So it was my 21st Birthday in June and those that know me know I like to do things differently each year. I’ve recently caught the travel bug and so it seemed ideal that I celebrate this milestone abroad. I knew I wanted to go somewhere in the Arab world that was affordable and so I decided on Morocco.
It was an interesting trip in all however it had it’s lows due to certain choices that I made. So this post will talk reflect a bit on the dos and don’ts when in Morocco!
Popularly known as “the Red City” Marrakech boasts of long stretches of red clay deserts, beautiful sunsets and scenery. It really is a beautiful city hence why it’s popularly visited by British holiday makers. It has a mixture of the Old town which has all the markets and the New town which is more modern and has a Eurocentric feel.
Unfortunately my birthday and the timing of the trip fell at the beginning of Ramadan and so we didn’t get round to enjoying all that the city has to offer at other times of the year, however it was still a memorable trip.
DON’T: AVOID GOING TO MOROCCO DURING RAMADAN.
DO: Go during Ramadan if you want a quiet visit
I went with a group of friends so I opted to stay in a villa rather than a hotel so that we would have privacy and would not attract unnecessary attention as it was Ramadan season. However, I think this was a mistake as we missed out on getting to meet people in the city as the villa was quite far out from the city. On the other hand we were able to enjoy a massive house all to ourselves with a big pool, large garden areas and a security guard.
DO: Rent a villa if you are looking for peace and quiet or with family. Generally i’d say for young people it is best to stay in a hotel or villas/guest house nearer to the main city to meet people and for safety reasons. Also if you want good internet access stay in the city. If you are staying in a villa try to get an English landlord, helps with language barrier and also because from my experience, Moroccan landlords are quite temperamental and difficult to deal with.
DON’T: Rent a villa if you are looking to interact with people in the city or are with a group of young people would want to go out a lot. Check google maps very well for the distance of villas/hotels to the main city as the landlords tend to lie online.
Moroccans seem to be generally quite temperamental and so I’d advise to be cautious when addressing or speaking to them.
The highlight of Morocco was definitely the activities we did. I made sure we did something almost everyday.
Activities: First, for my actual birthday celebration we went to Chez Ali which was a big restaurant in Marrakech that hosts a lot of tourists. They put on a spectacle with belly dancers, horse riding etc. The food was underwhelming I must say though! We were served a huge Lamb cut that had zero flavour and tasted like it was deep fried! However in true Moroccan style they also served cous cous which had lots of chicken so that made up for the mess of a Lamb. Haha.
Apart from the food, I quite enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant because it had lots of bands playing and they come up to you (looking that you give them money of course) to dance and sing with them which was fun!
We also went camel riding which was amazing! I had lots of fun on the Camel even though I was a bit nervous at first. If you have never done this but have ridden a horse, I promise you that Camel riding is much more relaxed and enjoyable as Camels aren’t as temperamental as horses. Although you have to make sure when you’re in a group the camel tied behind you isn’t close enough to lick you! Haha.
Driving through the atlas mountains: We visited a place where Argan oil is manufactured by a company whose initiative was to employ widowed/abused women in the Berber villages. There we were able to see the different ways in which Argan oil is used; for hair, body, face and cooking! The best part was tasting the edible organ oil in different flavours. It was so good! We also visited a family home in up in the mountains and hand lunch there. This was the best food we had in Morocco! We were served Morocco’s famous Tangine which is a hot pot with potatoes, chicken, vegetables and of course cos cous. We were so filled up we couldn’t eat it all!
Next, we visited Jardin de Majorelle or the Majorelle Gardens which was a gift from Yves Saint Laurent to the city of Marrakech. This Garden is so beautiful and is definitely a must if you’re in Marrakech.
Also, some of us took an evening out to explore the new city which was lovely! It had everything you’d expect on an English high street but of course with a Moroccan feel.
We also went to a Oasiria Water Park which was also one of the highlights of the trip. This was so much fun! There was a good choice of rides, places to relax and because it was Ramadan season it was not crowded and so walking around in swimsuits/bikinis was really comfortable.
We then visited the markets in the old town which was another interesting experience, from the taxi drivers trying to sell their services, to street vendors hollering and the rush for shop owners to attract customers! Visiting the markets is definitely as must when you’re in Marrakech.
DO: try to go from midday/evening and stay till late. The market really comes alive at night!. You get to see different things on the streets like monkeys performing! I was able to get customized street art which was great!
Bargain very well, vendors tend to bump up their prices when they know you’re a tourist. Make sure to try out the restaurants in the market. Go to restaurants normal Moroccans go to as they have better tasting food and are cheaper too. Restaurants targeted at tourists tend to be more expensive and do not have great tasting food.
DON’T: attract attention to yourself as there are street beggars and children that will come up to you and won’t leave you till you give them money!
One of our final activities was Quad biking which I really enjoyed. We were able to ride on the main roads and through the deserts as well.
DON’T: wear white when quad biking. Silly me ended up turning my white top brown by the end of the day because of the dirt in the desert.
DO: go with a lot of water. Marrakech is hot, especially if you’re quad biking in the desert where its really dry. By the end of the day we were literally crying for water. Haha. Make sure to wear sunglasses while quad biking to avoid sand getting in your eyes.
Also, wear comfortable shoes like trainers or boots not sandals as your feet will get very very dirty!
Finally some of us after the day of quad biking felt dirty, and tired so we went to a Spa for a hammam treatment and a massage. This is a must DO for a full Moroccan experience. Hammam treatment is basically where they wash (more like thoroughly scrub) you in a hot room/sauna. You come out feeling like a new born baby, I promise you. Your skin is left soft and supple. Do this followed by a full body massage and you’d feel like you died and went to heaven. Ha!
Morocco is definitely a place i’d love to return to. Next time i’d opt for a more relaxed stay in Marrakech o explore more of its history as well as visit other towns and cities in the country.
This journey taught me a lot of things that I would take on board my next trip and I’m really grateful for that! Morocco is truly beautiful, the people, i’d say are “interesting” characters. However, I look forward to when next i’d have a chance to return and hopefully have a much better experience of the country and its people.
Happy and safe travels people!