Everyone can appreciate the good life – la dolce vita – but what does this look like in an exotic place such as Morocco? Imagine arriving in Marrakech and experiencing a quasi-mystical, dream-like day, as a protagonist from a Fellini film, living la dolce vita in the Marrakech medina.
What could that be like, do you think? This is Cara, our principal’s, response to that question.
Put yourself in the scene. You open your eyes and luxuriate as you stretch out between silk sheets. As the mist of sleep clears you say to yourself, “Where am I? That’s right! I am in Marrakech Morocco after all these years of dreaming about it!”
There are many luxury hotels and riads in Marrakech where you can wake up in silk sheets. Some popular options include the Four Seasons Marrakech, the Royal Mansour, and La Mamounia, all located in the Medina, which is the most ancient part of Marrakech where life goes on in much the same style as it has for hundreds of years. (Although the man astride a donkey may these days have an iPhone with a cracked screen at his ear.) Additionally, there are many private rental properties, such as traditional Moroccan riads, that can also offer silk sheets. Aussies In Morocco Tours™ can arrange or confirm this for you.
You wake up fully and shower and, if you are a binary uomo (that’s a “man’s man” in older-person-speak), you might also shave. You are famished, so where can you go for a quality coffee and pastry for breakfast? Marrakech offers a wonderful choice of cafes, and some popular options are in our “best French food” blog post for Marrakech here.
Later in the morning you meet our guide for a tour of the medina. You might ask him to take you to Marrakech’s version of La Fontana di Trevi made famous by Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in that famous movie scene. The most famous and arguably the nicest fountain in Marrakech is the Bahia Palace fountain, known for its intricate tilework and peaceful atmosphere. Additionally, the Majorelle Garden and the Menara Gardens also feature beautiful fountains. However, the latter are at some distance from the medina.
Later, after lunch what indulgences can romantic couples enjoy, that won’t offend the local laws and customs? For western tourists I would recommend the luxurious hammam experiences at either La Sultana that feels like it is straight out of a Delacroix, or La Hammam de la Rose. There are also gorgeous henna tattoos for couples available, preferably after hammam, at Henna Art Discovery.
Then, maybe at the other end of the adrenalin spectrum there is the possibility of taking a hot air balloon ride. Some companies offer hot air balloon rides over the Atlas Mountains – it is a great way to enjoy a romantic view of the city and the surrounding landscape. Careful though, your travel insurance may exclude such high-risk endeavours from its cover. Even though I mention it here, I don’t encourage clients to do it, as I just don’t have confidence in the medical care and safety regulation in Morocco. They’re not what we have come to expect from our own countries in the west.
In the late afternoon or early evening, you decide to go for a passeggiata, like they do in Rome. This is all about seeing and being seen – where everyone dresses up in their nicest, most elegant clothes and with their friends and family go out for a stroll, a coffee or aperitif at some bar or other. Marrakech offers a variety of places where you can go for a stroll nicely dressed at the golden hour. It’s important to note that public displays of affection are frowned upon in Morocco, so couples should avoid kissing or holding hands in public. Additionally, it’s important to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or traditional neighbourhoods.
The Andalusian Gardens in Marrakech are near the Bahia Palace, on the south side of the city, and are easily accessible by taxi or by foot. They are surrounded by high walls, giving visitors a peaceful and private space to relax and explore. The precise address of the Andalusian Gardens is not publicly listed, as they are often considered a hidden gem in the city and are less crowded than other popular tourist attractions. However, they are easy to find with the help of a local guide or by using maps and navigation apps.
As for the clothes to wear during your passegiata, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, located in the Jardin Majorelle, features a shop selling a range of traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery, as well as items from the Yves Saint Laurent collection. Warning: if you want to avoid the queues make this your first stop in the morning of any tour of the medina. There are also the following shopping options:
- Riad 72: This is a luxury boutique hotel – it has a small shop that sells traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery.
- Les Ensemble Artisanaux: This is a government-sponsored ‘workshop’ that sells traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery.
- Maison de la Photographie: This is a photography museum that has a shop that sells traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery.
- Souk des Teinturiers (dyer’s market): This is a traditional marketplace located in the Medina, it’s a great place to find high-quality traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery. The textiles are the focus here.
- Dar Sara: This is a shop that sells traditional Moroccan clothing, accessories, and jewellery.
It’s a good idea to bring cash, as some of the smaller shops may not accept credit cards and even if they do, we recommend reticence in handing over credit card details in Morocco, as a rule.
Also try to check out our recommendations before making the trek, because one curious thing about Morocco – it has a timeless quality and yet, at the same time, there is constant change. It is just one of those beautiful paradoxes of existence.
You finish your passeggiata and have a drink with your love, perhaps on the rooftop of El Fenn. here. You watch a sunset for which Marrakech is so famous. Even Winston Churchill painted the Marrakech sunset from his hotel balcony in 1935 (the painting sold for hundreds of thousands of US dollars).
Dinner calls. So, where can you enjoy a dinner late at night in a beautiful locale?
There are a number of restaurants in and around the Marrakech medina that offer rooftop, panoramic views of Marrakech. Our clients sometimes ask us for recommendations for these, and opinions swing widely. Our drivers suggest that a nice restaurant, to which you can be delivered securely at night, is preferable to one that simply has a panoramic view. This limits the choice somewhat because of course, cars aren’t allowed in the heart of the medina. These destinations are excellent, say our drivers, because they can drop you off at the front door easily:
- The Royal Mansour – high quality cuisines including Moroccan, French, Italian, and Asian. Check their dining hours.
- Dar Rhizlane – gourmet delights blending Moroccan and Mediterranean flavours.
- Al Fassia – entirely run by women (the name means ‘women from Fez’), the menu features outstanding traditional fare.
Check the website galleries for each to confirm you like the ambiance and views before booking, since although these are drivers’ suggestions, I don’t see cityscape images here.
El Fenn too, that we mentioned earlier, could be nice for dinner on its terrace overlooking the city. Madonna partied there when she turned sixty. It also has lots of modern art bedecking the walls of the hotel, which is always a bonus. Just a word of warning though: the reviews on TripAdvisor are a bit mixed and I have the impression that it might be a bit like a nightclub to which only the cool gang are granted entry. So up to you.
From me, I say if you like your riad’s food, and it has a panoramic rooftop terrace, as many do, consider arranging a special dinner there.
To further refine your choice check reviews online. It is an imperfect science with online reviews liable to being manipulated, but it is the best disintermediation currently available to us as consumers. I always check the poor reviews, and not just the most recent ones, and whether there are any particular recurring themes.
You never know in Marrakech who you will spot at dinner. You could see at an adjoining table the film director Nabil Ayouch, the actor and director Mohamed Khouyi and the actress Leila Bekhti. You could spy internationally renowned musicians such as Hindi Zahra, Rachid Taha, Souad Massi, and Riffi. Or even internationally renowned contemporary artists such as Hassan El Glaoui, Hassan Hajjaj, and Yto Barrada. What a day! What a spelling challenge!
Your day of la dolce vita is fast coming to an end, but there is one last pleasure to be experienced – shooting stars across the night sky.
Since Marrakech is located in a relatively urban area, it may be difficult to see shooting stars in the city itself due to light pollution. However, there are a few places you can go that are relatively close by and offer dark skies. We suggest contacting local astronomer Astro Ali, whose details can be found here. He often takes people to the Agafay desert just outside of Marrakech for an evening of stargazing. You might also like to check out our Cosmic Star-gazing Tour of Morocco 2024 – Aussies in Morocco Tours
As Astro Ali says, it’s important to keep in mind that to see shooting stars you need clear skies, which means you should try to avoid times of a full moon, and check the weather forecast ahead of time. Also, it’s a good idea to bring warm clothes and a flashlight if you plan to go stargazing.
You could also have visited a jazz club or one of the many lounges to enjoy a relaxed and intimate ambiance with your love, but there is only so much you can fit into a dolce vita day.
Time for rest!
You return to your silk sheets. Your eyelids feel heavy. You close your eyes and dream of your day in that mystical land, where the bread is cooked in the coals of the hammam and the call to prayer is like a violin bow drawn across the strings of your soul.
For any tour you do with us that starts or finishes in Marrakech, why not add on a few days for your own dolce vita experience? Call or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to turn this dream into an (itinerary) date with destiny.
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