Monday, December 03, 2012

New York Magazine: Finding Luxury for Less in Marrakech

The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan
November 29, 2012 

By Julie Earle-Levine

Since the Euro crisis has thinned the crowds, now's the perfect time for adventurous travelers to enjoy the Red City's new relative bargains.

What to Do
The grounds of the Musée de la Palmeraie feature a cactus garden, rose garden, olive trees, and much more.  
Get an insider’s look at the Musée de la Palmeraie from founder Abderrazzak Benchaâbane, a botanist, garden designer, and photographer who previously oversaw Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle for a decade. Book a morning-long private tour ($116 per person for a four-person group) of the museum’s contemporary art collection and impressive gardens, followed by tea with Benchaâbane. The package also includes a chauffeured vehicle and entrance to Majorelle and the Art of Living Museum.

Experience the best aspects of the city’s most opulent hotel, La Mamounia, without spending $755 a night. Bypass the tourists who come to gawk at the sprawling gardens here with a Fitness Day Pass ($162), which affords you access to two immaculate red clay tennis courts; a fully equipped “glass cube” gym; an hour with a coach for pilates, spinning, or tennis; an hour-long massage; and a Mediterranean buffet lunch served poolside. Afterward, grab a lounge chair and have dessert from one of the gelato carts that are wheeled around the property.

Head to the souk in Djemaa el Fna and get ready to haggle over pricing on everything from spices to Moroccan slippers. Everything is negotiable, but expect to pay $10–$40 for leather slippers, $40–$90 for bags, and $40–$130 for kaftans, depending on quality. You can save time and effort by hiring a guide at your hotel (around $60) or at the market (around $20) if you don’t mind being taken to stalls where the guide is getting kickbacks, but either way, start your shopping just after lunch in order to get the best deals.

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