Just a few weeks or so before the very first Lockdown caused by Covid, back in 2020, we were fortunate enough to have gotten away for a short break to Morocco, where on arrival, towards the end of Feb, they hadn’t even had their first case of Covid 19 in the country, how things have changed since then.
I have re-written much of this introduction time and time again, as travel opened, closed and opened again. As I rewrite it for the 6th or 7th time, I am actually sitting by a pool in Mexico, almost 2 years after the trip itself. Terms like lateral flows and PCR’s along with a new level of knowledge of viruses are now common place, however one thing that definitely hasn’t changed, is my love to travel!
To be honest, winter sun is always a must do for us so having just returned from a trip to India (Blog Here) prior to the Morocco trip, we were looking for somewhere short haul for a week away.
With time off over my Birthday week at the start of March, we started to take a look at where would be warm enough for a break, without doing the long flight again.
Checks of temperatures started to show that Morocco would be a good bet, with Marrakech being just a 3.5hr flight from Manchester and temperatures hitting the mid 20’s at the start of March.
We started off by looking at independent flights and riads in the heart of the medina. Somewhere that would allow is to delve into what the city and its souks had to offer.
After lots of research, we came across a package to the TUI Blue Medina Gardens. An all inclusive hotel located with the medina and just a 5 min stroll from the souks, coming in at just over £500 per person, it worked out cheaper than booking a 3-4 night stay locally.
Not usually being a fan of All Inclusive resorts, this one was actually ideally located in the medina itself, so we bit the bullet and booked it. The plan was to use the hotel as a base from which to explore and was not really too worried about using the all inclusive element at all.
The flight was as expected – a 6am stroll through a deserted Manchester airport (No fast track needed at that time of the morning) and a pleasant 3hr 20min flight into Marrakesh airport.
We passed through immigration without any issues – visas are not required in advance as tourist visas are issued on arrival for those with UK passports.
Not fancying a coach transfer, we had upgraded to a taxi transfer. Whilst it would be much cheaper just grabbing one outside, sometimes its nice knowing that the driver already knows exactly where you’re going.
The medina area is only around 20 mins from the airport, so by lunchtime we are sitting in the reception of the hotel checking in.
The hotel is built around an old Manzah, an ancient building where it is said a feudal lord of Marrakesh once received his guests, with views over the city.
The newer buildings and their gardens, still have some beautiful views over the city and the Kutubiyya Mosque, with the Manzah making a stunning backdrop at night.
The rooms are modern, having been refurbished recently, we are welcomed in our room with some sweets and a bottle of Meknes Wine. It appears that we have picked a perfect base for the week.
Temperatures for the week are in the mids 20’s, however mornings are a little chilly and this gave us the perfect opportunity to explore.
Setting out after breakfast at around 9-10am we were able to walk around the Medina and visit some of the sights.
Firstly, a 15 mins stroll from our hotel is the Bahia Palace, one of a number of palaces that are dotted around the city and are open to the public to explore. With stunning Moroccan architecture and tiling, they are a magical escape in a bustling city.
As we wonder further around the streets within the Medina, you are met with sites of spices that delight the senses.
And within the souks, arts and crafts are available everywhere, just be sure to barter when buying these though, as they will end up being expensive. A great tip is to visit the fixed price stalls within the arts and crafts building (which is conveniently right next to our hotel). Here you can see what prices things should really be and then use that as a basis for your bartering in the souks.
Temperatures started to rise around midday, with it actually reaching the 30’s a few days that we were there (Slightly unusual at the end of Feb) and so we used this time to relax by the hotel pool, but before we did, we stopped by a local restaurant for a bite to eat.
B’Stilla is a tradition Moroccan Pie, a crispy Warqa pastry filled with a savoury saffron chicken and a topping of icing sugar and cinnamon. This one was served on mint leaves and pieces of apple and went down a treat.
Whilst we had planned on eating out most of the time, on the first evening we decided to stay in the hotel and get an early night, having been so impressed by the dishes, we ended up eating in the hotel just about every night, although we did try some other snacks outside.
One dish that I did eat repeatedly was Mseman, a laminated pancake that is stretched and layer repeatedly during its production, to produce an amazing texture. Topped with honey and cinnamon and then rolled up was the best way to eat them, thankfully they were made fresh at breakfast every day in the hotel.
As I stated in the opening, All inclusive hotels are not usually my thing due to the standards that you typically receive. Almost 2 years on, I found myself in a Riu hotel in Mexico, which has reconfirmed just how bad All Inclusive can be and reminds me just how good the Medina Gardens actually was. (You’ll be able to read more about this trip and the Riu Tequila in Playacar soon)
The week in Morocco went by quickly, trips were not high in the agenda, although we did decide to visit the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens (Jardin Majorelle) as a paid excursion, just for the ease of not having to queue up to get in.
We also continued to visit various palaces around Marrakesh in the mornings, plus a superb trip to a local spa, which you can read more about here.
I would also highly recommend a drink at the La Sultana Hotel, a stunning boutique hotel in the heart of the walled city, located right next to the Saadian Tombs (The Royal Necropolis)
So as travel starts to become a reality once more, I am already thinking about a second visit to Marrakesh and would urge others to do the same!