Albakech House has an authentic feel to it and it was a surprise to hear Gaelic music there. Adam, the proprietor is half-Scots, half-Moroccan and he and his staff were very helpful, welcoming and friendly. It also proved very useful to have a fellow “Brit” with whom we could discuss things, although the staff have more than a modicum of English. Unfortunately, I was ill for a day and Adam (and his father) was available to help. Adam offered to come with me to the pharmacy and could explain my symptoms in French (commonly spoken in Marrakesh).
Whilst this accommodation is well away from the centre, it provides a peaceful haven from the noise of the medina although there was aircraft noise from early morning. Breakfast includes a hard-boiled egg, fresh orange juice and fruit, some bread, pancakes, etc., jam and sweet mint tea, Moroccan style, or coffee or English tea if you prefer. The hotel does not provide lunch or evening meal, but there is a superior authentic-style restaurant, Al Fassa, a few steps away (be sure to order the mixed Moroccan salad as a first course). There is also a nearby shopping mall with supermarket, fast food places, pharmacy and ATM.
The hotel pool, although unheated, is available year-round. Reception can arrange a camel ride at the Palmery (may be cheaper if you find your way there independently and negotiate with the men by the roadside) and excursions to the mountains, etc. The hotel also offers airport transfers and a free daytime transfer to the town centre. In the evening, a taxi back should cost no more than 50dh – always get the driver to agree a maximum before departing. We took an excursion to Setti Fatma, where we undertook a guided scramble to the waterfall and were treated with views over the Berber village. On the way to Setti Fatma, we stopped at a Berber co-operative and were told, in English, about the wonderful benefits of Argan oil (and expected to purchase product).
Marrakesh’s main square boasts snake charmers and a few men with monkeys. If you desire a photograph, you will need to part with a few dirhams. This is also the case for being guided anywhere in the souks (covered markets), which are a confusing warren of tiny shops selling souvenirs, carpets and spices. If you’d like to know where to buy something without being ripped off, the hotel reception staff proved extremely helpful. If you’re not careful, a self-appointed guide will likely materialise out of thin air, trick you into following them (one befriended our 6 year-old and took him by the hand) and lead you to a specific souvenir shop, spice shop, then carpet shop. The proprietor of each will be very welcoming, offering tea, etc., but expect you to buy something and may browbeat you if you decline to buy after showing the slightest interest. Our carpet seller sat us down and asked an underling to display examples. For each he asked if we liked it and finally expected us to purchase the one we hadn’t eliminated. There is no expectation that one might’ve come to Marrakesh to experience the place rather than accumulate objects. All this time, the guide waited for us (at each establishment) and, at the end, put out his hand for the expected ‘tip’. The same was true at the tanneries, which are in a dirtier part of town. At the large tannery, the guide explained what was going on, then expect then expected a large tip although nothing had been agreed at the outset.
We visited two palaces, El Badi being a ruin but interesting for children and adults alike with its tunnels and its terrace that is level with storks nesting on the walls. Palais Bahia is smaller but has interesting ceilings and archways. However, the Medersa, the other side of the souk from there, outshines it and has amazing carvings to beat the Alhambra in Granada.
All in all, I would recommend Albakech House because of its relaxed atmosphere and I would recommend Marrakesh as a good destination at which to get away from the inclement winter weather. It does get cool at night and can be windy but it’s generally sunny and can be warm by day, even in December. I would not want to roast there in high summer.