I drank bottled water in Marrakech. Don't stop reading! The locals we saw all used Sidi Ali, even at home, or when boiling mint tea. I drank tap water first, which my Moroccan friends specifically said not to do, since they only had bottled water growing up. I'm very sick right now. I'm not sure it's related, although sometimes when I wash my hands the faucet smells like sewage. Other than that, Marrakech is a wonderful place. Vegetable waste in the souks is bagged for animal feed. The tourist boom led to planting grass and clear-cutting fields, which ravaged the water table, but ground water, like tides, flows west to east, and winds carry moisture from Marrakech's trees over the Sahara, enabling forest expansion. The king is even trying to create a carbon neutral destination in Ouarzazate, replanting palm trees cleared for hotels.
Moroccan people are really talkative and friendly. Four old women patted me on the head for helping them with doors or their groceries. Nobody bothered us at Place Jemaa el Fna. There are more- and cleaner- public restrooms and more reliable wi-fi hotspots than in Paris. The people are welcoming and nice. Our driver, Yasim, who spends his weekends at La Mamounia and took us to places where we were the only tourists, thoughtfully bought us a couple coffees when we were cold and tired from exploring in the rain. Here is everywhere we went in Marrakech, with a few recommendations on where to stay.
All the places we visited (click titles for links)
This pop art hostel features a rooftop hot tub, Majorelle blue terrace overlooking la Koutoubia, and unobstructed views of the Atlas.
Stunning Modernist ecolodge in the small Berber village of Tagadert. Eat under the stars and meet shepherds returning with their flocks in the High Atlas.
Three bedroom house in the Eastern part of the Medina offering homecooked meals (like bessara bean veloute with beetroot guacamole, yogurt and amlou, and strawberry mint tea), indoor and outdoor showers, flea market finds, handmade goods, and industrial decor. You can even sleep outside on the roof terrace- my top pick for staying in Marrakech.
Hear traditional storytellers and take calligraphy or oud classes while enjoying vegan almond and date milkshakes. Cooking classes, live music, and vegan options available. Like the famous Amal Centre, Cafe Clock employs, supports, and trains local women.
Hidden away in a lush garden, it's a nice, touristy favorite among Parisians. Go for the setting, smoothies, and veggie dishes; vegans, ask ahead of time to hold the cheese, which comes on all salads. Be sure to hold the tortoises and feed them lettuce!
Two farm to table locations with several gluten-free options. The first 100% vegetarian / vegan restaurant in Marrakech, one location also serves meat.
Expensive but lovely vegetarian and gluten-free restaurant with 360 panoramic views of Marrakech near Place Jemaa el Fna.
La Pause, Terre des Etoiles, Beldi Country Club, Kasbah Bab Ourika, Scarabeo, Peacock Pavilions, and Kasbah Tamadot cater to gluten-free guests.
YSL Jardin MajorelleTouristy but worth it, Jardin Majorelle is where YSL's ashes are scattered. The ponds, cacti, and Majorelle blue former home equal Instagram gold.
Go for the architecture, panoramic views on the terrace, and gluten-free refreshments served by kind local women.
Saadian TombsSealed up for centuries, the family mausoleum is a must-see for elaborate steles, carvings, and tilework.
If you can't stay at this beautiful, friendly hotel- it books up fast- go for a film, cocktails on the terrace, live music in the restaurant, or a dip in the rooftop pools.
Bahia PalaceBuilt by a former slave who rose precipitously to power, the harem's concubine rooms and flowering garden are as chilling and ornate as Versailles. The vizier was so cruel, his harem couldn't wait to ransack the palace at his death.
Pour les amateurs de "street food", à côté de la place Jemaa El Fna vous pourrez manger une "tanjia", ce plat traditionnel qui se trouve rarement dans les restaurants. Tip: Don't buy argan oil unless it's in a dark bottle. Plastic or clear glass containers can hold fakes or impure oils with added vegetable oils and silicones. Make sure the bottle has the cooperative name on it!