Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!
Today: Dominique Jackson shares her top tips for vacationing in Marrakesh.
I had been preparing for months for my trip to Morocco. Seeing as it was my first time in Africa, I decided to travel with a group of creative, inspiring Black people from across the diaspora with a top-notch group travel company, Dipaways. When I landed in Marrakesh a few days before the rest of the group arrived, I was immediately inspired by the sensory experience. From the smell of spices to the vibrant colors of hand-crafted rugs to local artisans to the taste of the mouth-watering Tagine, Marrakesh, is a paradise to any traveler who likes to be fully immersed in culture and tradition.
Located in Western Morocco, Marrakesh is a Muslim nation abundant with beautiful and historic mosques. It’s called the “red city,” because all of the buildings are dusty red, making you feel like you’re in a desert-type oasis. Getting lost in the souk shops of the Medina is a must among travelers with a wanderlust spirit. I left with decorative home goodies from a traditional tagine, a pot, a vase, a hand-made leather bag and, of course, the classic Moroccan mint tea. The only thing I regret is not purchasing a rug for my kitchen!
If Marrakesh is on your 2023 travel list, check out these luxury and budget-friendly recommendations and make the most of your time in this magical city.
FOR A BUDGET: STREET FOOD IN THE MEDINA
Moroccan cuisine is a flavorful mix of Arab, Berber, Andalusi and Mediterranean influences. Diving into the street food scene is one of my favorite ways to experience a culture—and Marrakesh did not disappoint. Some must-try Moroccan street food dishes include Khobz, a type of bread. Other highlights include Harira, a tomato-based soup and Briouats, a fried flaky pastry filled with an array of meats, fish or veggies.
FOR A SPLURGE: QUATTRO
Quattro is a luxury dining experience located inside The Four Seasons Hotel. The restaurant has an aesthetically pleasing ambiance with a picturesque courtyard lined with palm trees at the entrance. The food is a tasteful combination of traditional Moroccan cuisine paired with Southern Italy-inspired dishes. A few signature dishes are Millefoglie di Pasta Fresca Al Carcio is a savory dish with Ricotta cream and lemon-mint infused dressing and the Paccheri Artigianali, which is a type of pasta with a lime-like flavor.
FOR A BUDGET: RIAD CHEKARAM
When searching for accommodation options in Morocco, you’ll encounter several Riads. Unlike a hotel, a Riad is a traditional Moroccan house. By definition, “Riad” means “enclosed garden,” which is exactly what you’ll find when staying at one of these properties. I opted to stay at Riad Chekaram (found via Airbnb), which was a very intimate experience. Dinner was shared with strangers who became friends. If guests chose to participate in the offered cooking class led by an extremely hands-on host, they helped prepare daily meals. I felt like I was staying with family. Riad Chekaram runs for about $70 to $80 per night, depending on the season.
FOR A SPLURGE: BOUTIQUE HOTEL JNANE TAMSNA
Founded by Meryanne Loum-Martin in the early 2000s, Jnane Tamsna is the first Black-owned hotel in Morocco. The hotel is as delicate as it is intimate. It features five houses and pools, tennis courts, restaurants and decorative courtyards, as well as 24 individual rooms and private villa rentals. The hotel is a creative hub and will spark any artist’s inspiration. Loum-Martin hosts Philoxenia retreats in partnership with Parea Books. The retreats focus on literature and creative writing and bring together global Black creatives such as award-winning authors like Cleyvis Natera and Camille T. Dungy. She even offers scholarships for HBCU students to attend the retreats. The average hotel night ranges from $200 to $400 per night, depending on the season.
FOR A BUDGET: A TRADITIONAL HAMMAM EXPERIENCE
Visiting a traditional Moroccan Hammam (also known as a bathhouse) is different from your typical spa day. It is a full-body ritual that will positively impact your mind, body and spirit. Travelers can easily find a Hammam in the old city, aka the Medina area. Once you enter the bathhouse, you can expect to enter a hot room for about 15-20 minutes, followed by a body exfoliation and lathering the body in soap before rinsing. To enter a traditional Hammam in Marrakesh will cost about $3 to $5, and most people spend about an hour in them. Note: Hammams are typically crowded on Thursday in advance of Friday prayer.
FOR A SPLURGE: SPA DAY AT ROYAL MANSOUR
For a luxurious experience, book a spa day at the elite Royal Mansour. With facials, body treatments and massages, a day here is sure to relax and renew your soul. The spa at the Royal Mansour infuses holistic practices into the experiences, and services include wraps, exfoliations, intense hydration, lipomodeling and other manicure and pedicure services—most services start at $400.
FOR A BUDGET: HIKE THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
One of my favorite activities in Marrakesh was hiking the Atlas Mountains. Talk about views on views! The Atlas Mountains are North Africa’s highest mountain range. There are several hikes travelers can take, ranging from beginner to more advanced. If you’re experienced, you can hike without a guide for free. I opted to hike with my Dipaways group—my favorite part was being able to stop and have lunch in one of the villages with a local family.
FOR A SPLURGE: BOOK A DAY EXCURSION:
One of the best ways to experience adventure in Marrakesh is by getting to the desert, where there’s no shortage of fun—from ATVs to camel rides to sand dunes. I recommend booking a full-day experience from top trip sites such as Viator or GetYourGuide. Most full-day trips range from $100 to $200.
What To Pack
Make sure to check the weather. I ignorantly assumed it would be super hot when I was there, which was not the case. In November, the mornings were chilly and I often needed a jacket in the evening. Consider bringing an empty suitcase, so you can have enough room for all the new items you buy. It can get pretty sunny in the afternoon, so I recommend a good pair of sunglasses. I love the stylish and chic selections from Coco and Breezy. Also, because Morocco is a Muslim country, it is best to dress modestly to respect the culture. I recommend packing flowy dresses, pants and shirts that cover your shoulders. A few must-have items that I never travel without include my BEIS fanny pack and dresses from Dressed in Joy.