Morocco is one of the most diverse countries in Africa, rugged coastlines, high mountains, sweeping desert and the buzzing alleyways of ancient medina cities and souqs. We’ve been in this beautiful country for 8 days and we wanted to share our experiences and the activities we did with you.
After arriving from a 4-hour flight from Amsterdam Schiphol to Menara Airport in Marrakesh. We took a bus which dropped us off right next to the Medina of Marrakesh. Inside the Medina, we needed to find our Riad (sleeping accommodation). Once we stepped inside the Medina, we lost all sense of direction, hundreds of people, animals, smells and noises. Wandering around for your first time could make you feel disorientated and also somewhat uncomfortable. In the buzzing streets, you could feel the stares from locals and some asking “Where are you going? Do you want to buy? Children running around you trying to grab your backpack and begging for money in a very persuasive way.
City of Marrakesh
Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, the imperial city of Marrakech is noisy, atmospheric and full of history. There's a lot to see and do in Marrakesh. Highlights include the central square of Djemma El-Fna; the Saadian Tombs, the Majorelle Gardens, and the bustling souks or bazaars. For the most authentic Marrakesh experience, consider staying within the medina walls in one of the city's traditional Riads.
They started grabbing in our pockets and tried to run off with our backpacks..
Stay on your Guard
Since we couldn’t find our Riad, we asked some locals for directions. They showed us directions and assuming they wanted to help us we followed them. Leading us along narrow streets and back alleys, we sudden had a sense that told us to turn back, but we kept following them. Luckily, they showed us the right direction and we came out at our destination. Just before we wanted to enter the Riad, the men who showed us directions and first assumed as friendly, started to threaten us. They were screaming they wanted our money or the food in our bags. They started grabbing in our pockets and tried to run off with our backpacks. Luckily, we could push them away and the owner of the Riad came to help us.
Although, we had the luck we still had our bags and money. Petty crime and harassment are very common in Morocco and it is required to always stay on guard. Especially in the bigger Cities like Marrakesh or Fes.
Exploring the Medina of Marrakesh
After conquering our first impression of the Medina, we enjoyed this beautiful and interesting place, it is great to explore and there are many things to see. These ancients, crowded quarters with long lanes, dead ends, riad hotels, piles of spices, tradesman, tea drinkers and shisha smokers offer a strong dose of Morocco’s famous mystique.
Book a tour
Since we didn’t have much time to spend in Morocco, the best way for us to see as much as possible was to book a group tour. This 3-day tour brings you to several Moroccan highlights such as the Atlas Mountains, the Berber town ‘’Ait Ben Haddou’’ (famous from movies like The Gladiator & Game of Thrones). A highlight for us was the night sleeping in the Sahara, climbing up sand dunes, enjoying the stars at night and sleeping in a Berber tent, made this for us one of Morocco’s signature activities and a very rewarding experience.
The tour was full of activities and cost around 75,- which included transport, accommodation, breakfast and dinner. The tour we took is a very popular one and can be booked almost at any Riad you will stay in. The prices can vary depending on the number of people, the length of the tour and your negotiating skills.
Tip!: If you have the time do the 3-day tour instead of the 2-day tour. Only with the 3-day tour, you will go into the real Sahara Desert, which is definitely worth the trip!
Essaouira is a great place to get away from the heat and bustle of the bigger cities. In the 1960s, the seaside town was a popular beach hangout for icons like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Other than the beach, highlights include strolling through the town's narrow streets filled with red and blue painted houses, exploring the ramparts, and listening to traditional Gnawa music. From Marrakesh, it's easy to take a bus. You can book it at the train station. It cost around € 10,- roundtrip and takes about 2,5 hour to get there.
Essaouira's biggest attraction may be its relaxing atmosphere. It's not a big town, and being a beach place it has a holiday feel about it. If the Medinas in Marrakesh overwhelm you, you’ll enjoy a more relaxed experience here in Essaouira (and better prices). Compared to Marrakesh, the people are much less intrusive and you will be regularly invited for a cup of tea. Although, keep in mind that they always want to sell you something.
Hit the beach for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and canoeing and for marine mammals and bird life such as the endangered ‘’Bald Ibis’’. The beaches of Essaouira are on the Atlantic coast and the water is pretty cold and also quite windy, so it is not ideal for swimming or sunbathing.
The beach is very nice for a stroll or cycling and since it runs for about 10km there's plenty of it. 3 km from Essaouira there is located a small village, Diabat. It contains sand covered ruins, long beaches, and the Jimmy Hendrix Cafe. He visited in Morocco in 1969 and stayed 11 days in Essaouira, the cafe is named after him. It’s a nice place to start your adventure for exploring the sand dunes and coast.
Tip!: Hire a bike in Essaouira, it is perfect to go around and explore. Head to the non-crowded beaches a few kilometers from the city to experience a totally new & different Morocco.
Everywhere in the streets, you can find local restaurants with traditional foods. One of our favorites was the Tagine. The Tagine is a clay cooking pot with a conical lid, the food inside contains slow-cooked dishes including meat, vegetables, spices, and bread. The Tagine is famous all over Morocco and can be served in many different flavors, is very healthy and tastes delicious.
In a country where ‘having a beer’ is not a thing, they have their own social drink. The tea is traditionally made by the head male in the family and offered to guests as a sign of hospitality. The serving of the tea can take a ceremonial form, it is poured into glasses from high above to swirl loose tea leaves to the bottom of the glass. Whilst gently aerating the tea to improve its flavor. The tea leaves are left in the pot while the tea is consumed, it’s changing the flavor from one glass to the next.
We would describe Morocco as an incredible destination to visit. At times, it was stressful, chaotic and overloaded our senses. But it was a Country where we felt truly somewhere new and different.
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