News from the Riad

What is a hammam?

Hammam is the Arabic word for ‘bath’. In Morocco it has come to mean the ritual carried out either in a public hammam, spa or, like us, our own private hammam in the Riad. We provide everything - bathrobes, disposable slip/boxers, spa products, towels and slippers.  It needs to be booked beforehand so that we can heat the room and book the therapist, traditionally male for a man and female for a woman. You enter the spa space in your bathrobe, slippers and slip/boxers. You disrobe to enter the hammam. The therapist pours warm water over you, you then lie down and savon beldi, a natural mix of olive oil pressings and potash perfumed with eucalyptus is spread over your body. You let your body relax and get warm. This is then rinsed off and your skin is gently exfoliated with a special glove - kessa. There is another rinsing and soaping and another buffing with a chbka. Then ghassoul, an Atlas clay wrap, is applied to draw out more impurities from the skin. Finally, there is another rinse and washing. You leave the hammam relaxed and very clean. Additional treatments are offered in the hammam - a face mask, body mask & short massage or hair treatment. Our therapists can also offer tqsal, a stretching massage done on the floor of the hammam when your body is warm. All these treatments must be booked beforehand. To complete the experience a massage can be booked in the adjacent massage space. Couples can be treated one after the other, the second person going in to the hammam when the first comes out and takes a massage. Alternatively, our masseur can give a hammam to a couple at the same time. A hammam, exfoliation and clay wrap take about 45 minutes, a massage about an hour. Tqsal adds about another 15 – 20 minutes. There are many spas in Marrakech now. Some of the public hammams have moved a little upmarket and cater for tourists, but very much in the traditional manner. Our local hammam by the big Friday mosque Bab Doukkala has recently had a makeover. Men only mornings and evenings, women only afternoons. The tourist spas range from budget to luxury, with décor and treatments to match. If couples or groups want their treatments at the same time, then Les Bains d’Orient and Hammam de la Rose are nearby. Though they can’t beat having a treatment and retreating to your room still in your bathrobe and having a long relax on your bed.

Off the beaten track in Marrakech?

Want to find our favourite places? Download the Mapstr app once you have made a reservation with us. Send us your GSM/mobile phone number and we will share our map and places. We have put all our favourite restaurants, cafés, shops and sights, including the off the beaten track ones you won't find in most guide books. We'll still give you a map and orientation when you arrive, but this will help you find the ones you want to visit.

THINKING OF A DESERT TRIP?

First, most important, most two day one night tours from Marrakech will not get you to either of the sand dunes on the edge of the Sahara, Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga. Watch out for agencies that say Desert or Sahara experience, but do not get you to Erg Chigaga. So if you are visiting Marrakech and want a desert experience the options are:  
  1. The Agafay 'little desert' about 45 minutes' drive from Marrakech. In the summer this arid landscape can offer a special desert-like experience. You can go for lunch and afternoon, a sunset dinner, or lodge overnight in luxury tents.
 
  1. The two day one night shared trip to the arid scrubby 'little dunes' south of Marrakech at Zagora or M'hamid. They are not the 'fairytale' image of dunes, but the ride over the Atlas Mountains and along the Draa Valley is spectacular. Most tours will include a visit to the UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou. Expect to pay between 650Dhs and 900Dhs per person depending on time of year and whether you want hot showers!
 
  1. Three days and two nights shared or private tour will get you to the dunes at Erg Chebbi south east of Marrakech, over the Atlas Mountains. Access to the dunes from the paved road is easy, which means they can get busy and there can be trinket sellers. It is about 10 hours travelling time from Marrakech, and you can visit the Dades and Todra gorges on the way. Erg Chebbi can be part of a private tour Marrakech to Fes which can be done in 3 days, but better in 4 or 5. There are luxury and bivouac camps here.
 
  1. Erg Chigaga is again about 10 hours travelling time, south of Marrakech, the last 2 hours being in a 4x4. The dunes are more isolated so can be quieter. Most excursions are private, and not shared. A couple of agencies will do a two day one night trip here, but it is still the 10 hour travelling time each way, and only available as a private option. Again there are luxury or bivouac options. Most trips here will be minimum 3 days, and will all be private.
  For our guests we are happy to pass on names and contacts for providers of these tours and excursions.  
  1. The day excursion tour we offer to Ouirgane and the Plateau de Kik in the Atlas Mountains with Linaya Transport has a small section that you pass through in the afternoon where there are camels you can ride in an arid spot just before arriving at the barrage at Lalla Takerkoust.
 

COMING UP IN MARRAKECH

Ashurra 2017, the festival of light and music in Morocco will be on Friday 29 September. Lots of street drumming, and practising for the two weeks before.

Aid al Adha 12 August 2019

The date for the Eid 2019 is the 12 and 13 August. It's a two day public holiday,  followed by another public holiday on the 14 August. Many will take advantage to make it a long holiday week. The main event is on the first morning, when the there will be no one on the streets of Marrakech. Later there will be fires lit in the streets of the old medina to cook the sheep's heads and feet. Later the skins will appear, so venturing out can be fascinating. During the afternoon the young men will go out, dressed in their cleanest white foukia's - an ankle length robe with a short collar -  and best yellow babouche. Some restaurants will open in the evening. Quite a few of the souk shops and artisans will take a whole week off. Expect public transport to be busy before and after the holiday, as people make their way to and from family. The following week there are two more public holidays on the 20 and 21 August, so again expect public transport to be busy.

Marrakech in the Autumn

The Autumn months are, like the Spring, a popular time for tourists to Marrakech. It's still very warm in September, October and November, with temperatures ranging from 32°C in September to 25°C in November. The nights become increasingly chilly as the Autumn progresses, however, and by November you may be looking at a night time low of 10°C, so bring a wrap or light jacket. It's a great time to catch some late Summer sun to prepare for those long cold northern winters. The rain begins to increase in the Autumn too, and you may catch a few rainy days - but there is still only around 2 cm of rain each month, showers are short and everything dries out very quickly.

Marrakech in the Summer

Summer temperatures in Marrakech are searingly hot. Starting at around 30°C in June, by the end of August temperatures can easily hit 40°C or more, with this dropping back to around 23 or 24°C at night. Although it is a very dry heat, it can be overwhelming for some. It's important to stay out of the mid-day sun, to drink plenty of water and to allow yourself time to acclimatize. There is virtually no rain at this time of year. Needless to say all of our bedrooms have air-conditioning. For the technically minded some have inverter low energy units with Montreal Protocol compliant gas. The lounge, built in a traditional manner, stays naturally cool, and some of our bedrooms stay cooler naturally as well. Jade on the roof terrace can be hot, as can Carmin on the first floor. It's the perfect time to sip a drink with your feet in the pool, or take a lunch and afternoon poolside outside the city.  Dining at night is always outdoors and divine.

Marrakech during Ramadan

Ramadan will run from 6 May to about 4 June 2019. There is no need to avoid coming to Marrakech during Ramadan. There is a change in the daily routine, and a change in street etiquette. With a small adjustment it can be just as enjoyable as any other time of year, and there should be less hassle.  

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The exact dates cannot be determined in advance due to the sighting of the crescent moon, but it generally moves forward by 11 days each year. If Ramadan occurs during the summer months Daylight Saving time will not apply, so clocks will go back the Sunday before Ramadan is expected, and forward again the Sunday after it has finished. It is a holy month for Muslims during which they abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from before sunrise to sunset. It is a time to focus more on the spiritual aspects of life, and also time to re-connect to family and friends after sunset and in the night. The last ten nights are particularly special for Muslims, one of these the mosques stay open all night and Muslims will walk from one to the other throughout the night to hear the full recitation of the Qur’an. Well-known Imams are invited to the Mosques in Marrakech, so for Muslims this can be a special experience. It is also a time to be generous in giving.  

Will I have to fast in the day?

As a non-Muslim you are not expected to fast, however out of respect, you should avoid eating (including chewing gum), drinking and smoking in public during daylight hours.  

How should I dress in public?

Everyone should dress modestly. It is advisable for women to avoid short skirts and sleeveless tops. We advise to bring loose fitting layers.  

Will shops and banks be open?

Banks will close earlier, and New Town shops will not close for lunch, but close about an hour before sunset, and then re-open after breaking the fast. On Fridays very few people go back to work after the midday Muslim prayer.  

Can I get something to eat during the day?

Most restaurants and cafes in Marrakech will stay open day and night during Ramadan, but often close an hour before sunset and re-open after breaking the fast. It can be more difficult to find alcohol in restaurants and bars. Many Muslims will not even handle alcohol during this time. It is more difficult to find places to eat during the day outside Marrakech, unless they cater just for tourists.  

Will all the sights be open?

Yes they will, but again will close earlier  

How about taking an excursion?

Most excursions and tours will still operate, but there may be a change in times available. Coaches and buses may alter their schedules or routes to match sunset or reduce traffic. Taxi drivers are less likely to engage in afternoon or evening travel. Trains generally keep to their given schedule but can be busier as people try to re-join their families. Just before sunset traffic can be busy and drivers tend to speed as they head home to be with their families and break the fast. At sunset the street will be empty.  

And what happens locally?

The Riad is located just off a street market, so it can be very busy in the afternoon as locals shop for the evening meals. There is lots of street food, special pastries, all to be bought and consumed after sunset. Remember people will not have drunk, eaten or smoked all day so at times it can get a bit fractious.  

Can I get food in the Riad?

We will be serving drinks and food as normal in the Riad, except we ask you to let the staff have time to break the fast at sunset. You can still bring alcohol into the Riad ( and provide us with receipt) but we will ask you to excuse our staff serving you and clearing empty glasses/bottles.    

Marrakech in the Spring

Marrakech Spring weather is very pleasant, with daytime temperatures of around 22°C in March. rising to the high 20s by May. It may rain a couple of days each month, but these short sharp showers are over very quickly. Spring is the perfect season for exploring the old medina and its souks or for visiting sites of historical importance. Indulge in a hammam and massage or explore the nearby Atlas Mountains. Bring lightweight summer clothing and a hat, but something to cover up with at night when the temperatures can still feel a little chilly. Sand can blow in from the Sahara in the Spring so sunglasses are necessary to protect your eyes

Winter breaks

Winters can be surprisingly chilly in Marrakech, particularly at night. Daytime is mostly sunny and highs remain in the high teens Celsius, but nights can fall to around 4 or 5 degrees C. Don't worry, we have fires and radiators in the bedrooms so you won't feel this so keenly. Bring a sweater for chilly evenings, and layer clothing for the warmer days.