Luke O’Brien

Correspondent

  • New York City, NY, USA

Luke O’Brien is a correspondent who lives in New York City and covers Marrakech for Forbes Travel Guide. O’Brien got his start in journalism holding a mic boom on a PBS travel series, which led to a job at National Geographic Channel. Since then, he’s earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia, worked for several newspapers around the country, been the D.C. correspondent for Wired News and covered everything from criminal capers to the last two World Cups. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Fortune, Details, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, The New York Times and The Washington Post Magazine. The Washington, D.C. native’s favorite travel destination is Mexico.

  • On July 2, 2014
  • On March 15, 2013
  • On February 12, 2013
    Kim Atkinson is now following Luke O’Brien
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What’s the best way to haggle in Marrakech?

    Marrakech doesn't have a baseball team, but it's in the big leagues when it comes to professional fleecing. As any local will tell you, the real sport in town is haggling. Here's a primer for souk success: 1.) Check bargains in different places to get a sense for the market 2.) Be nice when you knock at least 50 percent off the first quoted price 3.) Point out flaws in the merchandise, again while being nice 4.) As you get closer to settling on a price, express dismay and/or benign outrage 5.) Walk away. Yes, walk away. You don't need a couture kaftan. You don't really want it. You don't even like it anymore. As soon as you convince yourself of all this, the couture kaftan will be yours.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What is the best thing to bring home from Marrakech?

    Nobody leaves Marrakech without buying something, and the best gift to bring home is a hand-woven Berber carpet. Made from sheep wool or camel hair, these durable carpets are famous for their intricate geometric designs with tribal symbols to ward off evil or boost fertility. You'll find a carpet for sale on every corner but don't forget to haggle. And if you'd rather pick up a more portable memento, consider an exotic lantern made from filigreed metal or a bottle of argan oil, a mouthwatering cooking ingredient that comes from a rare nut.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best Marrakech food experiences?

    Marrakech offers a myriad of food experiences. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors give us a list of the best things to try: 
     
    1. Start the day with beghrir, crumpet-like crepes made from semolina and drizzled with honey. Butter or jam make good toppings, too.
     
    2. Tagine is the classic Berber dish, a chicken or lamb stew slow-cooked over charcoal with olives, apricots, prunes, lemons or other ingredients in a clay pot.
     
    3. Marrakshis drink mint tea in the morning, at night and at all the hours in between. Made from strong green tea and loads of sugar, this "Berber whiskey" lubricates every aspect of social life.
     
    4. Traditionally eaten to break the fast during Ramadan, harira makes a tasty snack anytime. This fragrant lentil and tomato soup usually includes chickpeas, onions, celery, parsley and spices like pepper, ginger, saffron and cinnamon. Clean your bowl with a piece of khubz flatbread.
     
    5. To win bragging rights back home, tuck into a boiled sheep's head at the Djemaa el-Fna. The local delicacy is what it sounds like—the head of a sheep with the cheek flesh falling off and the eyeballs still attached.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    Where is the best nightlife in Marrakech?

    Marrakech has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife, just not in the medina area. A few decent options exist in the old town, like the charming KosyBar, which has a great deck from where to sip sundowners while admiring the giant storks guarding the walls of the Badi Palace. If you want to crank up the energy, you'll need to head to the Ville Nouvelle neighborhood outside the medina walls, where clubs and bars abound. The best known is Pacha, an outpost of the Ibiza megaclub transplanted to North Africa that has two restaurants, a pool and a lineup of star DJs that keep the crowd moving.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What is the best way to see Marrakech in one day?

    If you only have one day in Marrakech, you can't miss the souks and the Djemaa el-Fna. It’s easy to get lost in the mazelike alleyways so consider hiring a guide who will make the mayhem manageable. You might still wind up in his uncle's lantern shop, but it's worth it and should also give you time to see the Koutoubia Mosque and the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa (the former college features breathtaking architecture). The other option is to go it alone and lose yourself in the streets of the old town, as visitors have for a thousand years, soaking in all the colors and craziness.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    Where is the best shopping in Marrakech?

    Even if you don’t love shopping, a journey into the free-for-all of the souks, where you can see artisans hammering metal and dying wool in their shops is an essential experience in Marrakech. You can, and will, get lost in these covered alleys, and that's part of the fun. Remain patient and polite with the scores of merchants who will try any gambit to draw you into their stores. If you do go in, remember that haggling isn't just allowed here, it's encouraged.
     
    Among the best souks to investigate are the spice souk near the Bahia palace, where you'll find pungent cones of paprika, cumin and curry; the carpet souk with hand-woven Berber carpets piled two stories high; and the slipper souk, where an endless array of slippers in different designs and colors awaits. Should you tire of the crowds and the bartering, head over to the Ensemble Artisanal, where the prices are fixed (if higher) and you can try your hand at weaving your own carpet.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best things to do with kids in Marrakech?

    Marrakech can be quite the adventure for little kids. Regale them with stories of magic carpet rides on the plane ride over and then check out our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to do with the kids in Marrakech:
     
    1. Run around the Djemaa-el Fna. The big square will provide hours of entertainment for kids. From the Gnaoua musicians to the dancers, it's a bewitching and magical scene they'll always remember. Just make sure to hold on tight to their hands, as it gets crowded. And beware the henna artists. Not only do they overcharge, their henna dyes sometimes include some nasty chemicals.
     
    2. Ride a camel. Hop in a taxi for a short trip outside of town to the Palmeraie neighborhood, where you'll find mostly friendly dromedaries waiting to carry riders through desert scrub and date palm trees.
     
    3. Listen to the adhan at the Koutoubia minaret. Five times a day, the muezzin at the top of the Koutoubia minaret, which is part of the main mosque off the Djemaa-el Fna offers up a beautiful call to prayer (adhan).
     
    4. Meet the bunnies at Flower Power Cafe. Nestled among exotic trees and plants, the Flower Power Cafe has a rabbit run, pony rides and a playground with a trampoline to entertain the kids while the adults dine on tasty organic food and juices.
     
    5. Enjoy some playtime at Kawkab Jeux. When they’ve had enough of the markets, swing by the Kawkab Jeux play center, where the kids can engage in arts and crafts with the friendly staff. They’ll also find video games, playground slides and lots of toys.
  • On September 21, 2012
    Luke O’Brien answered the question: Luke O’Brien

    What are the best things to see and do in Marrakech?

    Marrakech offers a wealth of things to see and do; you could spend days just bouncing around the alleyways of the medina. Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the five best things to see and do in Marrakech:
     
    1. Get lost in the souks. For shopping experiences, nothing compares to the riot of the souks, a warren of alleys where merchants pull out every stop to sell passersby slippers, carpets, lanterns, spices and whatever else the imagination desires.
     
    2. Hang out at the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrkech's central plaza. The "big square" is one of the world's most amazing spectacles, mobbed at almost any hour with juice vendors, henna artists, snake charmers, bellydancers, and hawkers and hustlers of every stripe, especially at night.
     
    3. Visit the Bahia Palace, which was built in the 1800s by some of Morocco's finest artisans for a grand vizier who wanted to house his four wives and 24 concubines. The gilded wood ceilings in the palace are spectacular.
     
    4. See the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa. This Quranic school, now closed, is a masterpiece of the colorful Moroccan mosaic work known as zelij.
     
    5. Relax at the Jardin Majorelle. Yves Saint Laurent donated this lush and shady garden filled with rare plants to Marrakech. It's the perfect reprieve on a hot afternoon.