Insider tips for independent minds: Marrakech

The local link

There’s one thing even the most seasoned travel aficionado can’t compete with when it comes to unrivalled city knowledge, and that’s the locals. As travellers across the globe embrace authentic cultural experiences, it is crystal clear that the future of travel lies in the knowledge of locals. It’s one of the best ways to fully embrace a culture, to completely immerse yourself in genuine experiences and the only ways to truly be In the Know.

Marrakech is a destination that still remains largely unexplored and intrepid, despite offering a local vibrancy that is sure to entice you back for more. The colourful markets buzz with activity, the impressive architecture refreshes your senses with its originality and the local cuisine bursts with new flavours and inspired dishes. To allow us some insight into the wonders that await in Marrakech, we caught up with local rug specialist and market stall owner Moulay Youssef.

You’re somewhat of a carpet king, and a Moroccan rug is something many visitors have on their Marrakech hit list. Where is the best place for local rugs and carpets?

Well, that’s an easy one – it’s Les Nomades de Marrakech.¬†It was established 25 years ago by Namous Abderrahim, who represents the fifth generation of a family who are renowned for their expertise in top quality Moroccan carpets. The company designs and fabricates artisanal rugs using age-old Berber design techniques and materials. Les Nomades de Marrakech has a team of skilled artisans who weave naturally-dyed wool, cotton, and silk into carpets, kelim, blankets, festival tents and goat-hair nomad tents of vibrant design. Their work is not only beautiful and unique, but it is truly and authentically Moroccan . It’s a great place to pick up a carpet or rug for anyone who wants one.

For anyone wanting to pick up some contemporary souvenirs or mementos, where should they head?

I’d recommend 33 Rue Majorelle¬†which is an authentic Moroccan houseware and knick knack boutique and concept store, with an inspired modern twist. It offers a traditional take on Moroccan houseware, which is appealing to locals and tourists alike, but its contemporary flair can be seen in unusual pieces that really style up the more traditional pieces. It’s also worth just visiting the store, as it’s a well-curated selection of up-and-coming local brands and designers.

If you had an empty tummy and only $30 to your name, where would you go to ease your hunger?

I always go to Cafe NOMAD in the Medina, because the food is a contemporary take on traditional Moroccan and the view from the rooftop is spectacular. I’m big on good food, so I also like to go to traditional Moroccan places to get some home-style cooking. The best place to find it is in the new city, at a place called Al Fassia. The food is as traditional as you can get, and it’s absolutely delicious.

You were born and bred in Marrakech. Tell us why you love the city so much.

I love Marrakech because it’s Marrakech! It offers an energy I have never experienced in any other city nor in any other country. I was born here and I grew up here, so I can feel the good energy all around the city from the medina to the new city to the suburbs I grew up in. Even when you are from here, the beauty still makes you smile. I love the chaos at the main market, with all the people looking for bargains and all the different people from all over the world taking in Marrakech. I also love the calm, which you can find in the city’s Hammams. It offers everything!

What is the one thing first-time visitors simply cannot miss?

Marrakech is a vibrant, busy city, and there is so much to see and so many markets to wander through. I think it’s a great idea to enjoy a Hammam experience, which is a traditional Turkish steam bath. It’ll help you feel refreshed and revitalised after all the walking, and it’s something Moroccans consider a necessity. Plus, it’s always good to feel pampered while on holiday!

Moulay Youssef is a local carpet and rug vendor who is a native of Marrakech. He has lived in the city his whole life, and has been in the business of selling carpets and rugs for over 25 years.