Unique Things to Do in Marrakech for Foodies
I loved Marrakech — the chaos, the cacophony, the architecture, energy and culture. I could wander the same streets and still find something new. In addition to the historical sights and tourist musts (which yes, you should all do), Marrakech has so much to offer the intrepid traveler. Here are some unique experiences I had in Marrakech, within the medina and out. And it should come as no surprise that my favorites have to do with food.
Note: Marrakech is polarizing. Even though I fell in love, not all travelers share my exuberance. And that’s totally OK. We don’t all have to like the same things. My advice for travelers unsure about Marrakech is research, research, research. And trust your instincts; they won’t lead you astray.
Snack on sfenj
Sfenj is a North African doughnut with a funnel cake-like texture. In Morocco, sfenj are a sweet or savory treat. The fried snacks are typically sold by the kilo in Marrakech’s medina, but you can usually negotiate for one or two individually. A sfenj will cost around 1 dirham, depending on the shop owner’s mood. And don’t forget the honey. It’s a must for dipping.
Feed your carnivorous side in Mechoui Alley
Mechoui Alley is the place to go for Morocco’s famous lamb dishes. The alley is popular for tanjia, sheep’s head and mechoui (pronounced “mesh-wee”). Tanjia is seasoned lamb that has been slow cooked underground in a clay pot, while mechoui is lamb roasted in an underground pit. The three restaurants that make up Mechoui Alley are on Derb Semmarine. They’re busiest everyday at lunch (from 12:00 to 2:00pm’ish) and completely closed for Ramadan.
If you’re interested in Marrakech street food but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend Marrakech Food Tours. The evening food tour was one of the best I’ve ever attended.
Lunch at NOMAD Marrakech
NOMAD is consistently rated as one of Marrakech’s best restaurants. And since it’s such a gem, I had to include it on the list. Sip mint tea, eat Moroccan food, lounge or people watch. Just be sure to make a reservation. The restaurant is packed in high season.
Support Moroccan women through cooking
Founded in 2012 by Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen, Amal Center empowers disadvantaged women through restaurant training and job placement. The nonprofit offers Moroccan baking and cooking classes, in addition to a daily breakfast and lunch menu. The whole experience is a delight and the proceeds directly support women at the center.
Amal’s Targa location is a bit off the tourist path which means taxis can be difficult to come by. Arrange return transport ahead of time. You’ll be thankful to avoid the wait.
Enjoy afternoon tea in Hassan Hajjaj’s riad
I have yet to meet someone who, after finding Riad Yima, didn’t immediately like the artspace. Riad Yima is a boutique tearoom and gallery curated by Marrakchi photographer Hassan Hajjaj. (Think Cardi B’s 2017 New York Magazine cover.) The riad sells Hajjaj’s color-loaded portraits and repurposed items by other Marrakech-based artists. Its location is hard to find but you will get there… Eventually.
Riad Yima is around the corner from NOMAD Marrakech. The shops in the area can help you navigate the alleys.
Fill up on herbal remedies and specialty teas
Don’t let its unfamiliarity be a deterrent, shopping at a pharmacie Berbère is quite the experience. After a “Berber whiskey,” the onsite pharmacist will give a product demonstration that will feel one part herbalist and two parts magician. From coveted cactus oil to sinus-clearing seeds and a special tea for concentration, the pharmacy has every imaginable herbal fix.
In general, the prices for oils and teas are well below North America or Europe. Remember to sample before you buy. The pharmacist will expect it.
Shop then dine at Max & Jan
Max & Jan is a fashion and lifestyle brand inside Marrakech’s medina that aims to export Moroccan glamour to the world. The concept store is located near the Ben Youssef Madrasa and sells clothing, shoes, accessories and handmade homewares. In 2018 Max & Jan opened Soul Food, a rooftop restaurant and bar. The atmosphere is lively but the service has mixed reviews.
Get scrubbed within an inch of your life…
And feel incredible. One of my favorite (non-food) experiences in Morocco was going to the Royal Mansour Marrakech hammam. Let’s just say, there’s nothing quite like being scrubbed, naked on a marble slab. After the treatment, all luxury hammams have a recuperation area where clients relax, snack and drink tea post-scrub. But, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a traditional hammam experience. MarocMama has more on how to visit a neighborhood hammam in Marrakech.
Take in the sounds of Marrakech
If the city had a soundtrack it would be Gnawa — the music of formerly enslaved, West African Islamic mystics. Despite lyrics of hardship, Gnawa is upbeat and hypnotic; pulling listeners in with a rhythmic call and response. Café Clock regularly features Gnawa musicians in addition to local storytellers, and Essaouira hosts the Gnaoua World Music Festival every year.
Get out of the Medina
Within the microcosm of the medina it’s easy to forget that green pastures are minutes away. Horseback ride, play a round of golf or seek quiet in Moroccan luxury. A night in the country may be exactly what you needed.