amanar [Saleh]

Terre D'amanar [Shaima]

6- Go for a traditional Hammam

Do not get duped into paying 150 dirhams for a body scrub down. Typically, this should cost around 20 Moroccan dirhams at the most, and that is if you are looking for the real deal.

The experience involves siting in a room full of steam with a special paste lathered over your entire body. One is then scrubbed to oblivion with textured hand gloves until dead skin peels off your body.

7- Try Amlou

Dubbed as the Berber’s nutella, this is a delicious paste made by grinding toasted almonds with Argan oil and adding honey to sweeten it up.

The perfect accompaniment to Amlou is hot chapati like bread for breakfast or even as a snack from outdoor street cafes.

Amlou [Saleh]
Amlou [Shaima]

Shaima Al Tamimi is a cultural explorer, writer and food enthusiast living between the UAE and Qatar. You can follow her blog here.