Morocco: Marrakech, Atlas Mountains and Sahara

It’s been a while since I shared my travel stories with you, but I’ve decided to make a comeback with a destination that has grown immensely popular lately, and with good reason: Morocco. Just like I did, I’m sure you have a lot of misconceptions or expectations about the Moroccan culture. Do they serve alcohol? Is it dangerous for tourists? How good is their infrastructure?

Firstly, what really impressed me was their newly renovated airport in Marrakech. I was in love with the architecture they chose and how well things were organised. Small thing, but proved to be a bit annoying! Make sure to have a pen with you for filling out the travel form.

Marrakech Airport

For our trip, we have chosen to go with a package from Voyage Prive for 5 nights which has been short but intense!

Majorelle Gardens

The Secret Garden in Marrakech

Souks in Marrakech

Jardin Secret Marrakech

First things first, we started out journey with 2 days in Marrakech which is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen. Words cannot describe how truly fascinating this city is. Not only it has a history of over 1000 years, but interestingly enough, Morocco actually takes its name from it. There is something special about Marrakech, whether it’s the buzz, the flavours of Moroccan mint or sandalwood surrounding you, the inspiring architecture and culture, the smell of the tagines or the explosion of colours everywhere, there is something there that will appeal to each traveler.

Our package included a half day guided tour of Marrakech, which was very helpful and a big contrast to our first day spent alone in the souk. While we did experience more of the real culture in our first day, the buzz of the souk and all the vendors left us a bit dizzy! It obviously takes a while to adjust, but we did enjoy every part of it.

El Bahia Palace

On the third day, we had a private car to take us through the Atlas Mountains all the way to the Sahara gate: Mhamid, and from there, a camel ride to our Sahara camp where we spent the night and had a traditional tagine cooked by our lovely host, Mohammed, a berber that takes care of the camp and the guests. It has been an amazing experience to witness a sunset in the desert and sleep in a tent, hearing the sounds of the desert sand-storm.

The following morning we ventured back through the Atlas Mountains towards Marrakech, but we made a detour to visit Aït-ben-Haddou and later on we spent the night to a riad in the area. The time spend here gave us the opportunity to further discover the Moroccan culture and their people. From the riad, we had an afternoon walk to an old kasbah, meeting locals and discovering the agricultural gardens with their help. The dinner was included at the riad, home-made chicken and fig tagine, served alongside thin pasta covered in sweet cinnamon, What a delight it was!

You might recognise Aït-ben-Haddou from famous productions like Game of Thrones or The Gladiator. In fact this is a village made of clay and straw and has been inhabited by Muslim and Jewish people for centuries. The external gates you see in the picture have actually been added for the filming purpose, and our guide told us they will be taken down once they end the productions there. 

On our last night in Marrakech, we ventured once again into the hustle and bustle of the  souks, buying souvenirs: loads of argan oil, moroccan mint tea, decorations and spices. What we found found out is that when you venture just a bit off from the souks, you can still find all the things you are looking for at a fair price, at these ‘co-operative’ shops, which offer great products at fixed prices, so you know you are paying the right price, and not an inflated one which you have to bring down by negotiating.

Dar Si Said Museum

Marrakech souk
Dar si Said Museum

Things to consider: As a women, I suggest to dress appropriately, that doesn’t mean cover your full body, but please don’t wear crop tops or very short shorts, have respect for the culture and for their people.

Even though Marrakech it’s a very touristic place, don’t expect to find alcohol in restaurants. Most of the places we went for a lunch didn’t serve alcohol, which we didn’t mind! Moroccan mint tea after every meal was our tradition. If you want to experience a more modern Marrakech, go out for dinner and drinks in the Gueliz area. Barometre Marrakech is a really cool place for drinks, with an industrial laboratory theme. In terms of prices, it all depends where you go and how touristic or high end it is. You can pay for a meal with drinks (non-alcoholic) anyhwhere from £3 to £20 or even more if you are in Gueliz area.

Cards are not widely accepted, make sure to have Moroccan Dirhams with you. In some cases they will accept £ or €.

What to pack for Morocco? Consider things like: scarves, long pants or dresses, closed shoes(if you venture in the souks it can get quite dirty), solar cream, anti-bacterial gel, cash. You can buy a local sim in the airport for €10, which I strongly recommend! You need to be able to get around, and inside the old town it can get quite confusing.

Another thing that I recommend, is: don’t be afraid to speak with the locals! Not all of them want to sell you things, some of them are truly genuine and they want to welcome tourists to their countries and share their culture with you.

 

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