Chilling may well seem like a pipedream whilst threading your way through the hubbub of Marraech’s souks. But here are five places to totally relax:
1) Head to Terrasse des Epices and stressful thoughts of haggling and bustle will soon evaporate. This rooftop terrace restaurant, catering well for vegetarians is a veritable oasis above the markets, and is beautifully lit at night. In fact, it is an institution – it was featured in Easyjet’s in-flight magazine as an essential place in Marrakech to have coffee.
There are airy, cushioned snugs to relax in, or open-air tables with parasols. The owner, a charismatic entrepreneur named Kamal who speaks at least six languages fluently, also has two other establishments within the medina walls. “I started with a small guesthouse serving tagine and tea,’ he says. ‘But I thought, why not serve food outside? So I opened a café, and then this restaurant.’
2) His Café des epices is smaller than the Terrasse, though it is spread over three storeys. From each floor, you have a great view of an open-air market, selling everything from carpets to tortoises and chameleons. This is the place for a simple sandwich, a juice…and a rest.
Outside Marrakech’s Medina
3) Marrakech is just as much about the New Town as the medina. So check out the Grand Café de la Poste for some serious slouching – on leather cushions and footstools galore. With myriad candles casting a soft light upon the terracotta-potted palms, it’s hard to believe this was once a sorting office, built in the twenties during the French Protectorate.
A blend of smooth jazz wafts as breezily as the stunning, demure waitresses that are on hand at all times. But don’t doze off – the buffet table downstairs, comprising exceptionally generous nibbles, is included in the price of your drink. Top tip: if you sit on the chairs outside, you won’t be served alcohol.
4) Just round the corner is Azar, a well-recommended restaurant doubling as a nightclub. Beautifully lit, this is an up-market establishment offering Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine upstairs, and live ‘Oriental’ music downstairs nightly from 10pm.
Above the sofas in the nightclub, a row of black camel heads, like sphinxes keeping vigil, are fixed to the wall. Fatima’s Hand hangs from each collar, and every head quirkily bears a fez.
On the night we visited, an infectious fusion of chromatic jazz floated over a bed of synthesised Moroccan pop. This is the perfect place for a mojito and a sheeshah. The attentive, black-clad waiters replace the coals in the dark, almost without you noticing. It is a high-class joint, dripping with chill factor, and very safe for women without men.
Pamper Yourself In Marrakech
5) Eleven kilometres out of town is the immaculately-cultivated Beldi Country Club. Run by Frenchman, Jean Dominique, and his daughter, Geraldine, this is a complex oozing relaxation.
Here you can enjoy a hammam in the spa area. Allow yourself to be doused in warm water on a marble slab strewn with herbs and rose petals. The ubiquitous black soap is then applied before your skin is scrubbed with a black mitt. Guys can wear trunks or the offered nappy-like covering; girls go naked – hooray!
Soothing pianoforte is piped throughout the rooms whilst you relax afterwards in a dressing-gown, sipping sweet mint tea.
Within the resort, there are two swimming pools – one for hotel guests staying in the buildings made from mud and straw, and one for day visitors. As a non-resident, you can lounge beneath the olive trees, beside a long, rosemary-flanked pool. The only sounds are birdsong and the occasional snip of shears from a straw-hatted gardener.
Lunches are sumptuous, served on rose-filled tables and tended by genial staff. The accompanying Moroccan breads can be dipped in olive oil made on the premises – from the enveloping olive trees. Alcohol is available here.
There are cooking and pottery classes on offer, too, as well as boutiques, tennis courts and a home cinema. Geraldine also organises ‘picnic chic’ (a picnic excursion in the medina), plus parties at the big lake out the back.