Morocco is definitely one of the most adventurous places I’ve been to. After so much travelling within Europe for the past few years, I knew I was ready to move on. While Morocco is really only a three hour Ryanair flight away, arriving in the country makes you feel like you’re in an exotic country that’s much further away than it really is. It was my first trip to Africa, and exactly as how I imagined my first trip to Africa would be – unforgettable. (I’m already dreaming about our next trip to South Africa!)
Me and Yann went to Morocco in May (I can’t believe it’s already August! Time really flies when you move across continents!), which was still a bit too hot for my liking but it was bearable. We woke up early in the morning to explore until lunch, then spent the afternoons hiding from the sweltering heat (it was 40 degrees everyday) in cafes drinking mint tea or at the cool, tranquilness of our riad until the evening, when the weather was more agreeable and there a lot more exploring to be done.
We went for a week, and I dreamt about camels almost every night after our trip. During our week there, we went to Marrakech, did a 3 day Sahara desert tour, Fez and chefchaouen, which is a lot already, but in a country as diverse as Morocco, you can easily spend weeks there exploring the countryside, mountains, desert, rugged coastline, and all the ancient medina cities.
We first flew into Marrakech, which is the first largest city in the country. Its name originates from Berber, which means “Land of God.” People say that Marrakech is a city of moments, and it’s really true – there’s so much to take in, from the beautiful Islamic architecture of the Bahia Palace, to discovering all the hidden alleyways of the medina, to hearing the call to prayer as you’re enjoying a dinner and mint tea at Cafe ZaZa.
Here are some of my favourite things to do in Marrakech!
Spend your dirhams at the souks
Walking around the endless maze of markets in the Medina feels like a whole different world. The Medina is filled with these little “shops”, all specializing in something such as carpets, hats, spices, scarves, shoes and more.
If you want to take home something special, this is the place to look for it.
Keep in mind that you’re expected to haggle at all these shops. If you’re not into haggling (like me!), there are places like the Souk Cherifia that are barter-free, making your experience less stressful and more laid-back.
Enjoy Moroccan cuisine
There’s so much to taste in Marrakech, and best of all, these culinary experiences don’t come with a high price tag. While there are are abundance of street stalls and cheap eats around the city, we decided skipped them to indulge in the more expensive restaurants that don’t cost more than a typical dinner out back home.
One of the most famous places is the legendary Cafe Clock, with it’s slightly hipster interior and interesting menu, which includes their legendary camel burger! (similar to not wanting to try the kangaroo meat in Australia, I also decided to pass on the camel).
The place (especially the milkshakes) were so amazing, we went back to another Cafe Clock in Fez!
Drink mint tea on a rooftop terrace
Moroccans love their rooftop terraces and it’s a great way to unwind from the heat at the end of the day. Our favourite is at Cafe Chez ZaZa, which boosts an amazing view of the Medina.
We went for the tagine, and ended up staying much longer over some mint tea and desert!
Hear the call to prayer
The adhan, or call to prayer is interesting to hear for the first time. It can be heard across the city, which begins as a soft hum that grows louder into a “Allahu Akbar”.
It’s a unique facet of life in a Muslim country, and is played five times a day – before sunrise, at midday, in the mid-afternoon, at sunset and at night. I really liked hearing it…it’s a very deep sound that’s very peaceful and calming!
Admire the architecture at La Bahia Palace
This is a 19th century palace and gardens intended to the the greatest palace of its time. In fact, its name means “brilliance!”
It was set up by the Si Moussa, the grand vizier of sultan for his personal use…as the palace holds a courtyard surrounded by rooms intended for all his concubines!
Tips for travel
When I was researching Morocco before our trip, I read countless stories of travellers being hassled on the streets. It’s pretty much inevitable when you’re there, so you really just have to go with the mindset that you’re going to be approached by shopkeepers, locals on the street, etc when you’re walking around the medina. We didn’t realize how extreme it was until we got there though and after a day in Marrakech, we were quite happy to be on our way into the desert and away from the crowds.
While there’s no dress code in Morocco, dressing as conservatively as you can goes a long way in Marrakech in both respecting the local culture, and avoiding extra unwanted attention.
The locals can be really friendly and talkative, but also remember that at the end of day, many are looking to sell you something. While their friendliness is welcoming, don’t trust everyone that you meet.
Never drink the tap water in Morocco, and always make sure foods you’re eating are fully cooked.
Have you been to Marrakech? What was your favourite thing about the city?