Tucked away north of the Medina, Maison Anaroze is a restful retreat that feels a world away from the multi-sensory carnival of the souks and main square, a 20-minute cab ride from the riad.
It’s a 20-minute drive to Marrakech Menara Airport. Transfers can be pre-booked at a cost of around €25 one-way and, unlike some stays in the city, the taxi can drop you right at the door.
Marrakech’s main train station, 15 minutes from the riad, connects the city to Casablanca, Fez, Rabat and other destinations around Morocco. A one-way transfer to Maison Anaroze costs around €20.
Unusually for Marrakech, the street on which Maison Anaroze sits is broad enough that cabbies will happily drop you right at the front door without fear of damaging their paintwork. If you’re a sucker for petrol fumes, honking horns and long delays you can rent your own car at the airport, but famously heavy traffic jams around the centre mean you may be wiser to experience Marrakech by public transport and on foot. The nearest paid parking is five minutes from the riad.
Worth getting out of bed for
Once cocooned within the hushed, whitewashed walls of Maison Anaroze, sipping mint tea, listening to the morning birdsong and lazily leafing through a beat-up copy of celebrated 1950s travel journal A Year in Marrakech, you may well baulk at the very idea of stepping out into the city’s famously thronging streets and squares. And, frankly, though there are plenty of reasons to visit the Medina (more of which later), the allure of a cooling courtyard dip and sunny rooftop siesta will often prove impossible to resist.
Suitably refreshed, make for the labyrinth of lanes that radiate out from Djemaa El Fna, where powder-pink buildings, dusty ochre alleyways and sensational souks conjure a sublime sensory experience that every traveller worth their salt should experience at least once. Scratch your selfie itch in the shadow of the towering 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque then duck into the surrounding souks, where hotshot hagglers emerge clutching triumphant fistfuls of silk scarves, silver jewellery and saffron. Novices beware though: the hypnotic banter of snake-oil salesmen has been known to coax dirhams from wallets just as effectively as the charmers on the square woo their reptilian charges from wicker baskets. In the evenings, belly-dancers, fire-breathers and other street entertainers join the square’s heady fiesta, as aromas of spice and incense drift across the crowd in great pungent plumes.
Between the extremes of the riad’s tranquil solitude and the Medina’s madding crowd lies Marrakech’s embarrassment of splendid gardens and museums, ideal for a bit of post-souk decompression. Chief among the city’s many cultural hubs, the Museum of Marrakech is a former palace with an interior courtyard flamboyant enough to make a sultan blush: think ornamental fountains, stained-glass windows, colourful zellij tiles, arabesque motifs and the kind of bus-sized brass chandelier for which the term ‘extravagant’ feels like something of an understatement.
Over at Jardin Majorelle, towering palms and prickly pears frame the former home of designer Yves Saint Laurent, an eye-popping electric-blue villa that wouldn’t look out of place on the catwalk itself. Step inside to view artefacts from the Berber Museum and paintings by French artist Jacques Majorelle, the villa’s original owner after whom the gardens – and indeed the intense Majorelle Blue colour of the building’s walls – are named.
It’s difficult to say whether it’s the commanding views or slow-cooked Moroccan lamb that draws the biggest crowds to Terrasse des Épices in the heart of the Medina. There’s only one way to find out. Book a table on the terrace and order up the restaurant’s celebrated signature tanjia Marrakchia – that’s lamb spiced with ras el hanout, saffron, cumin and ginger, stuffed inside a clay pot then cooked for several hours beneath a mountain of hot ashes. Sounds delicious, right? And almost certainly enough to distract you, at least momentarily, from dreamy views across terracotta Medina rooftops to the Atlas Mountains. Pair with a decadent mountain of rich chocolate pastilla for the win.
Le Jardin’s high whitewashed walls, wicker chairs and garden centre’s worth of lush foliage may put you in mind of Maison Anaroze’s airy interiors, but with the addition of distinct emerald-green floor tiles and the buzzy vibe of the Medina, which filters into the huge garden patio from the maze of streets outside. Duck in for a wide selection of Moroccan classics, such as grilled merguez sausage, crispy falafel and belly-busting chicken tagine with olives and candied lemon.
Café des Épices is a stalwart of the souk scene, offering zesty lemon verbenas, enlivening coffees and refreshing mint teas, all served with a side order of Medina views, natch.
Meanwhile, the lively Mouassine district feels a bit like the souks in miniature, all tiny traditional craft shops festooned with vibrant hand-dyed yarns, hammered copper jewellery and colourful kaftans. Have a break from all that shopping in Dar Cherifa, a restored 16th-century mansion with carved beams, stucco mouldings and a hushed courtyard that’s perfect for pausing with a strong Arabic coffee and a slice of almond cake.
Get in with the in-crowd at El Fenn, a luxury hotel whose crowning glory is its smart rooftop terrace, complete with gleaming 30-foot marble bar. Here, mixologists rustle up signature cocktails for thirsty patrons well into the evening. Try the El Fenn Mule, with saffron-infused vodka, fresh ginger and lime, or go native with a whisky-laced Ras Al Hanout Mint. Bold contrasting colour schemes and eye-catching patterned upholstery provide occasional distraction from close-up views of Koutobia Mosque that might just be the finest in town, regardless of how blurred your vision gets.
Had your fill of pretty views and just fancy some no-nonsense old-fashioned cocktails in a Prohibition Era-style environment? We’ve got the bar for you! A giant metal letter ‘B’ points the way to Le Baromètre in the Gueliz neighbourhood west of the Medina. Inside, jars of vibrant spices line the bar and form the basis for imaginative concoctions that would likely have blown the minds of moonshine-thirsty speakeasy drinkers back in the Twenties.