If I'd had a penny for every time someone has said to me,'You'd LOVE Marrakech,' I'd probably have been able to pay for the trip with my pocket money. I'm a sucker for pinky terracotta hues, a hunter of treasures and a lover of uncompromisingly pointy shoes, which all add up to one obvious destination: Marrakech.
Choosing where to stay is tricky business: there's a huge number of Riads - traditional Morrocan guest houses in the heart of the city - as well as less traditional hotels and apartments. I'd done my research, and knew that the chaos of the city would eventually drive me crazy, so staying just outside was a priority.
Amanjena Resort is situated about a fifteen minute drive from the Medina Square, and around the same from some of the major attractions including the recently opened YSL Museum and Jardin Majorelle. Yet with the tranquility to be found within the resort, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally been parachuted out of the plane into the middle of paradise - I know I did. Built around a central 'lake' surrounded by palm dates and olive trees, Amanjena only has 32 pavilions and 7 maisons, so that feeling of unadulterated bliss follows you round like a 5pm shadow. (A visit to the Hammam Suites - a must try - or a cycle around the grounds will only add to this.)
Packing was easy: tonal or 'in-situ' dressing is my speciality, so I went to Sunad for some linen shirting, Clube Bossa and Reard for the perfect swim (always, always high waisted) and Robert Clergerie and Zyne for the perfect raffia slippers. But - and here's tip number one, even if it is obvious - don't over pack. I believe the majority of my return luggage was filled with souk-found treasures.
The Souk: Dos and Donts
To get to the Souk, ask to be dropped at the Medina Square, or Jemaa el-Fnaa. Once there, you'll see fruit juice bars, entertainers and the beginnings of souk stalls. Keep walking and enter the souk from any of the paths you reach. Then follow my tips and tricks for successful shopping.
1) Don't buy the first thing you see and fall in love with: walk around to find out the going rate for similar pieces, as it's highly likely that you'll stumble upon the same piece more than a few times. (If you're worried, mark the spot on google maps, as it's not always easy to find your way back to exactly the same stall.)
2) Do practice bartering at home (AKA don't back down to complete submission and overpay like I did.) The vendors are expecting you to challenge them, and if they can see that you're not confident in doing business with them, they'll take full advantage.
3) Whatever you do, do NOT give money to or partake in the picture-taking with animals in the main square. The monkeys are mistreated and held on chain leashes, and the snakes have been drugged.
4) Do wander as far as you can - there's no map, as such, but you'll get to know the parts of the souk that you love best with a little exploring.
5) For the infamous rug and basket stalls, head for Cafe des Epices: this will bring you to a buzzing square, filled with all the insta-worthy wicker you could wish to find. Once you've had your fill, head down into the souk via the path to the left of Cafe des Epices - the best footwear to be found is through there.
6) Don't be bullied into buying. Most of the vendors are a delight, but some are impatient with indecision and start to become aggressive in their sales tactics. If you're anything like me, it will make you feel uncomfortable to say the least, but the best thing you can do is thank them kindly for their time and get out.
7) Do buy spices - they make for brilliant gifts to take home.
8) Do make time to head to the souks more than once.The first trip is more about taking in the enormity of it all, so it's easier to shop rationally once you understand what you're looking for.
9) Don't be taken in by the spiel: vendors will use stories of underprivileged women weaving your shoes high up on the Atlas Mountains to get you to pay a premium, but sadly they're usually fabricated to pull at your heart strings.
Dress, Ganni. Sunglasses, Chanel. Shoes, Raye at Revolve.
Image on right: basket from the Souk. Sunglasses, Oliver Peoples. Shoes, Zyne.
All imagery by Anna Rosa Vitiello of a Pavilion Piscine at Amanjena Resort, Marrakech. Click here for more information.