Morocco was nothing short of amazing! This was not only our first time to Morocco but our first time to Africa, and every day’s adventure left us speechless. We crammed a lot in our time there, so to spare you a 40 minute read, I’m going to break it into 2 blog posts: 1 for Marrakech (this one!) and our itinerary, and 1 for details on our trek to the Sahara.
- 5 days total
- 2 days Marrakech (details in this blog)
- 3 days trek to the Sahara (details in next blog!)
We took an early flight from Lisbon to Marrakesh (super easy/short flight – like an hour and a half) on Tuesday morning and we spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Marrakesh. We were picked up early on Thursday for a 3-day trek to the Sahara, and returned in Marrakesh on Saturday just in time to catch an evening flight to London. I honestly felt like it was the perfect amount of time for a first visit to Morocco.
What to do in Marrakech
Most things we did in Marrakech were all walking distance from the city center. Our hotel shuttle would drop off at the market and we’d walk from there. Overall, I think 2 days was a great amount of time to explore Marrakech.
If you’re in Marrakech, you have to go to the Market & Square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) and get lost in the seemingly never ending rows of goods.
- The merchants are definitely pretty pushy, but the ones we encountered weren’t overly aggressive. It’s definitely the epicenter of haggling so be prepared to low ball whatever price they suggest. Also, they have Snake whisperers throughout the square. The snakes dance and the workers may try and put them around your neck to get you to take a picture and pay them money. (Low key almost died when a snake showed up in my face)
- On the note of pictures, if you take a picture of something or someone, they expect money in return. So if you take a picture in a market shop, expect to buy something. If you take a picture of a donkey or snake, expect to pay some money.
El Badi Palace
People have differing opinions, but we definitely preferred El Badi Palace over Bahia Palace. Bahia palace is more intact and much newer (1900), while El Badi is older and more ruins with only a bit of the overall structure remaining. The grounds of El Badi are pretty big and they’ve made it into a living monument + museum. I honestly wish we’d allotted more time there because it was fascinating (and an awesome place for photos!).
Ben Youssef Mosque
We didn’t go in because we couldn’t get a straight answer on if we were allowed to or not and didn’t want to be disrespectful, but just witnessing a glimpse of this place was amazing!
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
If we’d had more time, this was the one thing on our list that we weren’t able to get to. If you go, send us pics and we’ll have total FOMO!
For those of you who don’t know, I (Kylie) have been vegetarian for the majority of my life. Often times the hardest part of traveling for me is the food – I feel like food is a core part of understanding a culture and many times I feel as a vegetarian I miss out on that. Also, my hanger is a real struggle, so making sure I can find any food is definitely a priority (I’ll write a blog one of these days on traveling as a vegetarian).
Anyways, this was not the case in Morocco much to my surprise! I had stocked up on protein bars thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat a thing, and I ended up eating like a King.
Pretty much everywhere we went we either got a Couscous dish or a Berber Tajine (both of which always had a vegetable option). My favorite was the Berber Tajine, which is like a stew – the vegetables were incredible and the spices they used were so unique.
- I also loved learning about Tajines. Tajines are a type of clay pot with a cone-shaped lid that have been around since the 9th century. They’re used to cook stews with very minimal water which is very useful in places where water supplies are limited.
We stayed at the Sirayana Boutique Hotel & Spa which was about a 20 minute (free) shuttle ride to the market & center of Marrakesh. The room and property were absolutely beautiful and, given how many people had expressed concerns about us traveling to Morocco, the level of security they had made us feel really safe.
- If we went to Marrakesh again, I think we would opt for a riad for more of an authentic experience now that we are more comfortable in the country. But for our first time, I think this hotel was perfect.
We went in the early/middle of September and, while it was very warm (high 80’s F, low 90’s), it was definitely bearable. Locals we met said the summers average 30 degrees warmer, and personally I just don’t know if I could enjoy anything at that temperature.
- Side note: I would highly recommend the early September timeframe for a lot of places in Europe/northern Africa. Much less busy than the summer months, and the weather is still warm but not unbearably hot.
When I was preparing for our trip, I read all of these things about the required modesty in Morocco. That said, I packed all palazzo paints and skirts that covered my knees, shirts that covered my shoulders and packed a scarf to cover my head in case we went anywhere that was required.
- I’m not sure who/where are enforcing these rules, but it definitely didn’t feel like a requirement (at least in the center of Marrakech). There were tons of tourist with shorts/skirts/tanks/etc. around the market and monuments.
- That said, I did feel a lot more comfortable feeling that I was respecting their cultural norms and would 100% air on the side of modesty again if we went back.
Moroccan currency is dirham. A lot of places also accepted Euros but dirham is definitely best to have on you – just make sure you exchange it back before you leave the country since it’s a closed currency. This was super easy to do at the Marrakesh airport so just leave yourself some time to do so.
Overall, I’d highly recommend making a trip to Morocco. Even if you just tack a quick 2 days on to a Portugal trip and pop down to Marrakech, you definitely won’t regret it!
Kylie & Scott
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