My Marrakech Is Better Than Yours
When she isn't trying to open a hotel or being a professional shopper, Maryam Montague blogs about life in Morocco. We can't think of a better guide to this bewitching—but often rather bewildering—city.
There are four upscale restaurants in the Old City that I happily recommend. The stylish Kosybar, on the place des Ferblantiers, has a mix of Moroccan and continental offerings, as well as inventive cocktails. By day, you can watch huge storks in their nests from the upstairs terrace. Swanky Le Tanjia, a restaurant with rose-filled fountains, is nearby. The Sunday brunch is excellent, as is the tender monkfish available at lunch or dinner. Another chic spot in the Mouassine district is Café Arabe. This Italian-owned riad (courtyard home) boasts not only a restaurant serving homemade pastas from $9, but also a hip rooftop bar. And in the Kasbah area is Tatchibana, where you can break out of the norm with sushi and other Japanese delicacies. Tatchibana is open only for dinner except on Sunday, when it offers lunch, too.
Some of Marrakech's coolest eating spots are in the newer parts of the city. In Guéliz, Kechmara has mid-century modern decor with ever-changing art, and a sunny terrace that's a good choice for breakfast and lunch; the restaurant does a fine mixed grill for $12. Café du Livre, also in Guéliz, has free Wi-Fi and a selection of English-language books for you to peruse while ordering coffee, lunch, or an early dinner (entrées from $8). Sushi is served during the evening from Thursday to Saturday, but the café is open only until 9 p.m. And the colonial atmosphere at Grand Café de la Poste provides a nice backdrop for excellent salads, starting at $10, as well as hot meals. Enjoy a Casablanca beer on the covered veranda.
In the majorly upscale category is Le Bis-Jardin des Arts, a new restaurant with gorgeous decor. The delicious entrées start at $17. For other überglamorous experiences, hop in a car and head to the city's outskirts. Restaurant L'Abbysin is at the stunning Palais Rhoul, a luxurious palace hotel. The sleek, white outdoor venue is photo-shoot worthy, even if the nouvelle cuisine is more passable than memorable. The Crystal Restaurant Lounge, in the trendy Pacha complex, has artful food arrangements almost too pretty to eat. Make reservations for Friday or Saturday night to listen to jazz.
- Ice Legend 52 ave. Bab Agnaou, Jemaa el-Fna, 011-212/24-44-42-00
- Café des Épices 75 Rahba Lakdima, place des Épices, 011-212/24-39-17-70, cafedesepices.net
- Terrasse des Épices Souk Cherifia, Dar el Bacha, 011-212/76-04-67-67
- Kosybar 47 place des Ferblantiers, Médina, 011-212/24-38-03-24, entrées from $19
- Le Tanjia 14 Derb J'did Hay Essalam, Médina, 011-212/24-38-38-36, le-tanjia.com, monkfish $14
- Café Arabe 184 rue el Mouassine, Médina, 011-212/24-42-97-28, cafearabe.com
- Tatchibana 38 Bab Ksiba, Kasbah, 011-212/24-38-71-71, tatchibana.free.fr, sushi plate $20
- Kechmara 3 rue de la Liberté, Guéliz, 011-212/24-42-25-32, kechmara.com
- Café du Livre 44 rue Tarik ben Ziyad, Guéliz, 011-212/24-43-21-49, cafedulivre.com
- Grand Café de la Poste blvd. el Mansour Eddahbi at ave. Imam Malik, Guéliz, 011-212/24-43-30-38, grandcafedelaposte.com
- Le Bis-Jardin des Arts 6-7 rue Sakia el Hamra, Semlalia, 011-212/24-44-66-34, lebis-jardindesarts.com
- L'Abbysin Km 4, rte. de Fes, 011-212/24-32-85-84, palais-rhoul.com, entrées from $19
- Crystal Restaurant Lounge blvd. Mohamed VI, Zone Hôtelière de l'Aguedal, 011-212/24-38-84-00, pachamarrakech.com, entrées from $10
To my husband's dismay, I'm a decidedly enthusiastic shopper. And luckily--for me, anyway--Marrakech is known for its amazing shopping.
Cradled within the medina's high fortresslike walls are the traditional markets, or souks. The majority of the souks are located to the north of the Jemaa el-Fna square. Picture a winding labyrinth with hundreds of shoebox-size stores overflowing with ornate lanterns, embroidered caftans, hammered teapots, leather poufs (a kind of ottoman that can also be made with carpet or fabric), and so much more. There's a method to the madness, as the souks are divided into areas of specialty, including metalwork, slippers, carpets, spices, and so on.