Note: Looking at this post in spring of 2023, it strikes me as an interesting artifact. If you can’t get away to Morocco and you want to do a staycation themed around Marrakech, feel free to dive in.
Virtual Travel Marrakech: Whether you opt for dinner and movie on Saturday or want to extend your head roaming to the entire day, we’ve got you covered. Follow our suggestions as closely as you like—or simply use this post as a jumping off point for your own exploration of this amazing city. Enjoy!
I’ve been savin’ all my money just to take you there,—Graham Nash, “Marrakech Express”
I can smell the garden in your hair…
Embraced by pink walls, Marrakech is Morocco’s cultural capital. It’s also one of the most accessible Moroccan cities for the virtual visitor, thanks to live cooking classes and a great AirBnB Online Experience tour. (We also like a cooking class from Casablanca, just in case you want to move farther afield.)
Here, step by step, Head Roam walks you through the Virtual Travel Marrakech Ultimate Weekend. Much thanks to my niece Amanda Blanton for some of her beautiful photos. (More about Amanda in a moment.)
Virtual Travel Marrakech: Before You Go….
- Shopping: While Moroccan food is inherently simple and fresh, a few key ingredients will help lift your menu on that proverbial (and maximally cliched) magic carpet. We recommend couscous, preserved lemons (sometimes sold as pickled lemons), orange flower water, fresh mint, and mint tea. Add vegetables to roast for the couscous, a protein of your choice (garbanzo beans and lentils for vegans, chicken, lamb, or fresh tuna if you want to make our excellent tuna tagine), and, if you can find it, almond shortbread. Fresh and dried fruit, especially oranges and apricots—and, if you’re lucky enough to be able to get them, fresh figs—are perfect. In the non-food department, colorful roses or even carnations will give you a fragrant and appropriately brilliant splash of color. Our Pinterest board has tons of inspirations and Moroccan recipe links. If you prefer a video intro, Chopstick Travel’s Marrakech tour does an excellent job of showing you what’s available. Unlike many YouTube videos, the hosts are not too self-promoting/obnoxious.
- Check your favorite wine shop (online or otherwise) for Moroccan wine if you’d like to have it for your weekend (and are not a cocktail person). Yes, Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country. Yes, Morocco was occupied by the French for many a decade. Yes, Morocco has a good climate for vineyards. So….the latter two outweigh the first one. We haven’t tried it, but we do love the idea. And that rosé is just plain pretty.
- Packing: At the very least, pick out something lovely and flowy for dinner. If you have something made from linen, or at least a bit linen-esque, it’s perfect. Big scarves are appropriate, as is crazy jewelry. If you’ve ever wanted to wear a big old turban that’s not a towel, this is your jam. Here’s a great link from on how to dress in Morocco from A Blonde Abroad, a site I like quite a bit. A variation on the packing list can get you through the whole weekend. Of course, use what you have on hand.
- Tea is most often served in a glass in Morocco, and you can buy Moroccan glasses ahead of time and instantly feel like you’re there. I found these at World Market for next to nothing.
- Research: Depending on how quickly you get through a book, you may want to dig into one of our recommendations. Here’s our long list of Morocco books, and our Top 5 list, which features our top two book picks, two movie ideas, and a music suggestion.
Friday Evening (optional; skip directly to Saturday if you like)
Set up your “Welcome to Marrakech” board, courtesy of Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest. Make sure to have a good loaf of bread on hand for dipping. And if that’s not enough, think about giving our version of Vegan Harira a shot. Serve plenty of mint tea on the side. Want a cocktail? Check out the pomegranate-based Moroccan cosmopolitan or martini laced with mint and orange from AGFG, an Australian recipe and tourism site.
Background music: Putumayo Presents Arabic Beat is a fine gateway collection of the music of North Africa and the Middle East, or simply type in “Morocco” or “gnawa” on the streaming service of your choice.
To get acquainted with the city, check out the Marrakech playlist on our YouTube channel. Of course, you can create your own rabbit hole. However, we’ve tried to weed out stuff we find annoying. Then again, our Annoying may be your Delightful” And, of course, vice versa.
Off YouTube, I like the videos linked in the paragraph below, made under the auspices of Unesco. While they weren’t shot in high-def (and consequently may not look great blown up to full screen, depending of course on the size of your screen), they emphasize the city and its heritage, and don’t have a host for you to love or not.
This first link approximates a stroll through the Medina, the ancient market. At this link, you’ll find wonderful footage of Djemaa el-Fna Square, where the snake charmers, henna artists, musicians, storytellers, and insanely agile acrobats put on shows. Finally, if you don’t mind French without English subtitles—though with some French captions—Morocco’s haunting gnawa music gets a fine intro with this clip. Whatever you miss in the minimal French commentary, you’re gaining in a look at the beautiful traditional clothing worn by the gnawa singers and dancers.
If you can do a movie two nights in a row, skip down to Saturday Evening and choose an alternate. Alternatively, poke around our YouTube playlist during or after your meal.
Saturday, Daytime: Breakfast, Lunch, and Activities
Start your morning with mint tea, bread, apricot jam and/or honey, and fresh fruit. If you need something more substantial, consider Berber Eggs, similar to Shakshouka and a nice way to use some of the harissa you (hopefully) picked up. This Berber Eggs Recipe from Wander Nest uses a tagine, but if you don’t have one, a cast iron skillet with a lid will work fine.
Spend some time with Hicham, a delightful guide to the city. Prior to the pandemic, Hicham led groups of people from outside Marrakech’s pink walls into the Casbah and Medina. Now he’s online. Get some friends, meet up with him for an online tour, where you’ll learn about all sorts of treasures and scams found with the twisting alleys of his home town.
For lunch, consider either Tieghan’s Moroccan-inspired burger or another bowl of harira. Our Morocco food page has more ideas.
After lunch, check out some Marrakech landmarks. If you’ve read The Caliph’s House, you have an idea of the toll that time takes on the magnificent old Moroccan buildings. This 25- minute video about the restoration of the Saadian Tombs showcases their architectural beauty, explains the damage over the time, and features master Moroccan craftsmen and restorers at work. Some of the workers are using cotton swabs over each tiny crevice in the plaster work; the scale and detail is pretty staggering. Watching them toil so patiently is wonderfully soothing.
For a shorter tour of a stunning outdoor space, take a virtual walk through the glorious Secret Garden
If you’re all about that spa day, consider giving yourself the at-home version of a Moroccan hammam. Mind you, my niece told me that, in her first visit to a hammam, she thought they had removed at least a layer or two of skin beneath the epidermis. I mean, they really scrape the hell out of you. So be as gentle or rough with yourself and/or your spa partner as you deem appropriate.
Alternatively, foodies will want to take advantage of one of many wonderful cooking classes available online. Brahim…..
If you want to venture outside Marrakech, Christine Benlafqhih offers a number of online cooking classes through her business, Taste of Casablanca; focuses include Moroccan Teas and Breads, tagine, couscous, and/or Morocco’s iconic and insanely delicious pastry, bastilla.
Dinner is made!!
Saturday Evening: Dinner and a Movie
If you haven’t done a cooking class, here are some dinner suggestions:
- Appetizers: Try our duo of Moroccan salads—carrot and cucumber—with some olives. Or, if you don’t feel like cooking too much, hummus with a swirl of harissa and some raw carrots, cucumber, and celery on the side works nicely.
- Main: We love our Tuna Tagine, which we made with quinoa instead of couscous (a great stand-in for the gluten-avoiding; I just had some quinoa to use up). We also have this lovely vegan couscous with squash from Yotam Ottolenghi. For a stunning array of more authentic tagines, please visit My Moroccan Food, the website of Nargisse Benkabbou. From Morocco, Nargisse is currently London-based and has a lovely cookbook, Casablanca: My Moroccan Food. You can find it at her site. Check out a screen shot of the index page for the tagines on her site:
- For dessert, we love fresh fruit, especially oranges, and the best dates you can get, with plenty of sweetened mint tea to go with it. We’re working on some cookie recipes here; meanwhile, you might try this recipe for gazelle horns from the Spruce Eats. Gazelle horns are, I gather, the official cookie of Morocco. The recipe comes from Christine Benlafqhih. In case you didn’t see the link earlier, you can arrange a class with her through her blog, Taste of Casablanca; classes include Moroccan Teas and Breads, tagine, couscous, and Morocco’s iconic and insanely delicious pastry, bastilla.
Saturday Night Entertainment: Our top movie pick for the weekend: Hideous Kinky. Kate Winslet plays a super groovy, formerly privileged but increasingly desperate mum of two young girls. She’s chosen to come to Morocco to “find herself” or some damn thing. But she’s broke and constantly trying to figure out her next move. The movie was filmed in Morocco and it’s a decent immersion-from-afar in the craziness of Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square. Starring opposite Winslow is Moroccan actor Saïd Taghmaoui; you may recognize him from Wonder Woman and John Wick 3. It’s nice to see him in a big role where he actually gets to play a person. As for the movie,speaking from experience, it nicely captures the feeling of being far from home and not knowing how or when you’ll get back.
Alternate movies: The Sheltering Sky (Morocco looks great, but then there’s John Malkovich). For something grittier, one of the movies of Nabil Ayouch; Much Loved is currently on Netflix, Razzia and Horses of God are available on Amazon Prime (and probably other places if you look around, including your local library). I’ll warn you: There are no magic carpets in Ayouch’s movies. Life in Morocco for non-tourists can be very rough indeed. But these movies are, no question, more authentic tours of the country. They’ll ring especially true if you’ve spent time with books by Moroccan authors, particularly Mohamed Choukri’s For Bread Alone or our top 5 pick, Tahar Ben Jalloun’s The Blinding Absence of Light.
Sunday Farewell Brunch
We cannot think of a better way to close your Marrakech weekend than with at least some, if not all the recommendations from Tieghan’s amazing Perfect Moroccan Brunch from Half Baked Harvest. While your taste buds bliss out, feast your eyes on the gorgeous Anima Garden, artist André Heller’s sculpture park/oasis outside of Marrakech. We won’t spoil with a screen grab. Just click the link.
And One Last Request….
If you spent some time exploring Morocco—our suggestions or any other—let us know! Leave a Comment.