Money exchange in Morocco

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The unit of currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham – the Dirham is used in several Arab states, hence the contextual prefix. The Dirham, designated as MAD or Dhs, is comprised of 100 centimes; notes are available in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 25, 20 and (occasionally) 10 dirhams and coins are issued in denominations of 10, 5, 2 and 1 dirham, or 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes.

The word “dirham” comes from the Greek “drachma”, one of the oldest currencies known to man, dating from the sixth century BC. The Greek drachma was circulated through trade in many countries around the Mediterranean, including Morocco, and in the 7th century the term ‘dirham’ was adopted widely throughout the Arab world.

The Dirham is officially designated a ‘closed currency’ which means that it can only be traded in Morocco – so if you have left over cash after your trip you’ll need to convert it back before you leave or you may be stuck with useless money.

According to Trip Advisor, however, Dirhams are traded in a number of travel agencies and airports outside of Morocco but only up to a maximum of 1000DH and one is likely to pay more for money exchange outside Morocco than within the country itself. It is wise to retain currency exchange receipts acquired in Morocco as they may be required when selling back surplus Dirhams at the airport prior to leaving (there is no limit to the number of Dirhams one can sell).

If you’d prefer to exchange your money in Morocco, as most visitors do, you will be able to buy and sell currency at a Bureau de Change in the airport or port upon arrival in the country and also at banks.

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Art in Marrakech – Matisse Art Gallery

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Marrakech is a city rich in historic art and culture but one of the best galleries of contemporary art is the Matisse Art Gallery situated along the Passage Ghandouri (number 43, off 61 Rue Yougoslavie), not far from the central station.

For more than a decade Youssef Falaky, the gallery Director, has dedicated his time and energy to curating exhibitions that not only showcase the talent of some of Morocco’s leading established artists (the likes of Claude Viallat, Farid Belkahia, Mahi Binebine, Nureddine Chater, Hassan El Glaoui) but also expose the work of up-and-coming creative talents, many of whom the gallery manages exclusively.

With its polished black marble facia, the gallery oozes contemporary chic with its collection of art old and new – an atmosphere continued throughout the recently refurbished building.

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Visiting the tanneries in Marrakech – why you should do it

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The ancient Marrakech tannery where the raw material for fine leather gods is produced is a magnetic draw for tourists because the experience is as fascinating as the smell is pungent.

Some might warn you away from this odiferous quarter of the city but that would be a mistake because, in several respects, the ancient process of producing leather from goatskin and fleeces, having changed little since biblical times, is an absorbing throwback to another era.

Tanners have been around since the city’s founding in 1062 and tanning itself, and the production of leather goods, has remained an important trade ever since. Today, as then, the archaic curing process involves an unpleasant cocktail of elemental liquids (a mix of cow urine, pigeon faeces and acids) in which animal skins are cleaned and cured.

You will see half naked men, standing up to their knees in clay vats filled with this evil smelling mixture, cleaning the fleeces before handing them over to be dyed in different vats filled with other, equally suspicious looking multi-coloured liquids. After this the coloured fleeces are set out to dry in the sun.

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The Saadian Tombs in Marrakech

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

If you’re looking to absorb some history on your visit to Marrakech, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions is the Saadian Tombs, the final resting place of the rulers and other members of the Saadi Dynasty, one of the best examples of Islamic art in Morocco.

The first known burial took place following the reign of Sultan Ahmed el Mansour (1578-1603), sixth sultan of the Saadi Dynasty which held sway from the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth century.

When Moulay Ismail (1672-1727) came to power he sealed off the tombs in an effort to remove all trace of his predecessors. They only came to light again in 1917 upon their rediscovery by the French following an aerial survey.

Because the tombs had been sealed for so many years they were found to be in a state of near-immaculate preservation and the Moroccan Beaux-Arts service has since restored the site itself to its original splendour.

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One hump not two – a dromedary ride in Marrakech

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

If on a quest for the exotic and evocative you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to ‘sail’ through the Marrakech desert on one of its most mysterious ‘ships’.

Located in the north-east corner of Marrakech, La Palmeraie is a palm-filled oasis shaded by thousands of trees and the perfect sanctuary from the heat and madness of the inner city.

Riding through the Palmeraie is a great way to explore the rural outskirts of Marrakech. Tours last from 20 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how much time you have, and most will include a halt en route for a cup of mint tea and Moroccan pancakes.

If you fancy the idea of experiencing something rather special, indeed unique, here are a couple of tips:

1. Wear long trousers and long socks – the motion of the camel will cause your trousers to creep up (and camel hair is itchy), so wear long socks to save you from sun, sand and scratching!

2. Don’t forget your sunscreen – even though the Palmeraie is mostly shady. A hat and sunglasses may also be a good idea.

3. Be confident – animals pick up on your attitude so if you’re comfortable, your camel should be too.

How to barter in Marrakech

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the famous souks, a seemingly inescapable maze of open and covered markets selling everything imaginable. And who doesn’t want to obtain a few good deals when shopping for souvenirs on holiday?

We all know that stall and shop owners hike prices when they see a tourist approaching but don’t let this knowledge deter you from trying to extract the best price.

Local traders expect it. Indeed, haggling is part of the very culture in the Arab world, not least in a tourist city as popular as Marrakech.

Okay, so you’ve spotted a beautiful hand-crafted item that you simply must take home as a ‘look where I’ve been’ brag item to decorate your lounge; here’s how to barter in Marrakech:

  • Take a stroll around the shop/market and see what the general asking price is for similar items – you’ll probably find (by asking – items are rarely priced) that things cost pretty much the same but it’s good to know. Read the rest of this entry »

Marrakech Weather

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

“What’s the weather like in Marrakech?” It’s the question most frequently asked of those in the leisure and travel business. Seldom an easy question to answer with certainty at the best of times, it’s a query all the more difficult to respond to these days as exceptional weather events continue to occur right around the globe and climate change, whether due to global warming or not, makes itself felt.

In Morocco’s southern interior, much of it semi-desert and mountainous, extremes of temperature can always be expected. During summer, in Marrakech, it’s common for maximum daily temperatures to reach the 40’s, if not more.

Even at night it’s still hot, often over 20ºC. During winter, by contrast, the climate is agreeably mild although, even then, daytime temperatures range from 15º to 25º between November and March, falling to 5º or even less at night, due to the influence of snowfall on the nearby Atlas. This would be typical of Marrakech.

Temperatures apart, if it’s winter sun you’re after, Morocco is right up there with the best. Over 10 hours of sunshine per day, on average, from June to early September, and no less than 7 hours from October to February – quite a contrast with the gloom of a European winter. Whenever clouds and rain decide to put in their inevitable appearance, one can’t argue with statistics like that!

For Marrakech weather updates, please see our website (on the right hand side, at the top of page)

Football in Marrakech

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Moroccans love football.

The national team has been kicking some serious derrière over the last few years. The first African, and Arabic, team to win a group series at the World Cup (in 1986), Morocco was also the first African team to make it to the second round, in the same year, only just losing 1–0 to West Germany.

So, where can you watch football in Marrakech?

The city has a brand new stadium (completed in 2011), home to local team Kawkab Marrakech, which has been used by the national team for its last seven home games.

If you’re keen to catch a game, or perhaps just to visit the stadium, the Stade de Marrakech is located 9 kms north of the city on the RN9 road to Casablanca.

Marrakech to Essaouira: a day trip

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

If you’re visiting Marrakech for long enough to afford taking a day out of town, the ancient port of Mogador, the modern day Essaouira, is well worth the two and a half hour trip.

A small, picturesque seaport with a shipyard and important fishing fleet, Essaouira is unlike almost any other town in Morocco due largely to the fact that it was developed originally by the Portuguese, a heritage accounting for much of its character and charm. The walled town stands on a narrow peninsula sheltering a vast bay and crescent of fine sand.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is a fascinating example of 18th century European military architecture, notably its sea defences, constructed by the French and equipped with an impressive row of Spanish canons. From this fortified Scala there is a splendid outlook over the sea and Atlantic rollers crashing against the rocks.

A few yards from the busy fishing port, the medina features a large square and a couple of wide boulevards as well as a maze of narrow streets, all the more pleasant for being pedestrianised. Read the rest of this entry »

New Summer Menus from our talented young chef

Monday, April 15th, 2013

In February 2013, a range of newly-created Spring and Summer menus was introduced to our hotel’s ‘Le Jasmin’ restaurant by our young head chef, Houcein Id Ahmed.

Having joined Les Borjs in January 2011 as commis chef, Houcein rapidly proved his worth and in January 2013 he was given his chance to take full charge of the kitchen. His first job was to produce new menus for the Moroccan and European à la carte menus as well as around a dozen, daily changing half board menus and a range of lighter meals served to residents at the poolside bar.

As an example of the dishes to be found in our ‘Le Jasmin’ restaurant, you can allow yourself to be tempted by, amongst many others: Sea bass tagine with vegetables and olive m’charmal, Berber style; a Timbale dish of prawns and shrimps with purée of lemon-infused avocado and a pear-almond salsa; Stuffed beef roll cooked with thyme; Clove-flavoured duck breast garnished with young vegetables; Pastilla mille feuilles with pineapple and honey cream.

Vegetarians are also well provided for with dishes including: Corn risotto of courgette and parmesan with mascarpone mushrooms and Vegetable roll in flaky ‘brick’ pastry served with a mixed salad.

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