Just returned from a week in Marrakech and I thought I would write a trip report. We stayed at the Riu Tikka Palmerai mainly because it was an offer we couldn't refuse. Including 7 nights food, drink and accommodation, 3 Thomson's trips and hiring a driver for the day and buying a few souvenirs we still didn't spend £1000 for the both of us.
This is my review of the hotel
The main disadvantage of choosing this option for Marrakech is that you don't really get to sample the local cuisine as much. Of course you could miss meals at the hotel and then try local restaurants and this would still be economical.
The 3 tours offered by Thomsons meant we got to see the Souks and Jemaa El Fna, a local pharmacy and bakery, the outside of the Katoubia mosque, the Jewish and the Kasbah district, the Bahia Palace, the Saadian tombs and the beautiful Majorelle gardens. Our guides were local men who did a good job of explaining the history of Marrakech and the religion and culture and who swept us through the city with ease. The caleche ride didn't really take us anywhere of interest but it was pleasant enough. They also took us to Bert Flints Tiskiwin Museum which was a very interesting Dar that had been converted to a museum of African art.
We had quite a bit of free time in the main square and for the first 10 minutes I felt like I had arrived in the most exciting place in the world but to tell the truth this feeling soon wore off and because you couldn't really look around without being constantly approached we soon wanted to move on. I think your reaction just depends on what sort of person you are. I am glad that we have been and seen it but we won't be rushing to return. I preferred the Jewish and the Kasbah parts of the city.
Our best day was when we hired our own driver even though I felt a bit let down by the circumstances. I had done some research and taken a recommendation from this forum. I picked an English speaking driver who originally said he would be on holiday but would send another driver. I said no thank you if you can't do it I will look elsewhere, to which he promptly gave me a date that he could take us. However, on the day he sent his brother in law and while his brother in law was very nice - he couldn't speak English so we struggled to communicate. He still took us on the route we had discussed but we couldn't really ask him any questions that came up. So I felt my research had been a waste of time.
Anyway we drove to Asni and had a great time looking round the berber market there. What an eye opener. As soon as I stepped out of the car a passing Berber flashed me an enormous smile so I flashed him one right back - and that was that! There was our guide!. He spoke brilliant English and showed us all around the different parts of the market. It was truly fascinating especially the cooked food stalls, the butchers stalls (we are butchers at home sot the contrast couldn't have been greater) and the donkey park. We even met his donkey. Of course we then had a 5 minute wrangle with him over how much we were going to give him for some berber bangles (I am not guide I sell these) and we paid way over the odds ( my husband was useless at bargaining and just kept saying "just give him the money." lol. But it was the best dirhams we spent on the holiday and i have some photographs that I will treasure for ever. After that we went happily on our way to Imlil. It is suggested you can do a bit of a hike there but my husband has bad legs so we just had a lovely pot of mint tea in a cafe overlooking a valley and the mountains. Then back to Marrakech via Lake Lalla Takerkoust stopping at a small village (Tagut?) for a tagine lunch. Our driver was able to negotiate that for us and we tried to chat in Franglish but we couldn't really communicate which was a shame. The trip took from 9 am til 3 pm and was not rushed at all. It cost a 1000 dirhams. I felt this would have been a fair price had I had my English speaking driver.
Overall we enjoyed Marrakech (me more than my husband who likes the hassle a little less) and we are glad we went. I know that we took the less adventurous route but this was a deliberate choice as we are blenders into the background type of people and fancied being looked after for a change.
So if anyone has any questions - particularly if you are staying at the same hotel - please ask away while it is still fresh in my mind.