You may have seen Instagram photos, read a blog post or two (or googled it), but nothing truly prepares you for the reality of Marrakech’s mesmerizing medina in person, as I realized once I arrived. Known as the “red city”, Marrakech is actually far from a city of just one hue, and the medina (meaning the old, walled part of the city) is its sparkling crown jewel. A complete assault on the senses, a trip to the medina is perfect for thrill-seeking travellers looking to load their camera with magical memories and widen their minds.
The medina is a frenetic circus of hustle and bustle where the old way of life unapologetically merges with the new. In the many souks (markets) I saw that sacks of rice sat beside tables of electronics and, iPhones and lampshades were sold side-by side. Motorbikes and people danced around donkeys and carts in the winding red alleys and carpet-makers wove a rainbow of cloth into intricate patterns and hung them high from shop ceilings. Jewelers twisted gold and silver into shining bracelets -- and tried to tempt passing tourists to part with their money. the smell of freshly-baked bread wafted into the street from traditional bread-ovens as cloaked men confirmed deals in booming Arabic.
I realized the medina is not for the faint of heart.
When I was done strolling around with my mouth agape, I thought an official guided tour might help me make sense of everything a little better. With my Topdeck guide, I visited a Moroccan herbalist where I tried homemade face creams made from rose and cactus extract, sniffed bright, fresh spices such as mint and saffron and, traded some of my Dirhams for the golden elixir of all beauty treatments; Moroccan argan oil. I also stepped foot inside one of the city’s many tanneries; an experience as old-fashioned as it is pungent, where animal hides are turned into shoes and bags using vats of brightly-coloured liquids for dyeing and cleansing.
Marrakech exceeded all my expectations; from the snake charmers, to the markets within the medina, the endless ornate backdrops and photo opps and the litres of argan oil available on every street corner (obviously I stocked up because...absolute necessity) the capital city is a complete assault on the senses. • • We also headed to the Saadian Tombs, where the bodies of the Saadi dynasty are still buried there from the 15th century. Our @topdecktravel guide was on hand to help us navigate everything and I can't wait to see what else we are going to discover... #ultimate49
A trip to the ancient walled garden known as the Saadian Tombs was also well worth a visit; dotted around the lush shrubbery and towering palm trees are unknown mosaic graves and tombs from the reign of Saadian sultan Ahmed El-Mansour. Morocco is full of unexpected and as I walked around the Tombs, I remember thinking; what other magic was once here?
In the medina, there’s something to see on every street corner. But remember that if you visit the in the scorching summer, you need to prepare to have your personal space invaded — by the heat: the air was thick and sweet like sugar and clothes were sticky on my back when I went, so I’d advise anyone visiting then to make like the locals and dress loose and light. Morocco has long been considered a beacon of liberal, Muslim ideals and Marrakech is one of the most open and relaxed spots in the country. In the medina I spotted plenty of people wearing a djellaba, (a long-sleeved dress) as well as t-shirts and jeans and, I noticed that bars and cafes were full of both tourists and locals.
A magical barrage of the senses, a trip to Marrakech's medina is full of the kind of surprises that never get old, so brace yourself and dive right in.
Georgina Lawton is a 24-year old blogger and writer from London who enjoys dancing bachata and embracing lesser known travel experiences. Follow her around the world at: www.girlunfurled.com and stalk her Instagram: @girlunfurled