Marrakesh At Sunrise

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I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to do for my birthday. It was one of those ‘milestones’ that often fill people with dread (the big 4-0 I believe they call it, in hushed tones) but I am a perennial optimist about each decade that steps forward.

First, of all, not everyone has the pleasure of their 40s so that in itself is an achievement. Managing to stumble towards ‘over the hill’ is a huge feat in itself. I have been on planes, trains and automobiles and managed to survive to this point. I have also side-stepped many a household injury to get to this point and then there are those terribly vivid ‘close calls’ stuck in our minds that we also managed to survive.

Secondly, each decade has been more successful in my life than the previous. At this point I can say my teen years were a struggle, my twenties were tiresome and my thirties showed a marked improvement. Life, is getting better. So, I awake each morn more joyful then most that my forties will be a jolly good time. And as I mentioned, I simply had no plans to mark the event.

I knew something would arise that would be perfect and I wasn’t wrong. In October, after a shopping spree with some of the ladies, Lady Metal pronounced ‘we need an adventure’ and then Lady Convivial said ‘I know of a great hotel run in Marrakesh’ and that was it! We stitched a marvelous plan to runaway to Marrakesh and celebrate my 40th, Lady Metal’s birthday and one of our mutual friend’s 40th birthday at some point in march. Morocco would be the destination. Flights were most accommodating at a mere 100 pounds and the accommodation we planned to stay at had a discount so amiable we were traveling to Marrakesh for less than a trip to London. All seven of us in tow.

Lady Convivial was unable to join in the festivities but as Convivial as ever, setup our gorgeous accommodation at the Riad Star. We stayed for three nights and four days and although we have heard so many rules about what you should and shouldn’t do in Marrakesh, we were pleasantly surprised to find out the entire city was truly sensational.

The Riad Star is part of a chain of boutique hotels known as ‘riads’ and are owned by a British couple who seem to have struck gold by finding these gems and turning them into the most travel-friendly accommodations I have ever stayed at. Not only was the décor of Moroccan design and completely lush but we stayed in the same location as Josephine Baker used to stay when she would visit Marrakesh. The Riad Star was light and airy with all the modern day conveniences one could want. Breakfast was part of the package and I have to say a Marrakesh breakfast is full of fruits, yogurt, eggs, pancakes and lovely local breads. Tea and coffee were on tap and the orange juice was divine.

Most of all, the Riad Star had something that I believe was, by design, ingenious, and exactly why you should stay at any one of the ‘Star Collection’ boutique hotels. After breakfast on our first day we were supplied with a map of the city, a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, requested to download the hotel app and given advice from Aziz, our host for the duration of our trip, who not only guided us where to go and how to deal with harassing hagglers in the souks, but also advised us to call him if we were to be lost at any point and he would come to get us. Aziz told us the app had a map with GPS without requiring wi-fi connection which was so reassuring.

After the first day of traipsing around the city we felt very confident as we had the tools to find what we needed and a rescue should we require at any point. Aziz organized horse carriages for us, walked us to restaurants, made reservations for us, walked us to the hammam and picked us up after, he even ordered us pizza just before we headed out the door back to the UK. Aziz made the experience safe for travellers on so many levels and taught me a new phrase ‘it is the Marrakesh way’. Having that safety net made everything easier and made us all that more adventurous then we would have been without all this knowledge and tools to get around.

We journeyed around the city extensively and visited the souks frequently. We bought spices and eleven handbags between seven women (don’t be judgy!). We laughed at the young boy shouting ‘Don’t I know you? Oh that’s right, you stole my heart’ to every woman that passed by and admired the tenacity and spirit of the city and the people in it.

Marrakesh, much like it’s cobbled together buildings, is a patchwork of cultures coming together to create a home. It is a lively and vibrant city that was full of hustle, bustle and splendor. We seemed to understand and embrace the city almost immediately.

We visited the Yves Saint Laurent Gardens and took a lovely tour of the city in horse and cart too. We visited some Palaces that were built in the 1900s (tourist traps perhaps?) and a cemetery where royals were laid to rest. We saw the mountains but didn’t get to them – I strongly advise you add them into your holiday as you can see them from the city and they look simply heavenly.

We dined in some lovely establishments for dinner – La Foundouk and Café Arab were both spectacular places to dine with fairly reasonable prices. We could get a sit down meal for four pounds for lunch and dinner could be acquired for 25-30 pounds (without holding back on pennies). The only item that seemed to be expensive was alcohol so perhaps not the city to go to harden your liver. It wasn’t needed anyways. The vibrancy of the city kept us entertained the whole time we were there.

Most of all, when asked what grand and extravagant thing I wanted to do on my 40th birthday, the answer was easy for me. I wanted to wake up early with my tribe of women and watch the Marrakesh sunrise, and oh my heavens, it was gorgeous…..

now, can you imagine anything more spectacular then that?

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