Marrakech: A Further Afield insider’s guide
When Peter visited Marrakech on holiday he had no idea that trip would change his life forever. Now the owner of Further Afield favourite Riad Dar Zaman, he gives us his tips for making the most of the ancient city…
What made you fall in love with Marrakech and is it still the thing you love the most?
I fell in love with the light, the blue sky, the sunshine, the contrast of colours, the architectural style of riads, the smells and the easy rapport with strangers. These are still the reasons I’m in Marrakech.
You bought Riad Dar Zaman at the end of a week’s holiday and then totally renovated it! What were your biggest challenges?
The renovation was actually quite straightforward and a Spanish friend managed the project for me. I used to visit every couple of months to check on progress.
How have you found the transition from living in the UK to living in Marrakech?
I moved to Marrakech from the US where I’d been living for 11 years. It was something I really wanted to do and it was incredibly exciting and exotic. Luckily, I adapted quickly. The important thing to remember when you move to a new country is not to expect anything to work in the same way you’re used to!
What are your top tips for getting the best out of a holiday in Marrakech?
- Definitely stay in a riad
- Treat it like an adventure
- Unless you can resist getting drawn into an unwanted conversation or a shop, politely ignore everyone who speaks to you when you’re out and about!
- Visit a local hammam
- Take a day trip to the Atlas Mountains and to Essaouira on the coast
What’s the best time of year to visit?
There’s no bad time to visit Marrakech, but if you know you won’t appreciate extreme heat (40 degrees and above) it’s best to avoid July and August. However, during these months it’s perfect to incorporate a couple of nights in Marrakech followed by a couple of nights on the coast in Agadir, Essaouira, El Jadida or Tanger.
What’s the one dish you should try?
There are so many delicious dishes but if I had to pick one, it’s probably the chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives made by our chef, Karima at Dar Zaman.
Where’s the best place for people watching?
There are lots of street level cafés dotted about the medina with outside tables that are great for people watching. The local cafes that don’t cater so much to tourists often are the more interesting ones.
Is there a secret hideaway you’re prepared to tell us about….?
Two that immediately come to mind are Dar Cherifa, a gorgeous 15th century riad, now functioning as a cafe/restaurant and art gallery. There’s also La Famille, which is a hidden garden restaurant, accessed through an easily missed narrow passage off a busy medina street.
Is there a particular smell that sums up Marrakech to you?
There are so many smells – orange blossom in spring time; cedar wood from the area in the souks where they make and sell handcrafted stools and tables; the smell of wood smoke from the local hammams and neighbourhood ovens; the smell of tagines cooking as you pass private homes in the medina streets around lunchtime; jasmine in a riad garden.
When you go on holiday, where do you go?
To see friends I go to Madrid, New York, London, Sao Paulo or Rio. I also love going to the south of Morocco to Dades Valley, Valley of Roses, Todra Gorge, Merzouga (Sahara Desert) and also to Essaouira on the coast.