Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Marrakech. Finally, after six posts on my trip to Morocco, I’m breaking out the big guns. I’m finally teaching you what you most want to know. That’s right, we’re going to spend 24 hours in Marrakech.
Marrakech is one of those cities that everyone raves about. It’s so beautiful and cosmopolitan! The food is exquisite! Shopping is magical! There was a dude who shoved a snake in my face, and I liked it! All of this and more can be yours with 24 hours in Marrakech.
24 Hours in Marrakech
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Morocco can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
And if you’d like to explore great deals on over 3000 hotels in Marrakech, click here!
24 Hours in Marrakech
Morning: High Atlas Mountains Drive
I hate to delay your gratification a little more, Internet Stranger. But we’re not going to spend the entire 24 hours in Marrakech actually inside Marrakech. We’re going to begin by taking a vehicular stroll in the majestic natural surroundings of Marrakech.
I recommend doing what my G Adventures tour group did and starting this day in Ait Benhaddou. As fantastic as the cities of Morocco are, no visitor to the country should skip the wonders of the High Atlas Mountains. You can go from a sunny day to a blizzard in no time flat. Let me further blow your mind with…
Three fun facts about the high atlas mountains
1) is goat poop worth its weight in gold?
This is a slight exaggeration, but it took a stop at an argan oil collective to help me understand how goats and expensive shampoo could possibly go together. Argan oil has become an extremely trendy ingredient in skin and hair care products. It’s not greasy at all; it just leaves your hair and skin smooth, youthful, and glowing. At least that is what the ads say, and I know advertising would never lie to me.
Argan oil starts as the argan fruit. This is very popular food for Moroccan goats, but they can’t eat the nuts inside the fruit. So argan oil manufacturers have to wait for the goats to “process” the nuts out their tushies, and then they take the nuts and cold press them into magical oil. (One presumes they clean them thoroughly first.)
I have actually found argan oil to be a great conditioner for my dry and sometimes frizzy hair. I’m a big believer in using whatever works to keep my hair smooth and happy, even if it comes from the bottom of a goat.
2) where is the Highway to the Danger Zone?
One of the most exciting stops on the tour was the drive through the Tizi n’Tichka pass. This is the highest mountain pass in North Africa. Our guide Omar said that the name of this pass in the local Berber language means dangerous. What could be more fun than randomly risking your life halfway across the world from home in a van with non-functioning seatbelts?
I kid, Internet Stranger. The ride wasn’t that bad. And when you are at the top, you get this view!
Even though we were visiting Morocco in December, there wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground. Being American, I do miss the snow at Christmas time. So seeing these mountains relieved quite a bit of my homesickness.
Then I fell off the dangerous mountain pass and died. This blog post is being written by my ghost. BOOOOOOOO!
3) where is this?
It’s hard to believe that such a short distance from the marshmallow peaks of Tizi n’Tichka lie the baked gingerbread valleys of the Foret Toufliht. This massive national park is stuffed to the gills with cedar and pine trees. It is amazing how many different kinds of terrains and landscapes there are in Morocco. It’s like 20 different countries in one. I half expected to find myself underwater or on the moon next.
24 Hours in Marrakech
Afternoon: Explore Marrakech
At last we have arrived! Morocco’s most famous city! The Red City! The Daughter of the Desert! And our home for the next two nights. I promise that tomorrow we’ll spend a full 24 hours in Marrakech seeing everything Marrakech has to offer, but for now it’s going to be a half-day highlights tour. Come along with me for…
Approximately top 5: 24 hours in marrakech edition
1) Lunch at Le Colisée
After all that driving around hairpin turns and becoming a ghost, I was really in the mood for some sustenance. We checked into a little lunch spot near our hotel called Le Colisee. The manager came out and served us personally, which resulted in the best service we got in any restaurant in Morocco thus far. My lunch began with a very traditional Moroccan harira soup made with tomatoes, chickpea, and lentils.
For the main course, I took a wee break from all the Moroccan food to try some pizza with mushrooms. Except the crust of the pizza tasted more like flatbread than the pizza crust I get back home in New York. So in the end, I think it felt more like a Moroccan pizza than anything else.
2) Bahia Palace
It’s time for our first real historical attraction in Marrakech, the Bahia Palace. This 19th century palace was built for the use of the Grand Vizier. I never learned the vizier’s name because our guide was more interested in giving us fun facts about the ladies in the vizier’s life. The GV had four different wives, and they all competed with each other for status and privileges for their children.
Apparently it was widely known that the vizier was something of a lady’s man. Villages used to send their most attractive girls to be part of his harem and hope that the vizier would like them and do nice things for their villages. It’s these kind of stories that sort of put contemporary political corruption in perspective.
It seems like this vizier kind of resembled Jafar from Aladdin in personality. And I’ve read all the Thousand and One Arabian Nights and the viziers never come off all that well in those either. So I suppose the moral of the Bahia Palace is: never trust a vizier.
24 hour treasure
The most beautiful feature of the Bahia Palace is its garden/courtyard. Our guide told us that Muslim palaces and homes often have a garden courtyard because the garden is supposed to remind you of Paradise.
Do you know who else thinks the garden is like a paradise? These cats! It ain’t a Moroccan party without some random cats showing up. Meow!
3) Saadian Tombs
One of the other main historical attractions in Marrakech is the Saadian Tombs. The Saadians were the Big Sultans In Charge when Marrakech was the capital back in the 16th century. When Moulay Ismail became sultan, he didn’t want people remembering the Saadians. He tried to keep their tombs secret, and they weren’t rediscovered until 1917. “Better late than never,” the Saadian Sultans said. “What’s time to a ghost? BOOOOOOO!”
Our guide informed us that there were some unusual people buried in the Saadian tombs. One was the mother of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. She was widely respected for her excellent military advice. That seems like a terrific quality to have in a sultan’s mother. Also there were tombs for children who were killed by the plague. I really can’t think of any subject I feel less like telling a joke about than children dying of plague. Let’s go back to talking about the ghosts of sultans.
4) Jemaa El Fna
Jemaa El Fna is the main square of Marrakech and it dates back at least at far as the 12th century. Basically it’s the Times Square of Marrakech. It’s loud, crowded, and full of tourists and people trying to trick tourists out of their money. Also you absolutely cannot say you’ve visited Marrakech without seeing the Jemaa El Fna. It’s open 24/7 so there’s no way to miss it.
24 hour tip
Be very careful of people trying to sell you a bill of goods here with or without your permission. I was hanging out with a group of three other people from my tour and a dude came up and threw a giant snake around my shoulders. Then he attempted to charge me money to get me to take the snake off. My three compatriots screamed, but I did not. Even though I am from New York City, I generally do not have any hint of an accent. But on this occasion I vaguely sounded like I was from Canarsie.
“Oh no!” I waggled my finger at the man’s face. “I did not ask for this snake and I am not giving you any money.” The man kept yelling at me until I think he realized the snake wasn’t going to frighten my and also I was shaking my shoulders so vigorously that the snake was about to fall off my shoulders and bonk his head. So he took ol’ Snake-Eyes away and went to ply his con somewhere else.
24 Hour Treasure
Jemaa El Fna is surrounded by rooftop bars. They’re most popular around sunset, so get a table on the roof ahead of time. Then you’ll see the pinks and purples of the day’s end gently drift down upon the good folk of Marrakech and the wicked snake-throwing con artists alike.
5) Patisserie des Princes
If you find yourself feeling hungry like a snake, drop by Patisserie des Princes, which is often called the best bakery in Marrakech. All the pastries are fresh, so when they’re out of something for the day, you’re not going to see it again until tomorrow. The French influence on Marrakech is really obvious here because many of the pastries are classic and tres francais. I opted for the chausson aux pommes, which is just what the French call an apple turnover. And the flaky crust and tart apple filling could have come from any patisserie in Paris.
The literal translation of “chausson aux pommes” is apple slipper. I guess it sort of does look like the tip of a slipper. But no matter what the name says, do not put this pastry on your feet. “Eat it, don’t wear it,” is my motto when it comes to baked goods.
24 Hours in Marrakech
Evening: Dinner at Portofino
The first night of our 24 hours in Marrakech was an extremely special one because it was New Year’s! Naturally we were looking for a restaurant where we could get a drink or two. Remember that alcohol is not illegal in Morocco, even if most people there don’t drink it for religious reasons. Our guide set us up with New Year’s Dinner at an Italian restaurant called Portofino. The night was young, the year was old, and we were ready to start ringing in the New Year!
But even if it’s not New Year’s, Portofino is a good choice if you’re looking to get a drink in Marrakech and are feeling like stepping away from Moroccan food for a little bit.
I started with a Portofino salad, which was an unusual combination of fruits and vegetables with very little dressing. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t consumed any uncooked vegetables the entire trip. All my veggies had been in soups or tagines. I always worry that I’m going to eat nothing but unhealthy food for an entire trip and end up with scurvy like a pirate. But this salad had citrus fruit in it. Scurvy avoided!
My main course was a ravioli caprese, which is a dish I had never seen or heard of before. Do you know what caprese salad is? Of course you do! You’re a highly cultured person because you read this blog. But in case you’re suffering from amnesia, caprese salad is a simple Italian dish made with fresh mozz and tomatoes. You can probably guess that this ravioli was stuffed with mozzarella and tomato. It’s actually a nifty idea! There’s nothing to hate about any combination of pasta, cheese, and tomatoes. I hope the concept catches on!
24 Hour treat: mojito
Even though Morocco is not a country big on drinking, I have heard that the mojito is one of the most popular cocktails there. It makes sense because mint tea is such a popular drink! And Moroccan mint really does make everything better. Just don’t expect this to be a super strong mojito. It was definitely heavy on the mint, light on the rum.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Marrakech!
What would you do with 24 hours in Marrakech? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Marrakech right now? Have you ever turned into a ghost on your travels (BOOOOO)? And what would you do if a stranger threw a snake on your shoulders? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Just because this itinerary is for 24 hours in Marrakech it doesn’t mean you should only spend 24 hours in Marrakech. If you have another 24 hours in Marrakech, try this itinerary.