Marrakech was the last stop on our European trip in October. We originally planned to visit for 10 days [but because we decided to extend our layover in London] we ended up only having a few days to enjoy the city. I'll be honest. 4 days is not enough time for us. I would suggest booking a trip to Morocco for at least 10 days if not 2 weeks. There is so much to see in the country and you don't want to miss anything [which we most definitely did.. and that makes me sad.]
FLIGHT: London > Casablanca > Marrakech. You can get tickets for as low as $29/one-way but we happened to be traveling during UK half-term holidays and ended up paying a painfully expensive price for tickets.
Marrakech is an over-stimulating, exciting little city with so much to see and buy! There was so much going on I felt like I barely took any photos! I was too busy trying to soak it all in. We stayed at a beautiful little Riad right outside the Medina and thoroughly enjoyed our time there [Even if it was short.] Here is the skinny:
Language: Arabic, French
Time Zone: Western European Time Zone UTC+00:00
Exchange Rate: 9.95 MAD to 1 USD
Price of Gas: $.95/Liter
Morocco is predominately a Muslim country. They have prayer 5 times a day. There was something very special about hearing those prayer calls. If you were in the right place, at the right time [like resting in your room or having tea in a quiet place] the prayer calls were quite mediative. It was something I was not entirely used to but fascinated by the experience. It was a constant reminder that I was in a completely different world and had no control over the things that would happen throughout our stay.
Most people in the city seemed to ignore the prayer calls and besides coming across Mosques throughout the city.. Marrakech didn't seem entirely influenced by its religion [for a lack of better description.] I found that most people catered to western travelers and were more interested in selling you something. This is probably because we hung out in the most touristic places and is probably very different outside the Medina walls.
On another note, most Moroccans we interacted with could speak up to four languages [Arabic, French, English and Spanish] and than some. I found this really interesting considering most Americans can only speak one language [myself included.] A Moroccan from a third world country is more worldly and educated than a young, college-grad from the United States. It makes the thoughts in my head tumble.
I felt a lot safer than I thought I would in the city. Before we got there, I mentally prepared myself for overly-aggressive souks owners and the possibility of being harassed. And besides harmless looking twins with big curly hair following us around the fruit carts, we never had any problems. We made sure to stay covered up [which isn't hard for me considering my style usually looks like I'm wearing 10 sizes too big] and dressed conservatively. There were even a lot of English/French tourists with children who let them run wild! I think as long as you are a smart traveller.. you won't run into any major problems.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
MEDINA: You can find anything and everything in Jema el-Fnaa. The square is filled with street performers, a wide range of food and drinks, and authentic Morroccan goods. We enjoyed getting lost in the Souks and bargaining for the best quality leather sandals and rugs! I bought a couple of leather poufs and traditional Moroccan leather sandals. And more importantly. Rugs. Vintage Moroccan rugs. I have travelled enough to pick and choose what I buy. I like to do a lap around the shops before I start buying anything. That way I can figure out what is quality, what is cheap, and what is a totally tacky purchase.
We met up with Ishmael from Lahandira and he showed us one of the best shopping experiences ever! In true Moroccan form, we sat at his shop sipping traditional Moroccan tea as they showed us every possible color and design of rugs. I bought three different types [two of which Ishmael packed up and shipped back to Hawai'i for me]. He even helped us purchase our leather poufs and shipped those back for us as well! Truly an amazing shopping experience and worth maxing out my credit card. Hehe.
SAHARA DESERT: Our Riad booked a 2 day/1 Night desert tour for us. This short overnight tour takes you to the edge of the Sahara desert on the back of a camel. And to be honest, it was not worth it. We did not realize how much driving there would be and we spent most of the day in a bus [that I got incredibly car sick in.] Being in the desert is amazing but you don't get to enjoy it for very long. We got to our camp at night and left right as the sun was coming up. I barely got to know my camel for goodness sakes!
If we could do it again I would book a 4 day/3 night tour instead. And I would do my research. Although our experience sufficed.. I would have preferred a private tour guide. We would have been in a 4x4 vehicle, I probably wouldn't have gotten car sick, and we would have had a lot more freedom to explore on our own. [Note: those tour groups tend to take you to incredibly touristic areas where they want you to spend money. So be prepared or ask your tour guide to give you a more authentic, real experience while you're going through the desert!]
EAT/STAY: When we were planning our trip to Marrakech I really wanted to stay at El Fenn but all of the rooms were full! El Fenn is a very well-designed, hip hotel with beautiful decor and ambiance. I was so bummed when we couldn't get a room there. We were still able to stop by for lunch, dinner and a couple hang out sessions! They have an amazing menu and the best mojito I have ever tasted! They also have several amazing pools and lounge areas. Marrakech can be very overwhelming and El Fenn feels like you’re escaping to an oasis and away from the madness outside!
My sister and I also spent a lot of time at Café des’ Epice drinking espresso and hiding out from the sun and souk chaos. It is a cute little café with great espresso and cozy seating. I thought it was amazing that the coffee culture in Marrakech surpassed our coffee experience in Iceland. Moroccans know how to do coffee. We also had a lovely lunch at Nomad not far from Café des' Epice. We dined on authentic Tagine food that was really clean and tasty!
In the end I feel like I got a good sample of Marrakech. Now I cannot wait to go back and experience more of the country!
Travel Diaries: Marrakech.