When you think of Morocco, what comes to mind? For me, it was desert, couscous, and colors. I wasn’t wrong, but that’s about all I knew before I booked a flight to Casablanca last Fall. Even though I found all of those things, I also found there’s so much more to this lovely, little country.
Our first stop on our eight day journey (besides Casablanca) was Marrakech. Or Marrakesh. Tomato. Tom-ah-to.
I really didn’t know what to expect when we arrived here. Especially, from the train station, there are a lot of lights and big shiny things. It’s flashy. Lots of money here.
Then, we turned into the medina. Our driver maneuvered his small car through the narrow streets behind a horse and carriage with people walking on either side (or trying to), and motorbikes trying to pass us along the way. After about 10 minutes of sweaty hands [mine] and trying not to watch my surroundings, we made it to the square that was closest to our riad. It was night, it was busy, and it was so exciting.
We had three days here, and it was quite the adventure!
Where To Stay:
Definitely stay in a riad, which I know, all the bloggers say, but it’s true! We stayed at Riad Johara which was absolutely incredible. It was beautiful, and tucked away from some of the madness, but very convenient to everything.
Make sure your riad has a rooftop. They’re all going to have beautiful interiors. No doubts about that, but there’s just something about having breakfast on a rooftop each morning, or even better, the sunsets in the evenings.
Where To Eat:
Maybe this section should be titled, “WHAT To Eat”, because it’s pretty much the same everywhere — tajine, kabobs, BREAD…
Cafe Arabe – It was beautiful, the food was amazing, and it had WINE. So, yeah. We were happy. It’s also in the medina, so that was great. You can also get a wide variety of food here which was great after eating tajine and couscous for a few days.
Here’s a great website for a list of other great restaurants in the city – The Culture Trip
What To Do:
Explore Jemaa-el-Fnaa – Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, there are a lot of tourist traps, but you are in Marrakech and that’s just what you do here. There’s food. There’s lots of people. There’s lots of shopping… And monkeys… And snake charmers.
SHOP!! – There are so many beautiful things. I always travel with a backpack, but I stuck an extra fold-up bag in my side pocket. Honestly, if I hadn’t brought that bag, I’m not sure how I would have gotten everything home. It turned out that when I unfolded it, it was bigger than my backpack – whoops! I have no regrets, though.
Talk to the locals – It’s amazing the things you can learn just by starting a little small talk with someone. We went into this lamp tent in the square after dinner one night. It was glowing and we were mostly just curious about what they had, not really looking to buy anything. I think we all ended up walking out with a couple of lamps, but most definitely a new friend.
Siad, one of the guys who works in above mentioned shop, was incredibly friendly and outgoing, and hospitable. He’s from a village either in or close to the Sahara Desert where his family still lives. He offered us mint tea [of course] and then we proceeded to not even look at the lamps anymore because we were invited to sit and sip on tea while we talked for two hours. TWO HOURS. Every moment was incredible as we learned about a life and culture that is so different from our own.
Ride a camel – Yes, you should. Because it’s a thing and it’s an experience. And because, why not?
Take a tour outside of Marrakech – The scenery is beautiful! Mountains everywhere if you go that route. Or go to the Sahara Desert for a few days if you have the time. We went to Ourika (unknowingly, but that’s another story) and saw a Berber home, learned how to make mint tea, hiked out to a waterfall, and had lunch with the sounds of Berber music and cats staring at us while we ate.
Adventure – I mean this as a verb. And I’m talking about the kind that’s spontaneous. As in, you’re looking for wine and not sure where to go since it’s hard to find there, but some guy hears you talking about it so you follow him through a crazy crowd to get to the wine… Sorry, Mom.
These are the things you remember the most, though. Let people take you somewhere [within reason, of course] because they usually genuinely want to help you out… with a little tip, sometimes.
What To Expect:
- Be mindful that there are thieves everywhere. Especially in the busier, touristy areas. Don’t walk with your phone out in your hand. Keep bags in front of you at all times. Little things that can save you some stress.
- Ladies – Cover shoulders and knees. It’s a respectful thing for their culture.
- If someone does lead you somewhere, follow them, but keep in mind that they probably want to be paid. A 10 Dirham coin is usually enough.
- Barter, barter, barter. This is what they do! And if something is not the price you want, walk away. They usually come down to your price, or close to it, but you also have to be prepared that you will not get what you were bartering for… until you go somewhere else.
- If you don’t like cats or are allergic to them, well, you’re out of luck here. Morocco is the country of cats!