We booked our stay through lastminute.com in May (for our stay in August 2006) and paid about £18 per room. Each room had three single beds in, but we had four people in two rooms. We are four students aged between 20 and 22.
When we arrived from the airport, we were met at reception by a very friendly man who greeted us by name before showing us to our rooms. This man had very good English and was on hand to help us pretty much throughout our stay. I seem to remember there were two very helpful, friendly members of staff who were on reception most of the time, and one who was not so helpful.
Our rooms were basic, with ensuite facilities, a tiled floor, three comfortable beds and plenty of storage space. There was a mini-fridge
where we could keep food and bottled water, and the towels and bedding were changed every day.
Breakfast, which was included in the price, consisted of orange squash and a variety of European-style pastries and breads, which got
a little repetitive. Some sort of pancake things were being cooked on
the spot, but I didn't try them as there was always a queue.
The swimming pool was more like a plunge pool, about 5x5 metres, and shaded from the sun. If your main priority is to get a tan, this hotel is not for you. However, it was lovely to come back to the hotel in the heat of the day and take a dip to cool off, without having to worry about putting on sun cream or anything.
Immediately behind the hotel, i.e. in the same building, is a mini supermarket. This was incredibly useful for buying cheap bottled water (don't drink the tap water) and things like yoghurts, tinned food, crisps etc. Good for picnic food etc. Also sold things like shampoo, shower gel, toothbrushes etc. Outside there was a stall selling fruit and veg. Bananas and oranges are very useful if you want to eat something guaranteed to be clean!
We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant once, and it was nice, but seemed to be the same thing every night, and you can get much better food in town. On the first night we walked around the new town trying
to find somewhere to eat. Eventually we found a restaurant which seemed reasonable at the time, but wasn't a patch on any of the other
places we ate later on. Your best bet is to take a taxi to the Jemaa el F'na and eat at one of the many food stalls there.
The walk from the hotel to the medina took about 45 minutes, which we did a lot of the time, but to be honest it is better to take a yellow taxi, which can fit three people in. Make sure you get one with a meter, and do not pay any more than 15-20 DH for the trip. Anything more than this and you are being ripped off. Quite often taxi drivers will try to tell you that the meter is not working, in which case the best thing to do is say you're going to get out and find another taxi. In most cases, the meter will mysteriously start working again, or they will offer you a fair price. If not using a meter, make sure you agree the price before you get in.
On our first day in Marrakech we took an open top bus tour. The bus stops on the edge of the new town, not far from the hotel (about 20 minutes walking). Your ticket costs about £7 (I think) and lasts for 24 hours, so the best thing to do is get it at lunchtime, because there are two routes, one round Marrakech itself and one round the surrounding area. You can do one in the afternoon, and the other one the following morning using the same ticket, as long as you're within the 24 hours. This was a very useful starting point, and helped us to get our bearings a bit on the first day. One of the bus stops is at the Jardins Majorelle, which is very near the Hotel Ayoub. This is definitely worth a visit. It is a kind of walled garden, owned by Yves St Laurent, and as you go in it is like an oasis of cool and calm, away from the city. There are streams and fountains, all different kinds of tropical plants and flowers, and lots of colourful ceramics. If we'd had time, we would have gone back a second time.
When you visit the Jemaa el F'na in the medina, it is important not to let yourself be bullied by locals trying to sell you things. On our first night some women came up to us and started painting our hands with henna, insisting that it was "just a gift". We said we didn't want them, and tried to move away, but they were very persistent and kept saying really nice things to us which meant we didn't want to be rude by just ignoring them and walking away. They managed to paint all over us and then basically held us hostage until we paid them £15 each (£45 in total) for henna tattoos we didn't want. It sounds silly, but they are really persistent. If this happens to you, wipe the henna off and walk away. If you want a henna tattoo, there are other people who will let you approach them, and you can choose exactly what you want and arrange a price beforehand. Don't be bullied into it.
The same goes for the food sellers and the people in the souks. I would advise you never to buy anything the first time you see it. The asking price will often be 20 times what it should be. Haggle and argue and walk away, and keep doing this until you find out just how low you can get the price. It will often be a lot lower than you think. Keep in mind the fact that if one seller refuses to budge, within two minutes you will come across someone else selling exactly the same thing, and they know this.
The food sellers are all selling pretty much the same thing as well. When we first arrived we were approached by a young man from one of the stalls who handed us a menu and asked us whether we'd like to eat at his stall. We had a look, then gave the menu back to him and said we wanted to have a look round, and we'd come back later. As we walked around, a lot of sellers tried to force us to eat at their stall, and some got quite aggressive when we said we didn't want to. Eventually we went back to the first seller who had been nice and polite, and he recognised us and seemed really pleased that we'd come back. The food was lovely, and we didn't get ill, so we went back about four times during our stay. Each time they remembered us, and each time they seemed to give us more food and charge us less. (This was stall 114 - definitely go and eat there!) There are also stalls selling orange juice at 3DH a glass. We bought our orange juice from seller 3 because the glasses were clean! The juice is delicious and ice cold, and again, loyalty is rewarded for going back to the same person - you seem to get more each time, especially if there isn't a queue.
If you want to exchange currency or travellers' cheques, go to the Hotel Ali, which is a youth hostel just off the main square, next to the post office. They will do it commission free. They also have a hammam facility, and you can arrange tours through them. We went into the Hotel Ali to arrange a tour (as recommended by a friend) and they took us to a travel agency where we booked a 3 day trekking tour through the mountains. I think we each paid about £30 per day, but this included the tour guide, mules to carry our backpacks(!) and all food and accommodation, so it wasn't really that expensive. And we all got home in one piece, which was the main thing!
I think that's all I can think of to say - enjoy your holiday!
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