Sartorials, scenics & sustenance

Exploring the Moroccan Souks

This is the second instalment of my recent trip to Morocco. Last Christmas, I was surprised by Joe with a short stay in the Red City (aka Marrakesh), which is famously renown for its maze-like medinas, meticulous mosaic artistry and its more than manic markets. Despite being there for only two days, I was really excited to discover a small sliver of a continent I'd never visited before. One of our days was spent relaxing in the beautiful spa in La Mamounia, which can be read here.

We flew from Gatwick mid-morning, (regrettably on only three hours sleep due to a serious Eurovision commitment from the previous night) and landed slightly after midday. There are quite literally thousands of places to stay when you visit Marrakesh, however, the general consensus pointed us towards to the 'riad route'.

Riads embody the architectural essence of Morocco, with a single deceiving door concealing a hidden sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. They typically open inwards to reveal a central courtyard, which is surrounded by bedrooms and communal areas for guests to use at their leisure. Not only are riads the go-to when it comes to accommodation in Marrakesh, they are also extremely affordable with some coming in at just £20 per night with breakfast included. Our riad of choice was the 'Riad El Kenz' - a stone's throw away from all the touristy places both Joe and I were eager to explore.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warm welcome from the weather, and an even warmer welcome from the riad owners. We sat and drank traditional Moroccan tea, whilst they told us some of the best sights to see in Marrakesh. One area in particular Joe and I were certain we wanted to visit was the Moroccan souks, where haggling is an extreme sport for merchants who have all kinds of goods to sell.

"Take an immediate right out of the riad, take the second right and then take the fourth left. Follow the road down and keep to the left as you enter into a square. Once you're past the school, slowly veer off to the right and there will be a small alley where you can enter into the souks."

Marrakesh is split into two, the old town and the new. Simple enough - or so it seemed at the time. When we were given directions to get to the Souks, we didn't anticipate how difficult it would be to actually follow them. Our riad was situated in the old town, where each road joins into one another, forming an enormous labyrinth towered by red buildings, overlooked by orange arches and tailored with turns at almost every step. Similarly to the back streets of Marrakesh, the souks are marbled over miles across the city and are completely unmappable.

When entering these man-made markets, it's clear that the primary purpose is for you to get lost in them. Nevertheless, any fears of not making out in one piece are immediately extinguished by the sheer vibrancy and energy which emanate from within the Souk. The spectrum of colours from each stall and it's neighbouring brothers and sisters are truly astonishing. We started out in an area where the markets were predominantly clothing, but we soon found ourselves navigating through thousands of stalls displaying everything from beautiful wooden craftsmanship to blacked out dens illuminated by only brass lights.

At first, the markets can be slightly intimidating, but the best advice I can give is to have fun with it. Whilst researching Marrakesh, I read that tourists will more than likely be harassed and pressured to buy something but I found that this wasn't the case at all. There is no animosity behind pushy sales strategies and it can be brushed off simply with a laugh alongside a firm no thank you. The locals are extremely friendly and helpful. If we were ever off the beaten track, we would ask a stall-owner to point to the Jemaa el-Fnaa and we would be on our way.

Coupled with La Mamounia, our stay in Marrakesh was nothing short of incredible - We ended up spending almost seven hours in the Souks, mesmerised by all of the wonderful art, trinkets, spices and food.

Have you been to the Souks before?

La Mamounia

La Mamounia is a palatial paradise which carries with it a prestigious past. Since 1923, this exquisite hotel has welcomed wanderers from all over the globe, including famous frequenters Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt who fawned over its sheer beauty. For almost over a century, it has been accredited and adorned with an abundance of accolades, cementing its preeminence as one of the best hotels in the world and it's easy to see why. 

Following a 2009 rejuvenation from French architect, Jaques Garcia, La Mamounia was propelled into to a ravishingly regal renaissance pioneered by millennials who sought to capture and catapult what once was into the modern world of social media.

Located in the centre of Marrakesh, 17-acres of gated garden encloses the retreat from the outside world, blocking out the feverish verve emanating from the city next door, promoting a peaceful tranquility instead. Inside, you immediately succumb to the subtle sweet scents of orange blossom, jasmine and cedar, which pollenate every inch of the vicinity. Moreover, it's indulgent incarnation boasts new heights of opulence it seems only lifestyle luminaries can reach.

I first became aware of La Mamounia through several Marrakesh vlogs I'd seen in preparation for our trip. After conducting some deeper research, I was amazed that it wasn't a prerequisite to stay at the hotel in order to enjoy the amenities and luxuries they had to offer. Alternatively, various day passes are available, which enable you to access the indoor and outdoor pools as well as the spa, without the residential price tag. I was extremely fortunate, as Joe surprised me with a 'Seasonal Day Pass'. This entitled us to a sixty-minute massage, a three course Italian lunch and access to the facilities from dawn 'til dusk. Totalling 1,500 MAD, (which works out at around £125 per person), the price is extremely well-rounded given what the package comprises of - as opposed to paying for each  individual inclusion of the deal separately.

From hardcore hammams easing the aches from your hamstrings to four entirely different restaurants catering the most popular cuisines, La Mamounia is a pure den of decadence. Staff are happy to oblige with every whim and are attentive, regardless if you're only there for the day or not. For the well seasoned traveller or someone who is looking for some straight up TLC - I would highly recommend it and I cannot wait to go back!

Would you check out La Mamounia?

The Chapel Townhouse

The Chapel Townhouse is located in the heart of Brighton, with it's prominent stain glass feature casting a colourful eye over the beating life of the city. However, behind this initial opulence lies a much more gothically gorgeous secret.

My partner, Joe and I were scrolling through Air BnB to find somewhere unique as well as affordable to spend our two-year anniversary and the results were unexpected. We discovered a stunningly converted chapel, which dated back to 1876. Despite being in the midst of Brighton, The Chapel Townhouse is situated along a privately picturesque Victorian mews. Upon entering, you are greeted by a chandelier made from over 300 antique crystal wine glasses, coupled with the grandest of staircases, which lead up to the Chapel's bedroom clothed in almost an entirety of black couture.

An impressively high ceiling envelopes the studio room, the breadth of which, simultaneously provides an air of spaciousness and pioneers themes of grandeur. A second chandelier made from black Lego bricks hangs proudly from the ceiling, consolidating this idea of gothic eccentricity into a fully fledged real-life fantasy. A kingsize bed sits comfortably in the middle of the room, in between two piano halves which are cleverly disguised as bedside tables. Towards the end of the room, underneath the infamous stain glass window, is a roll top bathtub where you can bath bomb to your hearts content. I must admit, Joe and I probably have shares in Lush after the amount of products we purchased in there, just for the bathtub - but it was all unashamedly worth it.

Whilst the decor gives the impression that The Chapel Townhouse should be a more notable conclave for all things vampire, it makes an enviable stylish stay for anyone who is looking for a long weekend away. I'd never been to Brighton before, and this was a perfect pitstop to come back from the city and enjoy a relaxing bath before heading back out to shop again. There were an abundance of hidden secrets, from sweets hidden behind portraits to comics stashed away in the leather seating. The Chapel Townhouse ticks all the boxes, style, comfort, location and most importantly - price. I would recommend this Air BnB in a heartbeat.

Where is your favourite place to stay in Brighton?

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