"Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they've led"
Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills & Nash
As i switch between writing this blog and packing cases for our 5th visit to Morocco, we realise we will actually be in Marrakech on the 10th anniversary of our first ever trip to Morocco. However like our 2nd, 3rd and 4th visits, the 5th visit will be very different to that of the 1st!
Let me share a little tale with you....
As a gay couple I put a lot of research into Marrakech before booking the flights (It's not what it sounds like! I wasn't looking for Gay Sauna's) instead I was researching the culture, how LGBTQ tourists are treated and making sure the Riad would be OK with a gay European couple sharing a bed. We don't engage in PDA anyway, so we were confident we would resist the urge to copulate in the middle of hustling narrow souk street: and we frequently get confused as being brothers, so we would have a "cover story" if people did question our relationship, but there's no hiding our real relationship from the Riad staff when 2 adult men turn up to share a double bed by choice!
Reassured by the Riad staff via email that "all people are welcome here in Marrakech" we went ahead and booked the flights and then the Riad. A few weeks went by and before we knew it, it was January 2013 and we had arrived in Marrakech. It was 8pm and dark, we negotiated the price of a "grand taxi" (we were still overcharged, but it was an amount we were willing to pay) and set off for our Riad in the heart of the Medina!
The streets surrounding the international airport and the Kings palace were immaculate, the roads were wide, the pavements spotless and the sky was clearly visible for miles, we could even see the Atlas Mountains.
Then all of a sudden we drove through an archway of what looked like crumbling ruins... everything we had just witnessed vanished in an instant!
The "streets" which were the width of a ginnel (you'll have to look up ginnel if your not from the North of England lol), were filled with tracksuit wearing teens revving mopeds and shouting at each other, there were piles of bin bags with cats resting on them and the sky pretty much disappeared, instead we were surrounded by bare breeze block buildings with hessian sacks replacing the sky!
Then it hit me.... the uncertainty about our safety that had been subconsciously simmering away came to a boil in that taxi.
These emotions and fears were then exacerbated when we pulled up outside Bab Doukkala Mosque, a teenage boy with a wooden cart was suddenly in possession of our cases. Before we knew it he was joined by his mates and they were leading us through a maze of alley ways to our Riad.
After several minutes of leading us into the unknown, he knocked on a wooden door using a brass hand of Fatima door knocker (don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful door and the knocker was amazing!) but it had no number or name! So when a ginormous bloke opened the door and ushered us in I genuinely thought the Riad staff had arranged for a couple of western gays to be murdered!
Gareth was oblivious to my mini anxiety attack so when we finally got into the Riad room and locked the door behind us, my apologetic crying outburst caught him be surprise "I'm so sorry... I've brought us somewhere unsafe... I'll book emergency flights tomorrow to somewhere safe..." are all things I sobbed shortly before falling asleep.
Needless to say, it turns out I learnt a valuable lesson that night... DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S COVER!
Whilst what I described above is a true description of the journey into the Medina in the evening, what I did't actually know or appreciate is that the people of Marrakech are genuinely fun and kind regardless of age or gender, and the bustling atmosphere and that made me feel anxious at first, is now what keeps drawing me back to Marrakech.
Why we don't follow influencers guides to Marrakech!
Many social media influencers and tourism blogs only recommend the fancy roof top terrace restaurants such as El Fenn, Nomad, Le Jardin or Café des Éspices; or the fashion or concept shops that wouldn't look out of place in London such as Topolina, Max & Jan or Chabi Chic; or the instagram worthy places to visit such as Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Jardin Majorelle and Bacha Coffee.
But there is so much more to see and do... obviously we've been to most of these places during the course of our 10 years history with Marrakch and we will no doubt visit some of them again this time round too! But I worry that TikTok, Instagram and blogs are just showing one side of Morocco.
But for us the other side of Morocco is the one we prefer! One of the joys of visiting Morocco’s red city is discovering the old artisan shops and discovering the ateliers, eating in the small restaurants often occupied by the locals; and watching the street performers in Jemaa el-fna to see how the new tourists react!
Will they quickly run a mile, will they hand over a wad of Dirhams, will they try and get free content for social media without asking or will they have the charisma to get what they want at a price that they want it for!
We keep banging on about how we spend the majority of our time in Marrakech trying to be more like a local than being a tourist. Another prime example is the stark differences in Hammams! If you search for Marrakech hammams, you'll find beautiful looking spa experiences such as these : Hammams & Turkish Baths in Marrakech, however if you want the non glamorous real experience, you need to head to Hammam Mouassine which has been around for 470 years.
We love the fact that the fires that heat the hammam are also used by the community for cooking their Tangia in!
What are our plans for our 5th visit to Marrakech?
We have a list of jobs that we would like to work through, we are on a working trip after all!
We will be meeting some of our existing contacts such as Omar the carpenter and making new contacts to replenish some of the top sellers and buy new ranges.
We will be filming new content showing our favourite places to visit in Marrakech (such as this one) that are often overlooked, with the intention of sharing them with you on a future YouTube videos and blogs.
We will be filming new content for reels showing how what we source for you is different and more superior than the lesser quality alternatives often found or imported from the shops aimed at tourists.
The Hive General Store & Beverage Bar will reopen at
10am on Saturday 14th January 2023.
Whilst our online shop will remain open during our trip,
order processing will be paused until Monday 16th January 2023